Lasagna primavera is a dish I came up with by stacking sheets of lasagna pasta and alternating them with loads of vegetables that were available at the local market. This morning, I found beautiful white button mushrooms, zucchini, onions, carrots and yellow, red and green bell peppers. I couldn't resist preparing a colorful meal.
To ensure the vegetables remained the focal point of the dish, I only added enough béchamel sauce to hold the lasagna together and flavored it with basic herbs such as basil, thyme and oregano and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese for extra nutty, salty flavor. This may not be a truly authentic lasagna recipe, but it’s delicious and a great way to get fussy eaters to eat their vegetables.
Servings: 8 servings
9 ounces pre-cooked lasagna sheets
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 dozen white button mushrooms
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
¼ cup fresh sweet basil leaves, freshly snipped
1 sprig fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (or any neutral oil)
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1½ cups Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6½ cups milk, warm
1 (14-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
For the béchamel sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat; you don't want it to burn. Add the thyme and oregano and let the fresh herbs infuse the butter. Bring the heat back up to medium-high (the butter should be hot and golden) and add the flour. Keep stirring manually with a whisk until the mixture is even. Make sure the flour and butter form a paste and let cook for 3-4 minutes to prevent an unpleasant raw-flour taste. Add 6 cups milk in 3 stages and stir well until fully incorporated. Increase the heat and continue stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add ½ cup each of cheese and nutmeg. Season with garlic powder, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Let rest while preparing the vegetables.
Preparing the vegetables:
Trim and slice the zucchini crosswise, about ½-inch thick, then cut the slices into long strips. Repeat the same procedure with the carrots.
Cut the mushrooms into long slices lengthwise.
Stem, seed and cut the bell peppers into long strips, then cut them in half crosswise.
In a large non-stick pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add the carrots. Pan-fry them until golden. Toss well and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Once the onions are ready, add the zucchini and bell peppers. Cook for 5 more minutes until softened, stirring frequently. Finish with the mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a platter and set aside.
Check the consistency of the béchamel sauce. Thin the sauce with ½ cup warm milk. Stir well.
In a (10 x 15 x 2") oblong baking dish sprayed with oil (for easy clean up), spread a layer of the tomatoes first, then layer 6 sheets of the pre-boiled lasagna sheets. Spread a layer of the vegetables. Sprinkle with cheese and a few tablespoons chopped basil. Spread 2 to 3 ladles of the béchamel sauce, then add another 6 sheets of lasagna. Repeat the same layers until all the ingredients are used up. Finish with the rest of the béchamel sauce. It should cover the whole tray; top with the remaining cheese.
Bake in the oven for about 35-minutes at 375°F (until golden brown).
When it's cooked, remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. Cut into squares.
If you don't have fresh herbs on hand, you could substitute dry Italian seasoning.
I prefer using dry lasagna sheets. I use Barilla brand lasagna that's already pre-cooked. The heat and moisture from the béchamel sauce will cook and soften the lasagna sheets. I think it's better to control the level of liquid and to produce a denser consistency. They're also a great time saver!
If you're a pasta lover, check out my other pasta dishes.