Always searching for ways to sneak nutrition, namely in the form of veggies, into our very picky carnivore/carbivore kids, here's a recipe we've created for lasagna made with a tomato sauce that's filled with veggies. The flavor is incredible and the kids will never guess that it's healthy. Plus you can reserve part of the sauce for homemade pizza. This isn't a quickie recipe. You'll spend several hours in the kitchen. But for your effort you'll be rewarded with two super nutritious lasagnas, one to bake now and another to freeze or share, plus sauce for homemade pizzas. Feel free to adjust the recipe to your taste or to use what you have on hand. It's a great way to use up bits and dabs of veggies that are lingering in the veggie drawer in your fridge. And as always, don't forget to throw all the scraps and trimmings into a freezer bag to make veggie broth.
Recipe For Homemade Lasagna Plus Yummy Pizza Sauce
3 beets, peeled and diced*
2 zucchini squash, sliced into spears
2 onions, large dice
6 tomatoes, peeled, cut in half, and most seeds removed
1 bell pepper, diced
1/2 pound mushrooms, cut in half
4 celery stalks, cut in chunks
2 carrots, cut in chunks
1/4 small cabbage, shredded
2 heads garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (I like Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzeys/p-penzeyspastasprinkle.html )
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for spraying the pan and olive oil for drizziling over veggies
2 pounds ground chuck
1 pound sweet Italian sausage (either bulk or removed from casing)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups Pinot Grigio
5 or 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 bunch of chopped basil, divided use
1 bunch of chopped parsley
1 bunch of oregano (leaves removed from stems)
2 1/2 pounds mozzarella (preferably whole milk which melts better)
32 ounces ricotta
3 large eggs
10 ounces parmesan cheese
2 packages of no-boil lasagna noodles (we like Barrilla) (you'll probably have some left over)
Use two cookie sheets or cake pans lined with aluminum foil. Spray with olive oil if you have a Misto sprayer or spray with Pam. Arrange prepared veggies over the two cookie sheets. Sprinkle with the Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper, and drizzle with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.
Roast in oven for 1.5 hours at 350 degrees. Stir veggies, return to oven, and raise temperature to 375 degrees. Roast for 1/2 hour to 1 hour, checking regularly, until there's no liquid in pans and veggies are just starting to brown and caramelize.
* When you're working with red beets be sure to use a cutting board that can be put through the dishwasher, rather than your best wooden cutting board, and wear gloves. Those things stain like crazy. Another option is to use golden beets instead of red.
While veggies are roasting, you can brown the ground chuck and Italian sausage together in a large cast iron skillet. Drain off the fat in a colander.
Allow roasted veggies to cool. Puree in batches in food processor and pour into a Dutch oven or other similar large pot. Add both cans of tomatoes, the Pinot Grigio, the oregano leaves, half of the chopped basil, and the 5 or 6 cloves of chopped garlic. Taste for seasoning and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Cook at a high simmer/low boil until reduced to sauce consistency.
At this point reserve and refrigerate 1 to 2 cups of tomato sauce to use for homemade pizza.
To the remaining tomato sauce add the browned meat mixture. Simmer for a few minutes to meld flavors.
Shred your mozzarella. An easy way is to pop it into the freezer for half an hour and then shred in the food processor with the grater blade attachment.
Shred or grate your parmesan.
In a large mixing bowl combine shredded parmesan, ricotta, eggs, parsley, and remaining basil. Mix well.
Use 2 rectangular lasagna dishes, 9-by-13 or thereabouts. Ladle a small amount of tomato/meat sauce into the bottom of each dish and spread it out. Cover with lasagna noodles (probably 3 will cover the pan). Next add some of the ricotta mixture and spread as evenly as possible over the noodles. The easiest way I've found to do this is to use a small ice cream scoop, aka a cookie scoop, to put a little ricotta mixture on each noodle, then spread with a spatula. Next add a layer of tomato/meat sauce, spreading it as evenly as possible. Next add a layer of shredded mozzarella. Each layer should be minimal, just enough to cover the previous layer.
Continue layering noodles, ricotta, sauce, and mozzarella until you reach the top of the lasagna dishes, ending with mozzarella.
For the lasagna you wish to serve right away, cover tightly with aluminum foil and cook in a 350 degree oven for an hour, then remove the foil, increase the temperature to 375 degrees, and cook for about 30 minutes, checking regularly, until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
This dish freezes really well. You can freeze the second lasagna, tightly wrapped. When you're ready to bake, just thaw, and bake using the same instructions.