Vegetable Beef Lasagna
Makes 4-6 servings
Happy National Lasagna Day!
Lasagna actually was first known to be created in Ancient Greece. In 164 BC when the Romans invaded and overthrew Greece they took with them knowledge, culture, and culinary masterpieces. In Greece, known as Laganon, which is the first known form of pasta indicated a flat dough sliced into strips and then layered with sauces. So, what we know of as lasagna today is more of the method of stacking pasta and sauces rather than the ingredients themselves.
Even Britain claims to be the ones that created the first known lasagna, since it was first written formally in a cookbook in the 1390s, however, in 1284 Fra Salimbene da Parma wrote a description of a “chubby’ friar eating a cheese and pasta dish, “I’ve never seen anyone stuffing himself on lasagna with cheese so pleasurably and fully as him” Clearly, this indicates that cheese was already being used and that Italy still can lay claims to the origination of what we know of as lasagna today.
In the 1880s there is evidence of tomatoes being added to the dish in Naples by a chef, Francesco Zambini.
Overtime different areas of Italy developed different types of lasagna such as ones with pesto and the one we know so famously here in the US, the Bolognese and Bechamel version. And since lasagna took so long to prepare, it was traditionally a celebration dish for weddings, births, holidays or special company.
In the late 1800s, Italians came to America due to poverty and lack of food in Italy. Even though Italians were in America then, the dish didn’t really get much recognition until after WWII when Italian-Americans began opening up Italian restaurants all over the country. Italians also took advantage of the canning of tomatoes; they were able to make the dish in a much timelier manner, so it was more accessible.
Delmonico’s, a classic Italian restaurant, opened in 1837 and was Manhattan’s first-ever fine dining restaurant. Without Delmonico’s where would the restaurant industry be now? And without the canned tomatoes would we have so many versions and variations of the beloved lasagna we know of today.
If you think about it, we eat Italian food almost every day. Your kids love pasta, we love pasta, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, Fettucini Alfredo, chicken parmesan, and the list goes on. Now, extremely Americanized, these foods are a part of our everyday life thanks to the Italians.
Next time you’re in Manhattan, make sure to try out all the various Italian restaurants as well as take a visit to the Tenement Museum on the LES where you’ll learn about the poverty and living the conditions many immigrants had to endure in order to make a better life for themselves and their families
1 tablespoon avocado oil, divided
1 medium zucchini, ½-inch cubes
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach
1 teaspoon sea salt, divided
1 pound ground grass-fed beef
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
1 ¼ cups whole milk ricotta
2 cups tomato sauce or marinara*
½ cup freshly grated asiago cheese
8 ounces fresh mozzarella
Cooked lasagna noodles (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a large skillet heat 1 ½ teaspoons oil over medium heat, add zucchini and onion, cook stirring frequently until tender and lightly browned. Add garlic and ½ teaspoon salt, cook until the garlic is fragrant. Remove vegetables from the pan with a slotted spoon into a bowl and set aside. Add remaining 1 ½ teaspoons oil to the pan. Add beef, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, onion powder, garlic powder. Cook, stirring often until the beef is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Spray a 9×9 baking dish with avocado oil. Layer 2 sheets of the pasta on the bottom of the dish. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta over the pasta; sprinkle with 1/3 of the asiago. Top with half beef mixture, then half vegetable mixture, top with 1 cup of the marinara. Layer two more sheets of the pasta over the tomato pasta and repeat with ricotta, asiago, beef, vegetables and marinara. Layer the remaining pasta sheets over the top and spread remaining 1/3 ricotta and asiago over the top. Tearing the mozzarella into small chunks, place evenly over the ricotta and asiago. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes until hot and bubbling. Adjust the oven to high broiler and broil for about 5 minutes or until the cheese lightly browns. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes before serving with your favorite Italian inspired salad.
Fresh Whole Wheat Pasta:
1 ¼ cups (6.25 ounces) whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon water
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt until combined. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Place eggs in the center of the well; using a fork whisk lightly until broken, add olive oil. Using your fingers shaped as a spoon, stir the flour in from the sides into the center. Keep mixing with fingers until all ingredients are thoroughly blended. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and flexible and no longer sticky to the touch; adding more flour if necessary. Shape into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and shape into a disk. Let rest for 10 minutes up to 1 hour.
Secure a pasta machine to the edge of a long countertop or use a pasta attachment to a mixer. Cut the dough in half. Keep extra dough covered in plastic wrap while working with the other piece. Flatten the piece of dough into a rough rectangle so that it will fit inside the width of the pasta machine. Place the rollers on the widest setting and roll the dough through the machine, catching it with one hand as you roll with the other. Take the dough and fold into thirds towards the center of the dough (book fold). Flour as needed so that it does not stick to the pasta roller. Texture should feel soft, but not sticky. Turn the dough so one open end face the machine and roll it through on the widest setting. Repeat the book fold 2 more times. Adjust the roller to the next smallest setting and without the book fold, roll the pasta through the machine two times. The dough will get longer with each pass through the machine. Adjust to the next smallest setting and roll the pasta dough through the machine two times. Lastly, roll one time through the next smallest setting. Cut dough into strips the length of your baking dish. Cover with a towel while waiting for water to boil.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over medium high heat. Add pasta and stir to prevent sticking. Boil until al dente or pasta floats to the top, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and serve with your favorite pasta sauce.
*I personally love Monte Bene Tomato Basil Marinara.
*you can also substitute your own lasagna noodles or a gluten-free version