veggie lasagne

     I recently catered a housewarming party for my husband's boss. I suggested serving a dual entree, one with meat and one without. As the entree was an Italian pot roast, marinated overnight in red wine and herbs, then braised in the oven, the vegetarian selection I chose to accompany it was a Vegetable Lasagne. It is light, doesn't employ a tomato sauce or heavy ricotta filling. A bechamel, or white sauce is the base for the dish and can be made with milk or half and half.
     This lasagne is very easy to make. I prepared the components separately, then assembled it later. There are three separate vegetable layers. A layer of fresh, mixed mushrooms, such as baby portobello, crimini, button, shitake and oyster. They are sauteed with garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice. The resulting flavor nearly made me cry! I love mushrooms almost more than chocolate. Well, okay... I did say almost.
     The second layer is canned or fresh, diced tomatoes and onions, simmered with a little fresh basil. The third veggie layer is fresh spinach, sauteed with garlic, until wilted. Cheddar and parmesan cheeses combine to give this dish a little richness. I used two percent cheddar to reduce the fat.
     A few weeks later, I was given the task of preparing a dinner for our church choir's Fall Kick-off. A mere 50 people were expected, so I felt brave enough to serve something unexpected. (When you live in the South, any main dish with vegetable in the name, unless it is deep fried, will be completely unexpected.)
     The lasagne was so well received by the previous party guests, I decided to let it stand alone as the star of the choir dinner. I served it with a colorful green salad, garlic bread and some light, mini desserts, fresh fruit and coffee to finish. I hope you will try this lasagne. It is delicious. Even the veggie haters loved its flavor.
Vegetable Lasagne
3 cups bechamel (See recipe in previously posted bechamel mucho)
2 T. olive oil
1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
1 onion, finely chopped
3 leaves, fresh basil, torn into pieces
1 1/2 pounds, mixed varieties of mushrooms, wild and cultivated, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice of half a lemon
1 large container, fresh spinach
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 c. cheddar cheese
2-3 c. parmesan cheese
no cook, dried lasagne sheets
Make bechemel. Heat oil in large saute pan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add tomatoes and basil leaves. Simmer for five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan, set aside in bowl. Add another teaspoon of oil and tablespoon of butter. Cook mushrooms for 2 minutes, adding garlic and lemons. Saute on low until all liquid has been cooked out. Season to taste and set aside. Cook spinach and remaining clove of garlic in 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Toss until spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

To assemble lasagne:

Begin by spraying the bottom and sides of a deep lasagne pan. Spread a thin layer of bechamel in bottom of pan. Place a layer of pasta sheets on top of bechamel, overlapping slightly. Cover with mushrooms, then another layer of bechamel. Spread a little of the two cheeses over. Make another layer of pasta. Spread spinach over, then a layer of bechamel. Sprinkle with cheese. Repeat with another pasta layer, topping with tomato and onion mixture. Pour bechamel over, sprinkle with cheese. Add a final layer of pasta, repeating the bechamel and ending with sprinkled cheeses. Dot top with a little butter. Bake about 20 minutes covered with foil, in a 400 degree oven. Uncover and bake 10 minutes to brown, watching to make sure it doesn't burn.
Let stand 5 minutes before cutting to serve.


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