a few weeks ago i got a request for the lasagna i made over the winter, and i’m always happy to oblige. but since it’s no longer winter and spring vegetables are in abundance, i decided to offer a variation on the original. lasagna is one of those wonderful dishes that will happily accomodate whatever sauce and vegetables you decide to throw in it. some people love meat lasagnas with a cheesier and less tomato-y sauce. personally, i love my lasagna dripping with rich tomato sauce, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, and lots of vegetables so that i can pretend it’s a healthy meal.
no matter what you decide to put into your lasagna, the method of preparation and assembly remains largely the same. and when you are done, it can be eaten immediately, the next day (the flavors really start to come together on the second day), or over a week later if stored in the freezer (be sure to cool the lasagna to room temperature before freezing). this lasagna features some of my favorite spring vegetables – asparagus*, peas, and baby spinach – but i also encourage you to try your own combinations of vegetables.
1 bunch asparagus
2 cups peas (fresh or frozen)
1/2 pound spinach, roughly chopped
2 pounds fresh mozzarella (i like to use 1 pound each salted and unsalted mozzarella), thinly sliced
2 pounds fresh ricotta
4 cups tomato sauce (i like mario batali’s basic tomato sauce with a little red wine thrown in)
2 lb fresh lasagna sheets
1. make your tomato sauce (or use your favorite jar of sauce), and allow to cool to room temperature. be sure to season your sauce appropriately (salt, pepper, herbs, etc.) as this will be the main source of seasoning (besides any salted mozzarella you use).
2. blanch the asparagus and fresh peas, if using, in boiling water for 1 minute. remove and plunge immediately into an ice bath, then remove and dry. cut the asparagus into 2″ pieces and set aside. (frozen peas can be added directly to the lasagna below.)
3. preheat the oven to 425.
1. spread a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a large lasagna pan.
2. cover the bottom of the pan with pasta sheets (feel free to cut the sheets into strips to accomodate the sizes needed, but be sure to use clean scissors).
3. spread about 1/3 of your vegetables over the pasta sheets, then add about 1/4 of your mozzarella and ricotta. cover with more pasta sheets.
4. spread about 1/3 of your remaining sauce over the pasta sheets and add another 1/4 of your mozzarella and ricotta, then cover with pasta sheets.
5. repeat steps 3 and 4 until you have used all your ingredients, ending with a layer of pasta, sauce, then cheese.
6. bake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the cheese on top is golden brown and the pasta sheets are cooked through. after removing from the oven, allow the lasagna to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving (this will help the cheese set and make serving a lot easier).
*asparagus: a few days after getting some fresh asparagus in my vegetable delivery, i read an article on www.treehugger.com about how to store fruits and vegetables. when i got home i immediately applied their advice to my (begining to wilt) asparagus. by the next morning they had perked up, and they remained crisp and vibrant until i cooked them 5 days later!