When vegetarians and omnivores share the same table, sometimes it can be hard to please everyone.
This vegetarian lasagna does the trick.
It has enough texture and flavor to keep everyone satisfied, with not a cube of tofu in sight.
The sauce gets its texture from a combination of red lentils and whole grain bulgur.
Bulgur is made from wheat that has been cracked and partially cooked. It is available in fine, medium and coarse grains. The finer the grain, the faster the bulgur will cook. I prefer using coarse grain bulgur in this lasagna because the texture is more ‘meaty’.
The lentils in the sauce will retain their shape somewhat instead of dissolving because of a reaction that happens as a result of being cooked with tomatoes. They look great and contribute to the satisfying texture of the sauce.
You can easily double this recipe and freeze it for later to use in lasagna or over spaghetti or other pasta for a quick meal.
To speed up your meal prep, don’t worry about pre-cooking your lasagna noodles. Just layer uncooked noodles with the sauce, and the noodles will soften up in the oven. Don’t bother with special ‘oven-ready’ noodles. Regular lasagna noodles actually work better!
- 1 tablespoon / 25 ml olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely chopped (about 1 cup / 250 ml)
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1/2 cup / 125 ml red lentils
- Small can tomato paste 5.5 oz / 156 ml
- 1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 ml salt
- 2 large 28 oz / 796 ml cans diced tomatoes
- 1-1/2 tablespoons / 25 ml dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons / 10 mldried basil
- 2 tablespoons / 30 ml balsamic vinegar
- 1-1/2 tablespoon / 25 ml brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 ml ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon / 2.5 ml salt
- 2 cups / 500 ml vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup/ 125 ml coarse bulgur
- 1-1/2 cups / 375 ml boiling water
- 8 lasagna noodles
- 3 cups / 750 ml grated mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup / 60 ml grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil.
Add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until onions have softened - about 2-3 minutes. Do not let onions brown. If they start to brown, turn down the heat.
Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes longer.
Add tomato paste. Stir until the vegetable are coated with the paste, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the lentils and cook 1 minute longer. Continue stirring to keep the paste from sticking.
Add the diced tomatoes, oregano, basil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, the additional 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and the vegetable stock. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly as lentil will settle towards the bottom of the pot and may stick. Simmer gently for 25 - 30 minutes, or until lentils are no longer hard.
While the sauce is simmering, place the bulgur in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then drain any excess water that has not been absorbed. Add the soaked bulgur to the sauce while it is simmering.
When the sauce is done, the bulgur should be firm, but not hard. The lentils and bulgur will continue cooking as the sauce cools,
Remove the sauce from the heat and let cool. The lasagna can be made with warm sauce, but the noodles will have a better texture if the lasagna is assembled with fully cooled or cold sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cover the bottom of an 8x8-inch pan with a thin layer of the prepared sauce.
Layer 4 lasagna noodles over the sauce.
Cover with 1/2 the remaining sauce. Sprinkle 1 cup of grated mozzarella over the sauce.
Place remaining noodles over the cheese, and cover with remaining sauce. Top with the remaining cheese and sprinkle with the grated Romano or Parmesan.
Pat the cheese down, and cover the lasagna with aluminum foil. Tent the foil slightly to keep it from sticking to the cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, then remove foil. Continue cooking until the cheese has melted and turned golden brown.
Remove the cooked lasagna from the oven and let sit 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
Make ahead: The lasagna can be prepared in advance and refrigerated overnight. Cover with aluminum foil before refrigerating. Remove from the fridge and bake in preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 1 hour and 15-20 minutes before removing the aluminum foil and continue baking as indicated in the recipe.
Rather than freezing a prepared lasagna, prepare and freeze the sauce. Grate the cheese and toss with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and freeze in a separate container. Thaw the ingredients and you can prepare your lasagna in minutes. The noodles will retain a better texture this way.