A couple of weeks ago, my sisters and their families were coming for dinner and the weather looked iffy so I opted not to barbecue. For the kids, I made my more kid-friendly mac and cheese and for the grownups, this Roasted Vegetable Lasagne. Boy, was I off by a mile! Turns out that what the kids wanted was this amazingly delicious and chock-full of roasted vegetables concoction. And I can't say I blame them--this lasagne is pretty fabulous!
If you're thinking traditional lasagne with noodles, tomato sauce, ricotta, mozzarella--think again! This baby does use some lasagne noodles but that's where all similarity stops. Instead, you make a garlicky white sauce (in fancy circles this is known as bechamel) and stir in fontina and mozzarella. And the ratio of roasted veggies to noodles is like 10:1 (maybe that's not exactly mathematically correct, but it feels like it!) It's comfort food modernized! And a great meatless meal to boot!
First you roast the eggplant, zucchini and red peppers.
Here's a neat trick to easily getting the skins off the peppers. After you've roasted them, place them in a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the peppers sit for 10 minutes and you'll find that the steam makes the skins slide off easily.
While the veggies are roasting you can make the white sauce. It's full of garlic and cheese--yummy!
Next, you soak the no-bake lasagne noodles in water just to soften them a bit and let them dry for a few minutes.
Then it's just a matter of layering everything--
And popping it into the oven. What emerges is the most delicious, unusual, veggie lasagne, light but still substantial and full of the wonderful flavors of the veggies and that silky smooth garlicky white sauce. It's perfect for this time of the year when the days are still kind of warm, but the nights are starting to have a little nippy bite to them. No wonder the kids were all over this!!
Roasted Vegetable Lasagne
Makes enough for 6-8 people
Active Time: About 1 hour; Total Time: 2 1/2 hours
1 eggplant, cut into 1/3 inch thick slices
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed off, cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 red bell peppers, deseeded and cut into quarters
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups whole or 2% milk
3 ounces (1 cup) Fontina, coarsely grated
1 cup grated Parmesan, divided
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
10 no-bake lasagne noodles
1. Put oven racks into thirds and preheat oven to 425ºF.
2. Brush two large baking sheets with 1 tablespoon of the oil and arrange the eggplant, zucchini and peppers in a single layer between the two pans. Brush the veggies with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt. Roast for 20 minutes, switching the pans from front to back and top to bottom at the 10 minute mark. When eggplant and zucchini look browned and tender, transfer them to a plate to cool. Turn peppers over and continue to cook peppers for 10 minutes longer. Then place them in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap for 10 minutes so that peppers steam. While peppers are steaming, return the oven rack back to the center of the oven and leave the oven on. Remove the plastic wrap from the peppers and when peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins--they should slip off easily. Set aside with other veggies. You can make the veggies one day ahead and keep them stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
3. While the vegetables are roasting, make the white sauce. First cook the garlic in the butter in a heavy 1 1/2 -2 quart saucepan over moderate heat for about 30 seconds, whisking often. Next, whisk in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly. Gradually add the milk and keep whisking, until the mixture comes to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for another 8 minutes, whisking often. The sauce will thicken slightly. Remove the pot from the heat and let cool for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then. Then, stir in the Fontina and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, the parsley and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Set aside. You can make the sauce a day ahead if you like. Just store it in a airtight container and cover the top with a piece of waxed paper pressed right against the surface of the sauce to keep it from developing a "skin". Then rewarm it over low heat, stirring often, until ready to use.
4. Soak the lasagne noodles in hot water for 8-10 minutes until just bendable. Drain on kitchen towels and pat dry.
5. In an 8 or 9-inch square baking dish, spread about 2/3 cup sauce. Place 2 noodles over the sauce and top with half the zucchini in 1 layer, another 1/2 cup sauce and 2 more noodles over that. Then top with a layer of all the eggplant, 1/2 cup sauce and another 2 noodles. Next top with all of the roasted peppers, 1/2 cup sauce and 2 more noodles. Top with remaining zucchini, 1/2 cup sauce and rest of the noodles. Cover with the rest of the sauce and spread over the top evenly. Sprinkle on remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until top is golden brown and bubbly. Let stand for 15-20 minutes and serve.
6. Leftovers (if there are any) can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days and reheated in the oven or microwave. Also, if you want to make this for a crowd, the recipe doubles really well. Just cook it in a 9x13 pan.
Note: Recipe adapted from a very old issue of Gourmet Magazine.