Food

The Best Veggie Lasagna (Really)

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.)

  1. John says...

    I felt that there was an overwhelming lemon flavor in the finished product.
    Why does the recipe call for separating the lemon zest and then adding all of it anyway to the cheese mixture?
    If I make it again, I will add much less lemon zest.

  2. Rebecca says...

    This isn’t a vegetarian recipe. Parmesan is not vegetarian. It contains calf rennet.

  3. Lisa says...

    Okay this is absolutely lick-your-plate, fight-for-the-last piece good. I’m semi-glad I have the entire dish to myself to feed me for days to come. I’m not a vegetarian, but am observing abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent, so this came at the right time :)

  4. Finn says...

    Tried this kast night and it was DELICIOUS. I used spinach because my grocery store did not have any chard, and while I stuck with real cheese, I swapped out the creme fraiche for vegan sour cream (oat based) to make it a bit more stomach-friendly. Be advised that it is so good people will go in for seconds and thirds. There were only four of us and people were fighting for the last piece!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Awesome, Finn! So happy to hear that!

  5. Erin says...

    YUM! I made this tonight just as written and I have to say I totally agree this is the very best lasagna. 🤤

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      So happy to hear that, Erin! Thank you for sharing! xoxo

  6. Katie says...

    Very excited for this vegetarian series!

  7. Gillian says...

    YES!!! Us vegetarian girls say THANK YOU! I can’t wait to try this (and I hate cooking)!

  8. Syd says...

    Excited for more veggie meal ideas! I love new recipes and am constantly looking to switch things up. Although, I must say one thing I will not switch is my bfs lasagna recipe! He layers in roasted eggplant, mushrooms and red pepper and also adds spinach to the the ricotta (or cottage cheese) layer. It is truly the best, even my family, who insists on having meat with every meal, prefers it to meaty lasagna (but of course my dad will still have meat on the side). Such a crowd pleaser!

  9. Kimberly J says...

    No, no, no. I’m sorry to disagree
    but the very best lasagna recipe is as follows:
    Buy ingredient amounts to cater to your own lasagna capabilities and desires
    You’ll need:
    The best real mozzarella you care to spend money one
    Full fat ricotta
    A couple eggs
    Lemon thyme- trust me
    A few, or more portobellos
    Red wine
    Spinach
    Squash
    Parmesan
    Delicious butter
    Buy the best you want or use your homemade Vodka sauce

    Set oven to 365 or so, whatever.
    Slice or chop your Porto’s in a buttery red wine broth broth
    As you simmer them to tenderness,
    Hurriedly, while making a giant frantic mess,
    Mix the ricotta with a couple eggs, a ton of salt and pepper and finely chopped lemon thyme. The little branches can be tough and stringy, so I try to pull all the tiny leaves off and chop those up. Sometimes, I mix in cottage cheese or just use that in a pinch.

    Build your layers, leaving some of most off the portobellos for the top layer, to be covered in fresh mozzarella.

    Bake for about an hour. I put foil loosely on the top for thirtyish minutes, and then pull it off to make it a little toasty on the top.

    Let it cool for 5-10 minutes.

    You’ll wonder, is it the lemon thyme or the vodka sauce? I think it’s just the lemon thyme making it so, so delicious.

    • Chiara says...

      This sounds yummy! Where do the squash and spinach go? Do you make a tomato sauce? xx

  10. I’m SO looking forward to trying this and to getting more vegetarian recipes from you! I’m trying to transition to more meatless meals slowly and slyly so that my husband and kids aren’t wise to my scheme. They’ve proven reluctant in the past.

  11. Sarah says...

    This reminds me of an old vegetarian Cup of Jo classic I have used more times than I can count:
    https://cupofjo.com/2015/10/mexican-tortilla-casserole/
    It’s good as is but especially good with soyrizo mixed in and enchilada sauce added between layers. Easy and lasts a couple nights!

  12. Surabhi says...

    Yay for vegetarian meals! I am a Lacto Vegetarian (no meat fish or eggs but yes to the dairy) and I find less and less recipes on blogs etc catering to vegetarians. Recipes these days seem to be either for Vegans or Omnivores.

    Vegetarians in the middle ground are getting left high and dry.

