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Peak season vegetables inspire hearty lasagna

What do you do when you’re craving something gooey and cheesy, but your scale rudely reminds you that you should consider eating some vegetables? I suggest you tell your scale to mind its own business because you are fabulous. Promise yourself you’ll have two salads tomorrow and make a colorful roast vegetable lasagna tonight. Problem solved. That’s a compromise that totally works in my world.

Why make a vegetable lasagna? The obvious answer is “why not?” But I’ll pontificate. This time of year, our Southern Nevada gardens are producing again after a long hot, dry summer. Also, farmers markets are bountiful and the end of summer produce in the grocery store is divine. These peak season vegetables are begging to be the star of the show. So, let’s let them shine.

Lasagna is endlessly customizable. You choose your favorite vegetables, I’ve used zucchini, peppers, mushrooms and onion, but you could add or delete as you wish. Other popular late summer lasagna vegetables include eggplant, summer squash, broccoli, butternut squash, chard and spinach.

Roasting the vegetables caramelizes them, bringing out sweetness and depth of flavor.

To cut costs, select only vegetables that are on sale. This lasagna is delicious using one or two vegetables rather than the whole garden. If you end up with six cups of roasted vegetables, you can make this recipe. You can also substitute cottage cheese for the ricotta cheese.

While this vegetable lasagna is a hearty meatless main dish, you can add meat if you desire. You can add one pound of cooked hamburger, Italian sausage or use turkey Italian sausage to lighten it up a bit. Or you can make this recipe vegan by omitting the eggs and using vegan cheeses. If you’re gluten free or cutting carbs, you’d swap long slices of zucchini for the pasta.

See? You will love making this recipe your own. Now, down to business.

ROASTED VEGETABLE LASAGNA

What you’ll need:

3 medium zucchinis

1 large yellow onion

2 red or green bell pepper

1 8-ounce package mushrooms

4 garlic cloves, or more to taste

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, divided

1 16-ounce package lasagna noodles

15 ounces ricotta cheese

2 large eggs

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 cups or 1 24-ounce can pasta sauce

1 14.5-ounce can Italian style diced tomatoes

4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Here’s how:

Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut the zucchini, peppers, onion, and mushrooms into roughly one-inch pieces. Dice the garlic cloves and add to the vegetables. Place the vegetables in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Use two if necessary. It’s going to look like a lot, but they cook down significantly. Drizzle with oil and season with ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes, toss and continue to roast 15 minutes more or until brown and soft. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 375 F.

While that’s roasting, boil some water and cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain the pasta in a colander and run under cold water until cool enough to handle. Separate the pasta and dry with paper towels, set aside. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta, eggs, ½ cup of the Parmesan, ½ cup mozzarella, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste until well combined. In another bowl mix the pasta sauce and tomatoes.

To assemble: Coat a 9-by-13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Spread about ½ cup sauce mixture on the bottom of the pan. Lay a layer of pasta over the bottom of the pan. Spoon about a third of each, the vegetables and ricotta mixture, over the noodles. Sprinkle ½ cup mozzarella evenly over the mixture and top with a scant cup of sauce.

Repeat layers until you have four layers of pasta and three layers of filling. The top layer will be pasta topped with the remaining 1 cup sauce, 1 cup mozzarella and ½ cup Parmesan cheese.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until golden and bubbly, about 15 minutes more.

Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Serve this with crusty bread and call it good. This is a perfectly glorious weekend meal. It’s a little time-consuming but worth every minute. See you next week.

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is a recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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