Oh, what to do with all the glorious farm fresh veggies abounding at the farmers’ markets. Cold soups, salads, breads, chili, muffins and jam — my list of concoctions is never-ending. But if there’s one summer food I like to make most, especially with my fried Debbie, it’s a farm and garden fresh veggie lasagna. Truly inspired by only what’s found seasonally — at the markets and in my friend Debbie’s backyard garden — this lasagna is a summer-time staple to make and freeze for those lazy evenings when all I can really muster the energy to do is grab something from my freezer and start re-heating. And I’d really like it not to be the hot pockets or pizza bites that my junk food crazed 16-year old has somehow managed to convince me to buy for him. (Please don’t ask! I feel guilty enough as it is.)
A few days ago, Debbie and I got together to make lasagna and zucchini bread. I worked diligently grilling zucchini, yellow squash, onions, eggplant while Debbie mixed and stirred the batter for the bread. My veggies would soon be the “meat” for our hearty vegetarian lasagna layered with colorful heirloom tomatoes, fresh ricotta cheese spiked with a few tablespoons of fresh basil pesto, fresh rolled mozzarella cheese, noodles and béchamel sauce. Once Debbie’s breads were in the oven, she joined me in assembling our lasagnas as we layered the veggies, spooned in the cheese and covered it all with noodles and sauce.
As I served my lasagna to my parents for lunch today, I fondly thought of the time spent with Debbie. And I’m pretty sure when she serves her lasagna this weekend to her family at her country home she’ll think of me.
Farm Fresh Vegetable Lasagna
Makes two large ( or several smaller) lasagnas
5 large zucchini, sliced vertically in ¼ inch thickness
2 yellow squash, sliced vertically in ¼ inch thickness
2 large onions, sliced in rounds
2 large eggplants, peeled and sliced in ½ inch thickness
4 large heirloom tomatoes in various hues, sliced thinly
A few teaspoons of fresh chopped oregano
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 ½ cups fresh ricotta cheese
¼ cup basil pesto
2 pounds fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
4 cups béchbechamel sauceamel sauce
2 boxes of lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
Olive oil to grill the vegetables
Salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat an indoor (or outdoor) grill. Season the grill generously with olive oil. Grill all of the vegetables a few minutes on each side, except for the tomatoes, in batches while seasoning with salt and pepper. Be careful not to over-cook the veggies since they will cook again in the lasagna. Transfer to a plate as you cook. Once the veggies are finished, mix the ricotta cheese with pesto.
Lay out your ingredients in an assembly line fashion and layer noodles, veggies, ricotta cheese and sauce in a baking dish. Place a layer of noodles, layer of eggplant, layer of zucchini, ¼ of the ricotta cheese mixture, ½ cup béchamel sauce and more noodles. Next layer tomatoes, fresh basil, and chopped fresh oregano with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Add more ricotta cheese and béchamel sauce. Cover with another layer of noodles, remaining vegetables, mozzarella cheese and more sauce. Cover with a final layer of noodles. Spoon remaining béchamel sauce over the top layer, drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle chopped fresh basil and a bit of fresh pepper. At this point you can freeze or bake the lasagnas.
If freezing, freeze uncovered for a few hours until hardened and then wrap well in aluminum foil. If baking, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees and cook until bubbling. To cook the frozen lasagnas, pre-heat the oven to 400 and cook for approximately 60 to 90 minutes straight from freezer to oven.