While other Canadian families were enjoying pot roasts for Sunday dinners, our Sunday treat was homemade lasagna, including fresh pasta made from scratch and we didn’t have it for dinner. On Sundays, we enjoyed a late lunch around two pm and then everyone fended for themselves for a light dinner, late snack.
Oh, how I looked forward to Sunday lasagna and we never tired of it. How could we? Pasta is the ultimate comfort food, and lasagna, well, it’s the ultimate comfort dish. More often than not, the lasagna was made in its simplest form: pasta sheets, tomato sauce, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheese. Every once and a while, my mom would mix it up and add ground veal, miniature meatballs, hard boiled eggs, etc., but everyone’s favourite was the classic style, so delicious for no reason other than it was uncomplicated. Italian cooking at its best. Few ingredients, so fresh, that’s all you need.
We don’t buy store bought tomato sauce, which is why I don’t offer a recipe for it. Ours comes from mason jars and contains homemade, jarred sauce that’s made and preserved annually in the month of August, the height of tomato season. I’ll feature a recipe this year to be made with seasonal ripe tomatoes, so that you can have a taste.
The grilled/roasted veggies is my addition. My way of adding substance and heartiness (and of course, veggies). Taking the time to place only one type of vegetable per layer ensures the ultimate bite. This way, every bite contains: zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, and eggplant.
The drizzled, beaten egg is the addition of my genius mother. I like hard boiled eggs, but have never enjoyed them in lasagna and my husband absolutely hates them. Reluctant to eliminate them from her recipe, she started adding beaten eggs. She’s been doing it for years and none of us knew. You can’t detect them, but they definitely add something plus make the dish heartier. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, I’m going to hear it from the Mister, I’m sure.
One last thing, you’ll notice that though the mozzarella is ample in this dish, it’s not overloaded. Italians don’t layer their lasagna with mounds of cheese. It’s an important feature, but not the only one. Remember, it’s about balancing a handful of your freshest ingredients and allowing them to come together as one, not drowning the dish by overdosing on cheese.
When I take the time to make this dish, I double it up. Can’t tell you how nice it is to enjoy this on a week night. I made these lasagne sheets with my mom – the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks mom!
My favourite Italian dish is pizza, but this is without a doubt a close second. With the veggies, it’s a lighter alternative that has substance and the grilled/roasted aspect add a flare for the gourmet. As my mother says (my husband knows it well), “mangia!”
Serves 6 -8
|Lasagna sheets, fresh||10|
|Tomato Sauce, prepared||20 oz|
|Eggplant, medium – large||1|
|Mushrooms, oysters||8 oz|
|Peppers, red and green, medium||2|
|Parmesan, grated||1/4 cup|
|Mozzarella, shredded||340 g|
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. To roast the eggplant, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice eggplant width-wise into quarter inch slices. Brush both sides with olive oil. Salt and pepper one side only. Place eggplant slices on baking sheet, so they don’t overlap.
For the zucchini, cut them width-wise into half inch disks. Place on a plate and drizzle lightly with olive oil, salt, and black pepper and toss. Line a smaller baking dish with zucchini ensuring all disks touch the paper and are laying flat.
Line a third, small baking pan with parchment paper. Place mushrooms on pan and drizzle them with olive oil, salt and black pepper and toss.
Place peppers whole on a small baking sheet.
Place all four pans in the oven. Bake/roast for approximately 45-60 minutes. Peppers will need rotating from time to time, so that all sides get charred. Keep an eye on them as they may be done at slightly different times. When peppers are done. Remove them from the oven and place them in a bowl covering them with plastic wrap. After they have cooled, approximately 10 minutes, they should be easier to peel.
I normally roast veggies from the day before to save on time. Alternatively, you can grill all vegetables on the barbecue.
3. Bring a medium pot filled 2/3 with water to a boil. Generously salt the water and bring to a rolling simmer. Two at a time, place lasagna sheets into pot. Move them around using a wooden spoon, so they don’t stick to each other. When the pasta sheets rise/float to the top, approximately 1-2 minutes, remove sheets from boiling water and transfer to a bowl with cold water. Continue, two at a time, until all lasagna sheets are cooked.
4. To assemble, using a 11 by 16 baking pan, spread some tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Remove two sheets of lasagna, one at a time, from the bowl with water, running your hand down the sheets to remove as much of the water as possible. Lay both sheets down on the pan side by side until they touch.
Spread more tomato sauce on first layer of sheets. Follow with Parmesan cheese, egg drizzle, zucchini disks, and mozzarella cheese.
Repeat three more times, in the same order, but switching the zucchini with another vegetable in the following order: peppers, mushrooms, eggplant. I place the more watery veggies on the bottom for better cooking and to avoid a soggy lasagna. This method ensures that each of the four veggies encompasses each bite for that perfect bite!
The fifth layer, last layer, includes all the ingredients, including egg, but no veggie.
5. Cover lasagna with foil paper and bake for 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Remove foil paper and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to set for 10 minutes. Serve with a side salad.