Spring is actually here to stay and with it comes that habitual wanting-to-eat-lighter-phenomenon, although that may just be the little voice inside reminding us that bathing suit season is rapidly approaching. Bikinis are great motivators! But that doesn't mean we have to subsist on lettuce leaves and cubes of cheese. If you love classic lasagne, but want to keep things healthier and less "weighty", may I humbly suggest these Italian Veggie Lasagne Rolls. With tender pasta, creamy ricotta filling and a homemade tomato sauce that's chock full of mushrooms, zucchini, squash and peppers these delicious rolls will leave you feeling entirely satisfied and light just like a warm springy breeze!!
Why rolls you may ask? Isn't it more work than just the traditional layered lasagne? Maybe. But only a teensy bit more and the serving of these is LOADS easier than the fall-apart squares that usually happen to me when I cut into a tray, which means that these are perfect for parties as well as just regular everyday life. Plus, eating rolled food is just plain fun and that's something we all need more of in our lives!
And the fact that this is vegetarian means that you don't have to worry about the non-meat eaters in your crew. So everybody's happy, right?! How could they not be with every cheesy, saucy, veggie-loaded bite? Also, these freeze like a dream, so you can make ahead and whip them out whenever you feel that "veggie lasagne roll" urge!!
Now, let's get rolling, shall we? And maybe hop on that treadmill a little more often. Summer is officially only a mere 59 days away!!
Italian Veggie Lasagne Rolls
Makes 6-8 servings
Prep Time for Sauce: 30 minutes (most of that is hands-free); Prep Time for Lasagne: 20 minutes, plus cooking time for noodles but you can do this while sauce is cooking; Bake Time: 30-40 minutes
For the Pasta Sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
- 24 ounces mushrooms, chopped
- 2 yellow squash, diced
- 2 zucchini, diced
- 1/2 cup chicken broth or white wine
- 2-3 shakes red pepper flakes
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
For the Lasagne
- 1 pound lasagne noodles (not the no-boil kind)
- 32 ounces ricotta (you can use low-fat)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling on top of casserole at end
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 pounds freshly shredded mozzarella (you can use low-fat here)
1. To make the sauce: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add in the garlic and onions and let them cook for a couple of minutes, stirring a bit, until they begin to soften. Then add the red pepper and let cook for another minute or two, letting them soften a bit as well. Add in the mushrooms, squash and zucchini and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Then pour in the wine or broth, and add the red pepper flakes and a bit of salt and pepper. Stir everything together well. Pour in the tomatoes and use the back of the spoon to crush them a bit against the side of the pot. Add in the tomato paste and stir. Then bring to a simmer and let cook for another 20 minutes, until everything has come together and the veggies are tender. Add in the parsley and set aside. NOTE: You can definitely make this a day or two ahead and keep it covered and chilled in the fridge.
2. While the sauce is cooking, prepare the lasagne noodles according to the package directions. Spray a couple of baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray. When noodles are done, drain them well and then lay them out in a single layer on the prepared sheets so that they can dry and not stick together.
3. Make the filling by mixing together the ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, eggs, salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a medium bowl.
4. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. To assemble the lasagne rolls, spoon a generous amount of the pasta sauce onto the bottom of a large baking dish and spread it out evenly so that there's a nice layer. Take one of the noodles off the trays and spoon some of the ricotta mixture onto them, spreading it out evenly with a knife. Roll up the noodle tightly and place it on top of the sauce in the dish. Repeat with remaining noodles and filling until all the ingredients are used up. Top the rollups with the rest of the pasta sauce spreading it out evenly. Then sprinkle on the mozzarella and some more Parmesan cheese.
5. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the cheese is nice and bubbly and beginning to brown. Let sit for a few minutes to settle a bit and then serve. This can definitely be made ahead and kept refrigerated or even frozen. I like to cook it and reheat in the microwave or a low oven but you can also wrap it well with aluminum foil and freeze it uncooked. When you're ready, don't defrost. Just cook it covered for about 40 minutes, then remove the foil and let cook for another 10-15 minutes to allow the top to brown. It's also nice to freeze these in individual portions--mini disposable loaf pans work well and you can fit three to a pan-helps with portion control!
Note: Recipe adapted from Ree Drummond. I tinkered around with this one and you can too. Add in or sub out any veggies you like for the sauce and feel free to use full fat mozzarella and ricotta--I just like to save calories wherever possible!!