    So thankyou! and this lasagna looks delicous!

  13. Surabhi says...

    yes true most parms sold in supermarkets are not vegetarian but they do exist. I go to a 100% vegetarian health food store and they stock a few non rennet ones. I just cant remember the names because I don’t buy them often.

  14. Julia says...

    yes!!! so glad you are doing posts on vegetarian meals!! thank you!!

  15. Jen says...

    I find that many times vegetarian meals are dairy heavy — as if the people coming up with the recipe think the only way to make vegetables palatable without meat is with an overabundance of milk, butter, cheese.
    You can have rich, comforting, satisfying vegetarian and vegan meals without relying on the crutch of dairy or substitute “meats”. Looking forward to seeing some of those recipes!

    • Clare Agra says...

      YES! This.

  16. K says...

    Thanks for featuring vegetarian ideas this month!

  17. Karen says...

    For my lasagna, I use ricotta with an egg – the KEY to making it creamy is using a hand-held blender to puree it. It takes the lasagna to a whole new level. Also, this winter I have been adding roasted butternut squash to the ricotta mixture too – another game changer. (Cut squash in half, scoops out seeds/guts, drizzle with oil/salt/pepper, roast one hour or so on 400, scoop out flesh, and blend with ricotta/egg mixture.)

  18. Joaquina says...

    Can we please, pretty please, get some vegan recipes and suggestions?
    So many of these posts include cheese and meat-laden recipes.
    Plant-based meals are not only the most nutritionally well-rounded but also better for the planet ;)
    Thank you for the consideration!

  19. Kaitlin says...

    Let’s start with this: Lasagna is inherently indulgent. It is a stick-to-your-ribs, homecoming, cold AF winter night meal. Which is exactly what our bodies crave in the frigidity of February! Moreover, I love the fact that this series is starting with a veggie meal that isn’t light – I have been fed too many vegetarian meals that left me longing for a little more fat and protein.

    Vegetarianism isn’t a diet for a lot of people – if it is for you, that’s great. For some people, it’s an ethical mindset, an environmental one, or a financial one. (I was actually originally planning to comment on how much I love that vegetarian meals are going to be featured this month because I save so much money when I don’t eat meat.)

    I’m not here for the negativity, food-shaming, and self-loathing of the diet industry and that’s never been something that COJ is about. Bravo to Stella for finding delicious, belly-filling, soul-nourishing recipes that feed the variety of men and women who read Cup of Jo.

    • Brittany says...

      Love this comment, Kaitlyn! Bravo, indeed.

    • Lorelai says...

      Yes! Cheers! I love all animals, and just because I can’t bring myself to eat a bird, doesn’t mean I need to eat like one!

  20. c says...

    really excited for the month of vegetarian dinners! this looks delicious but i don’t eat dairy. hope you guys will include some fully plant based recipes, too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      for sure! excited to share!

  21. MK says...

    Anyone else try those veggie enchiladas from Stella’s slow cooker post last week? They are SO GOOD and totally idiot proof. I am having some leftovers for lunch right now and they reheat beautifully.

    • sasha says...

      Yep! I did, so so good. I tried the black bean soup too, also amazing. And I’m trying the white beans in tomato sauce, from same post, serve on toast, this week. Both those last two are easily vegan.

      Also loved this one last week, vegan too, so easy, I’m trying more one pot pastas.
      http://smittenkitchen.com/2017/10/quick-pasta-and-chickpeas-pasta-e-ceci/
      I made it with white beans instead and shipped the finishing sauce. I couldn’t believe how tasty considering the number of ingredients and how fast.

  22. Lauren says...

    Quick and easy TJs veg recipe: I just enjoyed their roasted cauliflower raviolis with their vegan kale pesto – easy and delicious!

    • karen says...

      That sounds amazing! TJs here I come!

    • Emilia says...

