Recipe: Vegetarian Lasagna (and thoughts about meal planning & cooking in bulk)
I recently relocated to New York City, which has been a dream of mine since I was 20. I was talking to a friend of mine who I had known for close to five years now who was looking for a new apartment. I took this as an opportunity — practically jumped at this and offered to be “the Roommate.” I hadn’t had a roommate since I was 17 when Sefunmi and I were rooming together back at that High School Dual Credit Program Boarding School Place. So this is a new change. Big change. But ch-ch-ch-changes are good, right?
Unfortunately, this also means I’m going back to the days of living on a Ramen budget because it’s NYC and do I really need to mention the high cost of living? But let’s be real, I’m too old to be living solely on those delicious, high-sodium-content, pre-packaged noodles that are filling for only the next thirty minutes, so I’ve been obsessing over meals that can be made in bulk and frozen to be eaten later. I’ve been really lucky to be conveniently located near a produce market where I can get fresh veggies on sale. Tomatoes have always been a staple in my refrigerator, so to find campari and cherry tomatoes for 99 cents per box or larger tomatoes at 79 cents per pound was absolutely amazing.
But anyway, making food in bulk has saved me a lot of time, from when I get home after a tiring day and don’t want to really eat a quesadilla or cereal or a PBJ sammich (as yummy as those are). Making food in bulk also means you have the chance to shop for produce smartly. Look for veg and fruits that are on sale or lower from their normal rate (lately, those larger tomatoes were at $1.29/lb — 50 cent increase, yikes). Then prepare meals out of those things. Trust me, you’ll be able to find something that you’ll love to eat and easy to make with just a cursory Google search, and as I’m starting to live this way myself, I’ll happily share some of the stuff that I come up with as well. I recently made a large pot of my chili:
I still have some left over, sitting in Tupperware in the freezer. I’ll eat that within the next week or so, but yesterday, I wanted to do a little something different. I wanted to use up all the zucchini and yellow squash I had sitting in my fridge that I bought about two weeks ago, so I made vegetarian lasagna.
3 small to medium zucchini, diced
2 small to medium yellow squash, diced
1 bell pepper, diced (any color but green)
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 box of cherry tomatoes, halved (I “seeded” these by lightly squeezing them into a garbage bowl after halving them. Less moisture in your sauce also.)
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
3 oz. of tomato paste (half of a 6oz jar. I used Cento brand.)
1 24oz jar of tomato sauce (I used Barilla’s tomato and basil.)
2 tbsp. oregano
1 tbsp. dried basil
1 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper to taste (I love ground black pepper so I sprinkle liberally.)
Barilla ready-in-the-oven lasagna noodles (I used aluminum bread pans and not a traditional baking dish, so I didn’t use the whole package of noodles. Probably only about 6 sheets.)
1 15 oz. tub of ricotta cheese
1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
1. Prepare your mise en place! Dice all your veg. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Brown the onion in a pan with 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. This should take about five minutes. Add garlic, stir for a little to get that fragrance going, and then add your diced zucchini, yellow squash, and bell pepper.
3. Once these veg have softened, add the remaining ingredients: halved cherry tomatoes, frozen corn, and frozen peas.
4. Give that a bit of a stir before adding 3 oz. of tomato paste and 1 jar of tomato sauce.
5. After getting everything incorporated, finish it off with your seasonings: oregano, chili powder, dried basil. And of course, ALWAYS check that you need salt before you add any more.
6. Start assembling once your sauce is tasty! Ladle approximately 1 cup of sauce on the bottom (probably less if you’re using small pans like I did). Top with noodle, smear on ricotta cheese, sprinkle mozzarella. Add more sauce and repeat.
7. Once you’re finished, pop those babies in the oven for 25 minutes, tented with sheets of aluminum foil (not completely covered and sealed). After 25 minutes, remove sheets of foil and bake again for another 5 minutes until the mozzarella has slightly browned at the top! Cool down for 15 minutes before serving, and cool down completely before you start putting those things in the fridge or the freezer!
I ended up with some leftover sauce, so I put that in the freezer once it cooled down so I could just heat it up and boil up some pasta for an easy meal. I also put one of the lasagna’s in the freezer while the other one is sitting in the fridge. Enjoy!