Saturday, May 7, 2011

Eat Your Heart Out, Galen

This is actually the first lasagna that I've ever made. I'm not a huge fan of traditional lasagna - I generally prefer a simple bolognese with noodles, and to be honest lasagna has always seemed like too much work to bother. But veggie lasagna...yes, it could be worth it! Especially if it was modeled after the PC Vegetable Lasagna with 7 Cheeses. SO good. This stuff is like crack. I was introduced to it by a couple of roommates in university. We'd buy the Club Pack size and go through it within a day. You could delude yourself into thinking this stuff is healthy (there's VEGETABLES in it!) but it's also 25% cheese according to the product page. That's a LOT of cheese.

I think I went in originally with the mentality that I was somehow going to make this healthier than the PC version. But as I starting putting the ingredients together I moved to a different mantra: Even if I use the exact same ingredients, it should be a LITTLE better just because it's from scratch, right? And doesn't include the preservatives at the very least? Anyway, I have no idea how the calorie count on this thing compares to PC's but I can guarantee it still doesn't fall into the "low-fat" category. It's not a weeknight dish, but perfect for a rainy Sunday at home!

(proof that there were, in fact, a LOT of veggies used in the making of this recipe!)

I was actually surprised that I couldn't find a copycat recipe online. Everyone I know loves this lasagna. But I guess most people don't spend their time trying to replicate their favourite frozen foods from scratch, and really it's probably cheaper to just buy it at the grocery store. So this did mean that I had to make up my own recipe.

While I cook a lot, I'm a baker at heart which means I like to follow recipes. It was a bit tricky to write my own so I used a few similar lasagna recipes to form a "base" and then used the ingredient listing from the PC page to help me out!

According to the PC product page, the ingredients are:

Lasagna noodles (durum wheat semolina, water, dried whole egg), water, seven cheeses [white and yellow cheddar, part skim mozzarella, ricotta, asiago, swiss, romano and parmesan (whole and partially skimmed milk, bacterial culture, salt, microbial enzymes, rennet and/or pepsin, whey, white vinegar, colour)], seven vegetables (broccoli, carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, corn, onions, spinach), cream, palm oil margarine, bread crumbs (contain soybean oil), modified corn starch, skim milk powder, cheddar cheese base [cheddar a
nd blue cheese (whole milk, bacterial culture, salt, microbial enzymes), water, sodium phosphate, white vinegar, salt], lactic acid, flour, sugar, salt, spice, garlic powder, onion powder.

I tried to stay pretty true to these ingredients, obviously without the preservatives and a few very small additions. I added some roasted red pepper because I love red pepper and I had some in the fridge. And I used *gasp* SIX cheeses instead of seven! Blasphemy!

Anyway, this recipe is a bit of work but well worth the effort. And it makes a pretty big lasagna so you can always freeze some for leftovers another day! Enjoy.

Cheese and Veggie Lasagna

1 lb cauliflower (about half a large head), washed and cut into bite sized pieces
10 oz broccolli (2 small heads), washed and cut into bite sized pieces
2 red peppers, washed and seeded, halved
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 cup corn
2 medium zucchini, washed and sliced into 1 cm half discs
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
Olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups sharp white cheddar
1 cup asiago
1 1/2 cups mozzarella

1 bunch spinach, washed and trimmed/2 cup flour
15 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg

1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
4 cups milk
1 1/2 cups sharp white cheddar
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
50 g blue cheese
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

10 lasagna sheets

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit or 190 degrees Celsius

1. Place cauliflower, broccolli, corn and zucchini on a large cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven about 20 minutes or until veggies are soft but not mushy. While they are roasting also throw in the red peppers (you can do this directly onto the rack) until they are somewhat charred and soft. When you remove the peppers, place them onto a plate and cover with saran wrap for about 15 minutes. When they're cool, remove skins and dice. Add these to the other cooked veggies and set aside.

2. In a large sauce pan or wok, saute onions in olive oil until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add grated carrot and cook for about 5 more minutes. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and add to the other veggies.

3. Saute spinach in the pan until wilted. Lightly beat the egg and combine with spinach and ricotta. Set aside.

4. In the same pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook together until it's a golden brown colour. Slowly whisk in the milk a little at a time until it's fully incorporated and smooth. Add in 1 1/2 cups cheddar, 1/2 cup parm and blue cheese bit by bit, mixing as you go to make sure it blends in. Stir in herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add veggies to the sauce and stir to cover.

5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook lasagna sheets 2 or 3 at a time until al dente. I used fresh pasta so this only took about 3 minutes per batch. I also did these as I layered because I was scared of sticking, but this didn't really seem to be a problem so you could probably do this all at once before you start assembling your lasagna.

At this point, if you've turned your oven on put it back to 375 degrees Farenheit, 190 degrees Celsius

first layer: veggies in cheese sauce

6. Assemble the lasagna! Start by spreading some of the cheese sauce/veggie mixture in the bottom of your pan. Lay down 2 1/2 sheets on top to cover, then spread with 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 of the remaining cheese/veggie mixture, then 1/3 of the remaining cheese. Repeat twice. Lay down the last noodles then sprinkle with the breadcrumb/parm topping.

Note: I think that if you had a "real" lasagna pan you could get four noodle layers in. I maxed out at 3 so I actually made a second smaller lasagna in a small pan and froze it, but I'm leaving this recipe as it is.

7. Bake lasagna for about 35-40 minutes until it's bubbling and the top is browned. Try to let it cool for about 10 minutes before cutting because it will really help it stay together when you slice.

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