This, dear reader, is a vegetarian lasagna recipe for people with someplace to be. When we think of lasagna, we picture ourselves gathered with friends and family, tucking into layer upon layer of the carefully prepared cheesy, saucy feast—and just like that, our troubles melt away faster than fresh mozzarella. Unless you’re the one cooking: Homemade lasagna can mean a whole day spent in the kitchen, losing your mind as you endlessly stir a bubbling pot of sauce, burning your fingers on hot, slippery noodles as you attempt to pick them off the bottom of the pot, ultimately facing a pile of dishes so high you’ll want to quit carbs altogether. But this is a lasagna that home cooks can enjoy, too, not only because it’s delicious, but because it’s simple and stress-free to prepare.
The easy tomato sauce here gets its depth of flavor from reducing in the oven—you’ll wonder why you ever stood there stirring the day away. It won’t take much longer to make a double batch of sauce, so you might want to do yourself that favor. Freeze the other half for next time and make this recipe even easier. If you do make a double batch, increase your sauce’s cook time to 1 hour and 20 minutes.
One of the great things about this vegetarian lasagna recipe is its flexibility. The sauce is so flavorful that it holds up well to any green veggie, but a dark leafy green like spinach works best. If you’re using frozen, just defrost two 10-oz. packages and drain thoroughly, making sure to squeeze out as much excess water as you can. If using fresh greens, quickly steam, then cool and chop, straining all excess water. No spinach around? Try kale, collard greens, or Swiss chard, removing any tough stems. Maybe you have a bag of frozen peas that have been staring at you for the past month or two, just begging to get used? Defrost and drain any excess water, then throw them in for a total of 1½ cups vegetables. Even last night’s leftover garlicky broccoli rabe is a good contender.
The best vegetarian lasagna starts with fresh pasta sheets, which not only have a superlative silky texture but also save time. If you can find them at a specialty store—or want to make them yourself—that would be my first choice for this recipe. But don’t despair: This recipe also works with boiled and drained dry lasagna noodles. The oven cook time will be the same for both versions. If you have access to good local ricotta, use that here. If your store-bought ricotta is a little watery, decrease the amount to 1¾ cups and mix in ¼ cup mascarpone for extra richness.
Note: We cover the lasagna with parchment, not foil, because aluminum does not react well with tomato. Be sure not to skip this step, and also do not use wax paper in place of parchment.