Vegetarian lasagna with sweet italian sausage

The title is a bit misleading, eh? Well, I had the best of intentions and set out to build a delightfully vegetarian lasagna. I ran to the store to buy missing ingredients and immediately set to work on the lasagna assembly. Mid-way through my tummy began to growl and before I knew it, I was crumbling sweet italian sausage on the top, as though covering it in a blanket of meat.

Lasagna is one of my favorite foods. I prefer using a combination of noodles and vegetables to create the lasagna’s structure. This makes for a wonderful vegetarian lasagna (also a great way to sneak veggies to kids), but you can also dress it up with a bit of sausage if that suits your mood.

Over time I’ve slowly morphed my lasagna making process into an abbreviated version that I feel gives the same end result. I use 60% fewer pans and the lasagna is made 75% more quickly.

My 3 principles to making a quick, no-mess, delicious lasagna:

1. Don’t precook the pasta — no need to cook them and dirty another pan. Using a slightly thinned sauce along with fresh vegetables will provide enough liquid for the pasta to cook while baked.

2. Cut back on carbs and replace a few pasta layers with thin slices of sturdy vegetables like zucchini and eggplant. Slice vegetables thinly so they are able to cook during the lasagna baking time.

3. Crumble the raw meat on top so it cooks quickly and during the lasagna’s baking time. As an added bonus, placing the meat on top has a delicious gravity effect. Juices from the cooking meat will go downward into the lasagna. This means more flavor in the lasagna!

Here are the ingredients I used to make this lasagna for dinner. Feel free to mix it up with your favorite ingredients, lasagna is fairly forgiving.

Vegetarian lasagna
1/2 lb. lasagna pasta (uncooked)
1 large eggplant, thinly sliced (1/8″)
4 small zucchinis, thinly sliced (1/8″)
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1 jar spaghetti sauce of your choice
1 cup milk
1 cup grated parmesan
2 cups ricotta
1 egg
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried orgeano
3 sweet italian sausages with casings removed (optional)

The lasagna is constructed of alternating layers of sauce, cheese, pasta or veggies. For the sauce, in a bowl I mix 1 jar of spaghetti sauce with a cup of milk and 1/2 cup of grated parmesan. This creates a basic creamy tomato sauce that I like to think of as the rosé of pasta sauces.

In another bowl, prepare the creamy cheese layer by adding the ricotta, egg, basil, and oregano. Stir until blended.

Now, it’s time to begin layering. I always begin with a thin scoop of sauce on the bottom of the pan, then a layer of pasta. For my pan, 3 and a half strips of pasta fit in one layer. I then topped with a thin layer of the ricotta mixture and sprinkled with a 1/2 cup of mozzarella, and finally a couple scoops of sauce.

I repeated these steps and created the following layers – remember between each layer you spread with ricotta, sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella, and coat with a couple scoops of sauce.

1. pasta
2. eggplant
3. pasta
4. zucchini
5. mix of any leftover pasta, eggplant, zucchini

As you go from layer to layer, keep an eye on how much cheese and sauce you have left so that you use it evenly throughout the layering process. You should have an excess 1 cup mozzarella to top the lasagna. I crumbled the sausage which had been removed from its casing on top of the lasagna. I then topped with my remaining mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. I like the top to be golden so I do not cover it at all while baking. Since cooking time may vary based on your ingredients, use a sharp knife to poke through the lasagna to see if it feels done. If the knife slides in easily without having to push through any uncooked layers, then it’s done. Otherwise, bake an additional 15 minutes and check again.

It’s important to allow the lasagna to sit for 15-20 minutes before cutting. The juices are still dancing around and haven’t settled. The waiting time allows the lasagna to settle and makes serving it much easier.

I ate a huge piece and it was wonderful. The addition of sausage on top turned out to be a rather satisfying last minute addition!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Manggy April 4, 2008, 2:07 am

    Lasagna’s one of my favorite dishes too! I don’t think I’m brave enough not to parcook the noodles though :/ But I must say, that looks sensational, and it doesn’t look like it’s oozing or slippin’ and slidin’.

    Spinach lasagna’s one of my go-to dishes, when I need to feed a lot of people. I use cottage cheese and pasteurized processed cheese food to make it easier on my wallet– I can’t argue with the results, haha :)

  • Ben April 4, 2008, 5:10 am

    I love lasagna too, and those tips are great becuase I always make a big mess when I make it. I have to try this “vegetarian” version of it.

    Cheers!

  • Peter M April 4, 2008, 7:04 am

    Allen, your lasagna is innovative and it uses some Moussaka principles!

    Also, I do like that your crumble sausage on top…like a garnish!

  • Patricia Scarpin April 4, 2008, 8:43 am

    Allen, you have just reminded me that I haven’t made lasagna in AGES!!
    This looks so delicious!

  • helen April 4, 2008, 9:17 am

    I had to read that title twice! It sounds and looks delicious though. I love the idea of putting noodles in there, I really do. In fact I’m making a note of that and ideas are popping into my head already! Thank you.

  • Núria April 4, 2008, 9:35 am

    Lasagna is a winner always, but never heard of Lasagna made out of noodles!!!! That’s a funny one for me, but would love to try it :D

  • Allen April 4, 2008, 9:45 am

    Manggy: Spinach lasagna is good — I’ll admit that I often use cottage cheese. I like its tang but didn’t have any on hand last night.

    Ben: Thank you!

    Patricia: Thanks!

    Helen: Thanks! By ‘noddles’, I meant regular lasagna pasta … I think my use of ‘noodles’ is a regional thing (or possibly just particular to ME) :-)

    Nuria: Haha – hopefully, I didn’t confuse everyone by my use of ‘noodles’. I used regular lasagna pasta … I shamelessly admit that I refer to all pasta as ‘noodles’. :-)

  • farida April 4, 2008, 12:17 pm

    I love lasagna too! All-time favorite! I love your recipe and will print it for my lasagna craving times;) The picture is mouth-watering.

  • Tarah April 4, 2008, 12:42 pm

    Ahaha, I had to read the title twice before realizing something wasn’t right! Look really good though!

  • Allen April 4, 2008, 4:51 pm

    Farida: Thank you!

    Tarah: Thank you – just wanted to make sure you were paying attention :-)

  • Wandering Chopsticks April 5, 2008, 11:29 am

    Ah, I was thinking from the title that you used faux meat. I recently made lasagna too. And in trying to be healthier, made it all vegetarian. Afterward, all I could think was that I really should have added meat. :)

    BTW, I use the word noodles to describe all pasta. So lasagna noodles didn’t sound weird to me.

  • Bellini Valli April 5, 2008, 1:31 pm

    Thanks for all the lasagna making tips Allen. I use an Italian lasagana noodle that you are probably supposed to precook, but never do and it turns out exceptionally every time:D Love your last minute non-veggie lasagna by the way:D

  • Kevin April 5, 2008, 2:39 pm

    The title was confusing. Lasagna is one of my favorite dishes as well. Good tips for speeding up making lasagna.

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