I just love trying new recipes.
We received multiple cookbooks as wedding gifts. Look at them there, lined up and ready to help me make some magic!
There are a couple more on my Christmas list and I recently added to my own collection with the Joy the Baker Cookbook (remember the awesome peanut butter and bacon cookies?!). I’m almost overwhelmed by how much new stuff there is to try and taste and LOVE!
But I rarely just GO FOR IT in the kitchen. I bet a lot of you are like me. It’s not that I’m not comfortable there- it’s my happy place. But I tend to experiment with something I’ve just seen on a cooking show, or try my hand at a recipe I’ve come across on a favorite food blog before relying on the memory of a successful dish from the past… or whipping something up without a recipe.
One thing I know how to do is lasagna. I make an incredible spicy meat sauce from scratch that pretty much makes the dish, but last night, I wanted something sans meat. So, away I went, without a recipe– a rare sight! I made Veggie Lasagna Rolls, using the skills I already have with a little culinary instinct thrown in. And I killed it. Let me tell you how!
The recipe can be broken down into a few parts: sauce, veggies, filling. Then it’s just about putting them together and letting the oven finish the job! Forgive me if my description isn’t detailed or specific- I tend to taste as I go and make adjustments. First thing’s first: get a pot of water boiling to cook the lasagna noodles. We all know how to boil pasta – be sure not to overcook it! I usually add a bit of olive oil into the water for lasagna noodles in addition to salt- you really don’t want them to stick together. Once the noodles are cooked according to the package directions, set them aside, laid out flat on a plate.
Now, let’s make some marinara! This is second nature for me in my kitchen, so writing it down is a little scary- I sort of just wing it, dipping my spoon often and adjusting flavors. I encourage you to do that, too!
I start by getting a few swirls of olive oil going over medium-high heat, and sauté chopped onion with a couple shakes of garlic salt. After a few minutes, I add crushed red pepper, dried oregano and basil, some Italian seasoning, and chopped garlic. After a few more minutes (when the kitchen smells like Italy), it’s time to add the crushed tomatoes, some fresh basil, and a bay leaf. (I added some diced tomatoes because I wasn’t sure if the crushed tomatoes would be enough. I didn’t need them after all.)
Let that goodness simmer away on its own while you move on to the veggies and filling.
For this batch, I used shiitake mushrooms and zucchini, slicing them up and adding them in with some diced shallots that had been sautéed in oil and butter. A bit more salt and pepper never hurt anyone, and neither did more chopped garlic. I let those cook down until everything is slightly soft, and then just set them aside in a bowl for a few minutes.
In a medium bowl, I mixed a container of ricotta cheese (my
personal shopper husband brought me part skim), an egg, the spinach, shredded parmesan, and plenty of garlic salt and pepper. For me, the more spinach, the better!
The noodles were ready. The cheesy filling was on deck. The garlicky veggies were standing by. And a dip of my spoon into the sauce let me know that it was time for assembly!
I poured some of the marinara into a glass baking dish- enough to fill up the bottom about an inch. I laid a lasagna noodle out on my cutting board and smeared a healthy amount of the ricotta-spinach filling along most of it, leaving about an inch and a half on one end bare. Next, I scooped some of the zucchini and mushroom mixture onto the ricotta.
Then, starting at the un-bare end, I rolled the noodle up like an old-school sleeping bag (you ex-Girl Scouts know what I’m talking about). The bare part of the noodle sticks to itself and helps hold the roll together. It was a pinwheel of delish lasagna goodies, which I cozily nestled into the marinara. Adorable.
My baking dish had room for 6 lasagna rolls. How cute are they, all tucked in there? I topped them each with a dollop of marinara, plenty of shredded mozzarella cheese, and more parmesan.
Into a 350 degree oven the chubby little rolls went for about 30 minutes, uncovered- and then I put the oven on broil to toast up the cheesy topping. (Keep your eye on them- they can get too brown in a flash!)
Oh, hello, gorgeous.
I served the lasagna rolls with some warm bread and a simple salad- why detract from the STAR of the evening? From the first bite, it’s all creamy ricotta and basil and garlic- heavenly. Instead of layers sliding off of each other, which always happens with traditional stacked lasagna, the roll situation keeps everything together. The veggies added texture and yummy flavor- I wish I had used more of them! And the crisp, browned cheese on top added a slight, satisfying crunch.
I used the bread to scoop up extra marinara chunks on my plate. John finished every last bite. And I had enough cooked noodles, sauce, and filling left to make a basic MINI lasagna to stash in the freezer for later this winter. BONUS!
I think I’m gaining on Domestic Goddess status.
Veggie Lasagna Rolls
For the sauce:
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- half of one medium onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- teaspoon dried oregano
- teaspoon Italian seasoning
- teaspoon dried basil
- crushed red pepper
- garlic salt and cracked pepper to taste
- one bay leaf
- tablespoon chopped fresh basil
- teaspoon sugar
- swirl of red wine
For the filling:
- Ricotta cheese
- Shredded parmesan
- Garlic salt and cracked pepper
- Shake of Italian breadcrumbs
- Frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- One egg
The veggie part:
- One zucchini, sliced thin
- One container shiitake mushrooms, sliced
- Half of a shallot, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 6-8 lasagna noodles
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions and set aside, laid flat so they don’t stick together.
Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Sautee chopped onion with garlic salt. After a few minutes, add crushed red pepper, dried oregano and basil, Italian seasoning, and chopped garlic. Add crushed tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, and a bay leaf. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Taste the sauce- if it’s too tart, add a pinch of sugar. At the very end, give it a swish of good red wine.
Heat 1 tablespoon of butter with olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add diced shallot, salt, and pepper. After a couple of minutes, add sliced shiitake mushrooms and zucchini. After a couple of minutes, add chopped garlic. Set aside sautéed veggies.
In a medium bowl, mix ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, thawed/dried spinach, egg, garlic salt, and cracked pepper. Shake in a bit of Italian breadcrumbs. Set aside.
Pour about an inch of marinara into the bottom of a glass baking dish. On a cutting board, lay out one lasagna noodle. Spread ricotta mixture over the noodle, leaving an inch or so at one end bare. Add some of the sautéed veggies over the ricotta. Starting at the un-bare end, roll up the lasagna noodle. Place spiral, seam-side down, into the sauced baking dish. Repeat with all 6 lasagna noodles.
Ladle a scoop of marinara over each lasagna roll. Sprinkle a generous amount of mozzarella cheese on each, followed by shredded parmesan cheese. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, until the cheese and sauce are bubbly. Turn the oven to broil and brown the cheese to your liking.
Serve with crusty bread and a mixed green salad. Don’t forget a glass of juicy red wine to wash it all down! YUM!