I am lucky in that many of my clients have become good friends. It makes for especially enjoyable client entertaining. During the holidays, I invited my pals from Revel along with my talented photographer friend for a dinner party. (side note: check out this yummy website I was lucky enough to help them with) Since one of the guests is a vegetarian, I decided to broaden my horizons and comprise a three-course vegetarian meal.
Deer in headlights.
How could I not have presentable vegetarian recipes in my dinner party repertoire?! I am a Midwestern girl born and bred on meat and potatoes married to a Greek who eats lamb on a spit but still, not one pretty, make-ahead main dish?! Disgusted by my limited range, I set out to devise a delicious vegetarian spread.
This vegetarian lasagna was the result of hours of internet searching and piecing together of tips and tricks from here and there. White vegetarian lasagna can be flavorless. I overcame that by infusing the milk with garlic before making the bechamel sauce and with very fresh organic vegetables and high quality Parmesan cheese.
The first course was a roasted tomato soup which was basically this sauce pureed with some vegetable stock. I loved the contrast of starting with red tomato soup and then serving a lasagna without any. We ended the meal with these brownies.
This dish took about an hour to prepare and assemble but I made it ahead and put it back in the oven to reheat and it turned out very well. This recipe is not as “wet” as many lasagna recipes because I wanted it to stand pretty on the plate. The first notch in my vegetarian-dinner-party-recipes belt!
White Vegetarian Lasagna
Makes 8-10 servings
1 package thin, no-cook lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup vegetable broth
6 cloves garlic, cut in quarters
3 Tablespoons butter
5 Tablespoons flour
1 cup quality Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pepper and Salt
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large zucchini, cut in 1/4 inch slices
1 summer squash, cut in 1/4 inch slices
1 bag of baby spinach
4 oz (about 1 cup) sliced mushrooms
1 small yellow onion, diced
Place the no-cook noodles in hot water and set aside to soften. Be careful that they don’t stick to each other. Heat milk and vegetable broth in a sauce pan until simmering. Add the garlic, cover and remove from heat. Let stand for at least 10 minutes.
To prepare for the layering of the vegetables, I sauteed each one by one and then put them in bowls to create a mise en place for easy assembly. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add the zucchini and saute a few minutes, turning with a spatula until al dente. Remove from pan. Add another tablespoon of oil and saute the summer squash in the same way. If needed, add additional olive oil and then spinach. Toss with a spatula until just slightly wilted. Remove from pan. Finally, add additional oil if needed and add onion and mushroom cooking for just a few minutes.
Remove the garlic pieces from the milk and broth mixture with a slotted spoon. In another sauce pan, melt butter. When melted, whisk in the flour. Slowly whisk the garlic-infused milk mixture into the roux. Cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. (Don’t be shy with the salt, I think it usually needs about a few teaspoons)
Assembly time! I used a 10 inch square pan but a 9 x 13 should also work. Spread about 1/2 cup of sauce over the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of noodles on the bottom. Spread the zucchini over the layer of noodles. Drizzle about 1 cup of sauce over it. Add another layer of noodles. Add the mushroom and onion mixture and 1/3 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Add the next layer of noodles. Add the spinach and 1 cup of white sauce. Another layer of noodles. Finally, the spinach layer and 1/3 cup of Parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles, the rest of the sauce and a sprinkling of the remaining 1/3 cup of cheese.
Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 10 or 15 minutes until top is browned. Let cool before slicing and serving. If you are making ahead, decrease cooking time by 15 minutes and reheat in the oven before serving.