Lasagne – Quick and Easy!

How many times have you tried to make lasagne, only to find yourself cursing over wet noodles that just won’t cooperate?
It turns out that the secret to easy lasagne is – don’t cook the noodles. I learned this from New Moosewood Classics, which has an awesome recipe for Greek lasagne. If your tomato sauce is liquid enough, the noodles will cook while the assembled lasagne is baking. I’ve tried this countless times now, and assembly is a snap, and the results are yummy every time.
And just to clarify, I am not talking about so-called “express” lasagne noodles. I’m talking about real, honest-to-goodness noodles.
The following recipe is very traditional – I use Yves Veggie ground round instead of meat for my tomato sauce; you can presumably use anything that approximates the taste and texture of ground beef. The delight of this recipe for me is that it is not only really easy, but also very adaptable – use your imagination, ingredients-wise. Like pizza, lasagne can be an excellent way to use those leftover veggies.

Maggie’s Lasagne
makes one large, company’s coming lasagne
Preheat oven to 350°
Tomato sauce:
start with large chunks of everything
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
as many cloves of garlic as you want, minced or crushed
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 large can (28 oz) chopped tomatoes
I have also used random vegetables like carrots or peppers – check the crisper and see what you’ve got!
1 package Yves Veggie ground round, or comparable hamburger substitute
herbs & spices – this is deliberately random! Choose among your faves, or with what happens to be growing in your herb garden today. I have used everything from dried basil to green Tabasco. I tend to adapt the herby/spiciness to whether or not the kids are eating with us.
Saute the onion, garlic and celery in the oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes and whatever other veggies you’re using. Do NOT add the “meat” yet! Use a food processor to puree between 1/3 and 1/2 of the veggies and return them to the pot to make a nice, liquidy sauce. NOW you can add the “meat,” along with the herbs and spices. Let the sauce simmer gently while you prepare the…
Cheesy layer:
once again, raid your fridge for any bits of cheese you can toss in
2 cups cottage cheese or ricotta (lowfat is fine – and recommended )
1 cup feta, crumbled
any other cheese, in whatever quantity you have. I’ve used cheddar, gouda, even havarti.
Use the food processor again – you don’t even need to rinse it! – to blend the various cheeses together. That’s it. Please move on to the next step. Now. Beat it!
Top layer:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 flour – try whole wheat
dash of cloves
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp of your favourite mustard
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Essentially, you’re making a Bechamel sauce here. Melt the butter over medium heat. Use a wire whisk to slowly add the flour and cloves. Keep whisking, letting the flour cook for close to a minute. Slowly add the milk, whisking all the while. Once all the milk is added, whisk occasionally until the sauce starts to thicken. Add the mustard and parmesan, and keep on cooking until you have a nice, smooth, thick, creamy sauce.
You’ll need about a dozen regular uncooked lasagne noodles – you can use whole wheat or spinach noodles, too, as your heart desires.
1 – spoon about half the tomato sauce into your lasagne pan…
2 – place a layer of uncooked lasagne noodles on the tomato layer…
3 – carefully spoon the cheesy layer over the noodles…
4 – another layer of uncooked noodles…
5 – the rest of the tomato sauce…
6 – noodles…
7 – top layer.
Throw the whole thing in the oven, pour yourself a nice glass of wine, and wait an hour. Voila – lasagne. Serve with the usual accompaniments of salad, garlic bread, red wine and good company. Enjoy!