Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spinach and Red Pepper Lasagna

Somehow lasagna means family to me. I'm not really sure why, since we didn't eat it that often when I was growing up. But a single bite just opens a doorway to a flood of some unidentifiable memory. I don't make lasagna often, but after trying this recipe, I might have to change that. It also happens to include two of my favorite go-to vegetables, spinach and roasted red peppers. Can't argue with a dynamic duo like that.

I found the basis for this recipe in one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, but I tweaked it to include some flavors that I particularly like, such as fire-roasted tomatoes, parsley, and red pepper flakes. This is a vegetarian, relatively healthy version of lasagna that I would happily have instead of a meat-filled, cheese-oozing, more traditional version (not that there's anything wrong with that, aside from artery-clogging). Don't be put off by the tofu, as you honestly can't even taste it in the finished product. It melds with the ricotta and the two become indistinguishable. Trust me.

Spinach and Red Pepper Lasagna
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Healthful Cooking
Serves 6


16 oz. package of frozen chopped spinach
8 oz. silken tofu
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 large egg white
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
14.5 oz. can of fire-roasted diced or crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 or 7 dried lasagna noodles
2 large roasted red bell peppers, sliced into thick strips
1 large clove garlic, pressed or minced


1. Thaw the frozen spinach in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of water in the microwave. When thawed, drain off excess moisture. Set aside.

2. Drain excess water off the tofu. Crumble tofu into a bowl; it will resemble cottage cheese. Add ricotta and egg white, and stir, combining thoroughly. Stir in parmesan and 1/4 cup of the mozzarella, as well as a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

3. Preheat oven to 350.

4. Assemble the lasagna in an 8 x 8 glass or ceramic baking dish as follows: put half the fire-roasted tomatoes in the bottom of the pan, smashing with a potato masher if necessary to break them up. Sprinkle with half the parsley and red pepper flakes. Top with two lasagna noodles, covering the majority of the sauce. Then place half the roasted red pepper strips evenly over the noodles (there will be gaps). Top with half the spinach, and sprinkle half the garlic over the spinach. Spread half the cheese mixture over the spinach evenly, using a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon.

5. Repeat with another layer of noodles, then remaining bell peppers, spinach, garlic, and then the last of the cheese mixture. Top with the remaining fire-roasted tomatoes, parsley and red pepper flakes.

6. Place baking dish on a half-sheet pan or cookie sheet (in case of spills). Bake, covered in foil, until noodles are almost soft, about 45 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella on top of the lasagna, and bake until noodles are soft and cheese is melted, about 5 more minutes. Pop it under the broiler for a couple of minutes if you want the cheese to get bubbly and brown. Let rest for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Dish it up and enjoy!

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