VEGETABLE LASAGNA WITH WHITE SAUCE

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1 pkg 16 ounces lasagna noodles
1 pkg 8 ounces mozzarella cheese shredded
3 cups ricotta cheese
6 to 8 cups homemade tomato sauce
1 cup steamed spinach, drained
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion chopped
4 to 6 garlic cloves, minced

1 10 ounce pkg of frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained thoroughly
1 – 3 carrots, sliced and steamed
1 – 3 zucchini, sliced and steamed

White Sauce
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3/ 4 cups half and half
3/ 4 cups milk
salt and pepper

1. Prepare lasagna noodles according to package. Use a drop of oil in water to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Cook 1 to 2 minutes less than the directions, so the noodles are not too soft. Run noodles under cold water immediately after draining them. Spread out long sheets of wax paper. Lay the noodles side by side until no room left on sheet. Then place a sheet of wax paper on top and continue until all noodles are used. This will prevent them from sticking to one another.
2. In the meantime, in a large frying pan, sauteed the garlic, chopped onions and tomatoes, cooking till tender. Add spinach and continue to sauteed till everything is heated. As an option for a different version of vegetable lasagna try it with – 1 10 ounce pkg of frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained thoroughly, 3 carrots, sliced and steamed, 3 zucchini, sliced and steamed.
2. Oven 375 degrees.
3. Mix in a bowl the spinach sauteed mixture with ricotta and 4 ounces of mozzarella. (I use whole milk, or part skim ricotta and mozzarella.) The other 4 ounces of mozzarella should be set aside to sprinkle on top of lasagna.
4. In two 9 x 13 x 2 oven baking pan, spoon sauce on the bottom.
5. Layer 3 to 4 noodles over the sauce. Spoon the cheese vegetable mixture onto the layer of noodles. Spoon some sauce over the cheese mixture, then top with a layer of noodles and continue until entire pan is almost full but not all the way to the top of the pan. The last layer should be noodles with sauce covering them and some mozzarella sprinkled over the sauce.
6. Cover and bake for 40 minutes.
7. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Add flour gradually and stir with a wooden spoon and continue to stir. Slowly add half and half and milk with salt and pepper. Cook and continue to stir until the white sauce thickens a bit. (The sauce will be smooth and thin, but it thickens the longer it sits.) Cover and heat just before serving.
8. Remove cover and bake for 10 minutes longer.
9. Let lasagna sit for 10 minutes after removing from oven before serving and slicing. Serve on the side the white sauce. I serve it in a gravy boat and tell my guests to pour it over the lasagna the desired amount.
10. Makes about 8 servings. Serve with bread and salad.
ENJOY – Vegetarians everywhere unite for lasagna…..

The first time my dinner guests eyeballed my Vegetable Lasagna with white sauce, the silence was deafening. I could sense their disappointment! I knew most of them were expecting the traditional lasagna; pasta loaded with tomato sauce, not this white stuff. I had prepared a different kind of lasagna with a chicken broth and cream based sauce that the ladies felt might not be a winning combination. One friend actually made a face when I told her to “just try it.” She did, and fell in love; I won everyone over at the first bite….al dente, of course. Yep, they even came back for seconds.

The combination of spinach, tomatoes and onions was what I had to work with at the time. Feel free to experiment with any other vegetables. If I had broccoli I could probably substitute that instead of spinach. Carrots are a little sweet so they can add to the flavor, while zucchini can be somewhat bland so no extra flavor there, however, when sautéed together, they can add a punch of flavor. Hey, it’s also an easy way to get your family to eat more vegetables. As far as the white sauce is concerned, I like a very smooth, light sauce to cover the lasagna. Thick sauces tend to be overbearing so other more subtle flavors risk getting lost.

My co-worker, Victor, and I discuss recipes all the time. He used to be a cook in an Italian restaurant and we really enjoy kicking around new ideas. Victor told me to try the white sauce over the lasagna. I know no fear when it comes to cooking; I’m not afraid to fail even when serving friends. I find that people are so grateful when you cook for them that they don’t care if you never made it before. They don’t mind being guinea pigs! I would love if I was a guest for dinner and someone was trying a new recipe on me and wanted my honest opinion. I would feel very privileged to be included in their taste testing.

I consider myself to be a very unpretentious, easy-going and laid back person, and I believe that this is reflected in my cooking. Baking and cooking are fun to me, and I really can’t imagine losing this joy. After all these years, I still love it! OK, cleaning is another story…….

In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy and explore the world of cooking and baking. I hope you continue to enjoy taking the journey with me!

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