The Best Veggie Lasagna

Are you looking for new vegetarian recipes to add to your repertoire? This month, we’ll be featuring delicious vegetarian dinners, starting with this lasagna from A Couple Cooks’ new cookbook, Pretty Simple Cooking. With an abundance of cheese and leafy greens, this dish makes the winter feel a little more bearable. Here’s how it’s done…

Veggie Lasagna
From A Couple Cooks’ Pretty Simple Cooking

While “the best” is a bit overused, we feel justified using it here since this recipe has been eaten by dozens of people who have confirmed it is indeed the best vegetarian lasagna. It’s creamy and lush, yet light enough to eat without feeling overstuffed. Rich crème fraîche is balanced with bright lemon and the nutrients of rainbow chard. It’s a brilliant dish that’s absolutely worth the effort.

Veggie Lasagna
Serves 6 to 8

You’ll need:

1 tbsp (for the pasta water), plus 1 3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
10 lasagna noodles
6 medium garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest, divided
2–3 medium bunches rainbow chard (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, divided
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) crème fraîche
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375F. Drizzle a baking sheet with a bit of olive oil and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil with 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Boil the noodles until just al dente, according to the package instructions, stirring often. Drain the noodles. Lay them flat onto the oiled baking sheet, and turn them over so they become coated with olive oil to prevent sticking.

Peel and mince the garlic. Add the minced garlic, red pepper flakes and butter to a saucepan and bring to medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the garlic is lightly browned and fragrant after about 2 minutes, turn down the heat and carefully add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and several grinds of black pepper. Cover the pan, then simmer while making the remainder of the recipe, around
20 minutes. When ready to use, remove the pan from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon lemon juice.

De-stem the chard by holding the leaf at the lowest part of the stem and pulling back to tear the leaf away from the stem, then roughly chop the leaves. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Mound the greens in the skillet and saute, stirring often, until completely wilted and reduced, about 3 to 4 minutes. (The greens significantly reduce when cooking; if necessary, sauté in 2 batches.) Sprinkle 2 pinches of kosher salt
and stir; remove from the heat and allow to cool. Once cooled, use your hands to squeeze out all excess liquid from the chard.

Destem the thyme and chop the leaves. Add 2 tablespoons of chopped thyme to a medium bowl and reserve 1/2 tablespoon for topping the lasagna. To the bowl, add the creme fraiche, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, 2 cups mozzarella cheese, 2 teaspoons lemon zest, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and several grinds of black pepper. Stir to combine.

In a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Then top with 1 layer of noodles, half of the cheese mixture (in dollops), half of the greens, and about one third of the tomato sauce. Repeat again: 1 layer of noodles, the remaining cheese mixture, the remaining greens, and half of the remaining tomato sauce. Finally, top with noodles (you may need to slice the tenth noodle in half for the top layer), then the rest of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the entire top with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 tablespoon thyme. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes.

Carefully remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes, until bubbly and browned. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.

Thanks so much A Couple Cooks! Your new cookbook is wonderful.

P.S. More vegetarian recipes, including no-bacon carbonara, and Mexican tortilla casserole.

(Excerpted from A Couple Cooks | Pretty Simple Cooking: 100 Delicious Vegetarian Recipes to Make You Fall in Love with Real Food by Sonja and Alex Overhiser. Copyright © 2018. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. This series is edited by Stella Blackmon.)