Obviously newborn babies do not eat lasagna, but this is a story about love and community, so bear with me. Earlier in the summer I promised a recipe for another favourite summer harvest soup. Unfortunately, my tomato vines have so far not co-operated in delivering the necessary bounty. While we are waiting, here is another favourite that exploits a vegetable I have in abundance: zucchini. This vegetarian lasagna is so tasty I have already made it twice this month, once for our house and once for Gilda’s moms, Sarah and Michele.
Gilda was born one week ago today. Her biological mother, Sarah, is one of my dearest and funniest friends, my writing buddy. With some of their friends I organized a food train. Each of us makes dinner one night and takes it over so Michele does not have to cook. It is a way for us to share their new happiness in community without intruding too much during their first life-changing week at home.
I made dinner for their first night home from hospital. The moms are vegetarians and this was the first vegetarian entree I ever learned to make, so it was a no-brainer. The recipe was given to me by an Italian grandmother I knew many years ago, so my thoughts also go out to Nona. Ironically, I could not find my copy but it turned up in my mother’s recipe boxes in her handwriting: two copies! So I must have passed it along to her and she must have liked it. This passing along of healthy comfort food, generation to generation of family and friends, all seemed very good luck to share with Sarah, Michele and Gilda on their first night home as a family of three.
Besides that, it is the most straightforward lasagna recipe I know. Just chop and grate the vegetables, sauté in butter, add the sauce, simmer for a while, assemble and bake. Michele will like the easiness, and she asked for the recipe, so I am happy to share it.
Along with the lasagna I took Simple Summer Peach Cake from Food52 (substituting my favourite gluten-free flour blend) for dessert, and a jar of homemade rose hip jelly for another day’s breakfast. The new parents invited me in to see Gilda. She is the smallest person I have met in a long time. Her head looked no bigger than a grapefruit with a shock of black hair. She has been a superstar, Michele says, doing all the things a new baby is supposed to do. I look forward to resuming writing sessions with Sarah and her incredibly dry sense of humour and probably-not-especially-dry baby in tow.
This is a superstar summer harvest dish. All the vegetables are available from farmers’ markets and gardens right now. You might even try replacing the tomato sauce with fresh tomatoes if you are lucky enough to have them (remove the seeds and pulp or it will be too watery). Unlike many vegetarian lasagnas I know, the bulk of this filling is carrots, which lend a distinctive and enjoyable flavour.
|Nona’s vegetarian lasagna||
- ¼ pound butter
- 1 small onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 large or 6 medium carrots
- 1 zucchini
- 2 sticks celery
- 2 tablespoons fresh herbs (see note)
- 2 28 oz. (large) cans tomato sauce
- 1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated or thinly sliced
- lasagna noodles
- Mince onion and garlic. Chop celery, Grate carrots and zucchini. Chop herbs.
- Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Brown butter. Add chopped vegetables and herbs and sauté 10 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.
- Add tomato sauce and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Boil enough noodles to make two layers in a large lasagna pan. Follow package instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water and drain again.
- Place one layer of noodles in the bottom of the pan. Add half the sauce and spread evenly. Cover with half the mozzarella cheese. Repeat to use all ingredients.
- Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes or until pasta is tender.
The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of parsley. I like to substitute ¼ cup of fresh basil and a large sprig of tarragon.
I use oven-ready brown rice lasagna noodles and skip step 5. Place a thin layer of sauce under uncooked noodles in the bottom of the pan.