Friday Recipe: Henry’s Veggie Lasagna

March 26, 2010

by Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

I believe that kids will eat tasty
fresh food on plenty of occasions — but that they will especially love
(and devour) it when they take pride in making it. And it just takes a
few extra steps when you're working with a three-year-old.

With
a little prep, making lasagna is a kid-friendly activity because it's
about getting your hands in food and spreading it around. It's a
universal fact that most kids (mine excluded on this particular day)
love getting their hands dirty. So why not do it with some sauteed
spinach?

While this is a multi-step recipe, I tried to keep it
simple. My basic strategy is to caramelize veggies, layer them with
cheese and no-boil noodles (gotta keep it easy) and cover with some
tomato sauce.

I'm no expert on lasagna — so to all my Italian
friends out there, please be easy on me. I'm not claiming to be
authentic. But it's tasty, and a great way to get kids involved with cooking.


Henry's Veggie Lasagna

Two medium carrots, shredded
One pound spinach, diced
Two red bell peppers, diced
Two medium onions, diced
Two zucchini, sliced
One head garlic, diced

One pound ricotta cheese

2 cups mozzarella cheese
Fennel
Oregano
Black pepper
Salt to taste
Olive oil

My
key to a good veggie lasagna is to saute each layer of veggies ahead of
time and spice each layer separately. This accomplishes three things.
First, it reduces the water content so you don't end up with a watery
goop of noodles and mush. Second, you want to condense the flavors and
the natural sugars in the vegetables. Third, by lightly salting and
spicing each layer, you end up with every layer having a distinct and
delicious flavor.

For each step below, I add salt to taste.
This reduces my risk of adding too much salt later. And you can do this
the night before you assemble. So, my pre-prep is:

  • Saute the red peppers with crushed fennel until lightly browned.
  • Saute the shredded carrots with oregano until lightly browned.
  • Caramelized the sliced onions and about 3 cloves of garlic.
  • Saute the sliced zucchini with 1 clove of garlic.
  • For
    the spinach, caramelize three cloves of garlic. Then add the diced
    spinach until wilted and bright green. Add a dash of salt (not too much
    to this layer). Let it cool so you can handle it. Then squeeze out the
    excess liquid.
  • Set aside all your spiced veggies in bowls. 

For
the sauce, you can just open a jar of your favorite sauce. Usually it
will need some black pepper and fennel. I also added some dried
mushrooms for flavor and texture.

Then let the fun begin: invite you kids to get their hands messy with the layers of veggie goodness.

One warning: this video was edited with the grandparents in mind, not
the general viewing public. Unless you are related to Henry or
extra-fascinated by lasagna, you'll probably get the idea within the
first 30 seconds. . .

Enjoy!