When it’s cold outside, do you eat more melted cheese? Come on, now, come clean with me. How could you not? It’s gooey and hot and filling and, well, it just feels right when it’s frigid. That’s why the other night I made this spinach and zucchini lasagna recipe for meatless Monday. Join me, won’t you?
First of all, I have a confession to make: I used to only make lasagna recipes that had meat. In my mind, a lasagna need to have four essential components: thick noodles, some sort of cheesy filling, a healthy sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, and a zesty tomato sauce with ground beef woven into it. But every time I made lasagna this way, I felt guilty about not sneaking some veggies. I mean, if I’m going to eat steaming plate of hot, cheesy meat, shouldn’t I at least pretend that I’m providing myself with some valuable nutrition along the way?
Enter this spinach and zucchini lasagna recipe. Bright green, fresh spinach wilts down to basically nothing, and I added zucchini for a little bit of crunch. My go-to cheese filling is some Italian-seasoned ricotta with a beaten egg mixed in. It’s creamy without being overly rich.
I know some lasagna recipes swear by making a bechamel sauce (a white sauce made of butter, flour and milk), but honestly, I just don’t love the oozy texture of bechamel in a lasagna. I like my cheese filling to be sturdier than that, and ricotta really stands up to the tomato sauce. It’s like the ricotta’s saying to the tomato sauce — hey buddy, I get that you want me to be one with you, but I’ve got my own good thing going on here, so I’m going to just stay in my lane and be awesome, okay?
The end result in substituting veggies for beef is that you get the same rich, lovely flavor of lasagna without all that added bulk. I feel like lasagna is a prime napping food, the kind where I eat a bunch and then either immediately fill with regret or need to sleep it off (or, as is more often the case as I’m getting older, it’s a little of both).
As with any lasagna recipe, this spinach and zucchini lasagna can easily be assembled in advance and then baked in the oven later on, which makes it idea for a weekday meal if you’ve got time to plan ahead by putting it together during the weekend. Of course, that also assumes you have the self control not to bake it right away and eat it on the same said weekend.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- 1 package of lasagna noodles
- 250 grams (1 packed cup) of fresh baby spinach, washed and dried
- 1 zucchini
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 750 g (26 ounce) jar of tomato passata (strained tomatoes)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
- ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 16-ounce (500g) container of whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- olive oil
- Mix together the ricotta, egg, oregano, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise. Slice the zucchini into half-moon shapes about ⅛" thick (about ⅓ cm). Set aside.
- Line a large plate with a paper towel and set it next to the stove. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and add the spinach, a handful at a time, stirring until the spinach is dark green and wilted. Transfer the spinach to the paper-towel lined plate and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (do not do this if you're not planning on baking the lasagna right away).
- Drizzle some more olive oil (around a tablespoon) into a large pot and turn the heat on medium-low. Add the onion and saute gently for about 7-9 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more, stirring.
- Pour the passata into the pot and stir to incorporate the garlic and onion mixture into the passata. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar and increase the heat to medium high. Bring the passata up to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer the passata for 15 minutes or so until the sauce is reduced. Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Wrap the spinach up in the paper towel it's been resting on and squeeze the spinach gently over a sink to drain out the water in the spinach. Return the spinach to the plate.
- Brush the inside of a 9x13 baking dish with olive oil. Add a ladle of sauce to the bottom of the baking dish, using the lady to spread a thin layer all over the baking dish. Lay the lasagna noodles over the sauce, overlapping them slightly. Spread a layer of ricotta cheese (about ⅓rd of it) over the noodles, then top with a layer of spinach. Pour more sauce over the spinach and top with more lasagna noodles. Add another layer of ricotta, followed by a layer of zucchini and more sauce. Repeat these layers until you're at the top of the baking dish, then top with a mixture of mozzarella and parmesan.
- Cover the lasagna with tinfoil and refrigerate it if you're not serving it right away. Otherwise, bake it for 35-40 minutes, covered with tin foil, and then uncover to brown the cheese during the last 5-7 minutes of baking.
Looking for other similar recipes? Check these out:
- Cauliflower Cheese (Cauliflower Gratin)
- Instant Pot Turkey Meatballs with Polenta
- Halogen Oven Chicken Fingers