      Lauren, I am beyond obsessed with that TJ’s vegan kale pesto. OMG. I live 45 mins away so buy several at a time, and am evangelical about it over lunches with co-workers. I’ve made pesto quinoa for breakfast, topped flatbread with it for pizza, put it on toast with heirloom tomatoes, somebody stop me! So exciting to see that someone else loves it too. :)

  23. Daynya says...

    Not to be a TOTAL downer here, but, parmesan is actually not vegetarian. For many meat-eaters, this is still a great dish, but, I often have to be the bearer of bad news to my veggie friends when I offer up this little bit of info. Parmesan is made with rennet. I’m sure the lasagna is amazing, and can be made to be vegetarian, but just in case any new veggies are reading and concerned about animal product consumption, I am bursting the bubble.

    • Jenna says...

      You can buy vegetarian parm at Whole Foods! They use plant enzymes instead of rennet. I agree that most parms are in fact *not* vegetarian though. Sad :(

    • Clare Agra says...

      Whoa, I had no idea! And I didn’t eat meat from 6th grade to halfway through college.

  24. Lisa C Goldman says...

    As an almost life-long vegetarian, I’m excited to see what else gets featured for this series, thanks! I do have to rep for “my people” though and say: this is not the most auspicious start as veggie lasagna has to be the most common, predictable and least inspired dish to serve to vegetarians. I *never* make this at home, but I can’t even count the number of times I get served this by others struggling to figure out what to serve vegetarians. It’s almost always a huge oily cheesy fat bomb with white flour noodles, and a few veggies mixed in doesn’t really “lighten” it much. It’s the perfect meal if you’ve got the runs and can’t find any Immodium… I’d much prefer something with whole grains and beans and more veggies!

    • Claire says...

      I’ve been a vegetarian for a while now also and one of my favorite dinners is this Pan-Fried Butter Beans and Greens from a previous COJ post: https://cupofjo.com/2017/05/beans-and-kale-easy-dinner/. It’s so delicious, quick, filling and healthy. I have it 1-2 times a week. I want to try adding veggie sausage to it also! Hope this helps :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, that is SO delicious, claire. alex makes it now and again, i should remind him! :)

    • Shannon says...

      I also LOVE that dish, Claire!

    • Noelle says...

      Lisa – Eating a vat of cheesy lasagna is probably a really bad idea if you have a stomach ache, just saying LOL. Maybe try some saltines.

      As for this recipe – I think over one cup of creme fraiche is a bit horrifying myself, and I’m all for a little carby/cheesy indulgence. This lasagna is great if someone wants something healthy and hearty. My lasagna hating BF even approves: https://cookieandkate.com/2015/spinach-artichoke-lasagna-recipe/ .

    • The beans and kale recipe looks so hearty & delicious! Thanks for sharing Claire – can’t wait to try this!

  25. Loesie says...

    Yes yes yes! Having been a vegetarian for 22 years now, I always love adding new recipes to my repertoire.
    Back in the days, I used to go to Mac Donalds and order a Big Mac without meat. I always loved seeing people’s reaction. But seriously it’s still my guilty pleasure, although I rarely ever go to Mac Donalds these days..

    • Tis says...

      Me too! “No meat, extra pickles.”

    • M says...

      I did this too!

  26. sasha says...

    Yay! Thank you for featuring veg recipes! Can’t wait to try.

    • sasha says...

      This is definitely a weekend only or special occasion, but looks yummy.

      I absolutely LOVE the no bacon carbonara, linked at the bottom. It’s one of my favorites for a super fast and easy weeknight comfort food fix

  27. VP says...

    Sounds yummy! For those who are carb conscious, I like to use eggplant sliced lengthwise as the “lasagna” noodle instead of pasta. Just rub with some oil, salt, pepper, and maybe paprika, roast the slices in the oven, then use in place of the noodles. So good! Plus you are sneaking another vegetable in there. My hubs loves this and does not like eggplant usually.

    If using noodles, I would go for the ones you don’t have to boil first. Just place them dry in the lasagna dish, and they cook up in the oven!

    • Emily says...

      Another low carb option….use premade cauliflower pizza crusts as your noodles. I love Cali’flour, but more and more stores are caring different brands, including TJ has their version. Or you can make your own. Tons of recipes on Pinterest.

    • Surabhi says...

      I love eggplant so I’mg going to try that!

      I do one layer of lasagna noodle on the bottom and sub what would be the next two layers of lasagna noodle with thinly sliced tofu and then end off with a lasagna sheet on top. This gets some protein in there and removes some starchy cabs. At least thats my theory!