My college dining hall had very few vegetarian entrées, and I ate vegetable lasagna at least four days a week in my undergraduate years. It was one of those carrot-zucchini lasagnas with white sauce and cheese, and it was so comforting. The Mongolian grill installed during my senior year increased the variety in my dining hall diet, but I couldn’t resist the creamy lasagna every once in a while still.
I have always been intimidated by lasagna—making it, that is. The layers and the prep and the waiting all that time for it to bake just seemed like too much work—this from the gal willing to make homemade pasta. But I’m conquering all kinds of new dishes these days. You can, too.
Here’s what makes my adaptation of this lasagna simple in preparation: use packaged artichoke hearts, no-boil lasagna noodles, and pre-trimmed leeks. Trader Joes even has pre-chopped leeks in their freezer section! (Click here to watch a demonstration on cleaning and slicing leeks).
I came across this 5-star recipe and said to myself, This sounds amazing. and it’s screaming to be simplified. and I wonder if it would work with mushrooms?
The Ultimate Vegetable Lasagna
simplified a smidge from williams-sonoma.com
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. olive oil
5 leeks including 1 inch of green, rinsed well and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 cup artichoke hearts (frozen or jarred), chopped
about 10 baby bella mushrooms, brushed clean, stems removed, and sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced (on a microplane)
3 cups milk
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
a pinch of nutmeg
1/2 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese
In a fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leeks and sauté until very soft and lightly golden, about 15 minutes.
While the leeks are cooking, heat 1 tbsp. butter in a medium pot (large enough to use for white sauce) over medium-high heat. Sear the mushrooms by adding them in batches, leaving plenty of room between the slices. Set aside.
Once the leeks are tender, drain the artichokes and add to the fry pan with a pinch of salt and pepper. Continue to cook over medium heat until the artichokes are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add the mushrooms, stir, and transfer the mixture to a bowl. Set aside.
Make the cheese filling
In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, parmesan, salt and pepper; set aside.
Make the white sauce
In the buttered saucepan (from the mushrooms), melt the remaining 3 tbsp. butter over medium-high heat.
Whisk the flour into the butter and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. It should look like this.
Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the hot milk. Set over medium-low heat and cook, stirring, until thick and smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Remove the sauce from the heat.
Assemble and Bake
Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 375°F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
Cover the bottom of the prepared dish with a layer of the noodles. No-boil lasagna noodles just go into the pan straight from the box; it’s fabulous. Spoon one-third of the ricotta mixture over the noodles—this doesn’t need to be neat.
Top with one-third of the leek-artichoke mixture and then with one-third of the sauce. Repeat the layering twice.
Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the top. Bake until golden and bubbling, 40 to 50 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes (painful, I know!), then cut into squares and dig in.