Harvest lasagna

Use the abundance of summer's last vegetables to make a delicious lasagna.

The Garden of Eating
Lasagna packed with flavor from roasted summer squash, fresh basil, oregano, spinach and sweet garden tomatoes.

This melty lasagna is packed with flavor from roasted summer squash, fresh basil, oregano, spinach, and the sweetest garden tomatoes. Plus, it's a perfect way to use up a whole lot of vegetables in one fell swoop. Between our CSA and our garden, it's kind of hectic around here. Green beans, cherry tomatoes, kale, chard and delicata squash just keep on coming and we haven't even started to think about harvesting our rather large sweet potato patch yet (more on why we planted so many sweet potatoes). And every other week brings another big load of vegetables from the farm across the river, too. I know I'll miss it once everything is withered and brown but, for now, trying to keep up is somewhat stressful.

Here is a delicious way to use a bunch of summer squash, a boatload of sungold cherry tomatoes, and lots of fresh basil, oregano and spinach. You can make enough for several meals and potentially even freeze some for later. I froze a bunch of the tomato sauce I made, too – so much easier than canning! Lasagna is all about layering and the building blocks that make this harvest version so tasty are roasted summer squash with garlic and herbs, sautéed spinach and a fresh, herb-spiked tomato sauce.

If you make your own sauce, do this first since it needs time to simmer. I sautéed lots of onion and garlic then added a big bowl full of sungolds and a few big red tomatoes from the garden, crushed it none too gently with a potato masher, added salt and pepper and a teaspoon of sugar, tossed in some chopped basil and oregano and let it simmer. Then I attacked it with my immersion blender until it was smooth. Yes, I left the skins in there. I am lazy and they're good for you. The end result was a bubbling pot of brilliantly colored sauce that reminded me of the surface of an active volcano crater.

After making the sauce and roasting the squash, the lasagna only needs to bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F. We invited our good friends to sit down to a heavenly meal of harvest lasagna, green salad, and garlic bread. Le yum. And that was just the first time. Lasagna is a dish that becomes tastier with a little time, so the leftovers are even better.

Harvest Lasagna
Makes one pan, serves 6-8
4 small to medium summer squash, washed, ends removed and thinly sliced the long way
1 quart tomato sauce (if you want to make your own and are not sure how to proceed, try this recipe)
1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
4 large cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2-1/2 cups shredded or thinly sliced organic whole milk mozzarella cheese
15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 to 5 cups fresh spinach, washed and dried (one or two large bunches' worth)
1 large bunch fresh basil leaves, washed, dried and chopped
1 bunch fresh oregano leaves, washed, dried and chopped
1 package lasagna noodles (12 ounces)
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Olive oil
 1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Mound the sliced summer squash in the center of a heavy baking sheet or dish, add a handful of the chopped fresh herbs and roughly a third of the garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil (2 tablespoons or so) and toss well until all the slices are evenly coated. Roast for 10-15 minutes, checking once or twice and turning things, if needed, to ensure even cooking. You want to roast them until the edges have browned but before the slices get crispy. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool and turn the oven down to 375 degrees F.
 2. Bring a  large pot of water to boil for the lasagna noodles and cook according to the instructions on the package. I recommend only cooking until al dente as they will absorb a lot of liquid from the tomato sauce during baking. Rinse and drain the noodles and set aside until it's time to start layering.
 3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and saute the onion and the rest of the garlic until the garlic is fragrant and the onion is translucent. Add the spinach and cook it for another 2 or three 3, stirring often, until the spinach is wilted and dark green. Combine the spinach mixture with the ricotta cheese, the nutmeg and more salt and pepper and stir well to combine – you can either do this in a medium-sized bowl or right in the frying pan (one less dish to wash.)
 4. Build the lasagna. In a 9" x 12" lasagna pan, start by spreading a layer of tomato sauce, then put down a layer of noodles, overlapping the ends slightly to cover the entire base. Add a layer of the ricotta-spinach mixture then a layer of roasted squash, more sauce and top with mozzarella cheese and some grated Parmesan. Repeat as many times as your ingredients and your pan permit. Top with whatever mozzarella and Parmesan you have left and cover tightly with tin foil.
 5. Bake at 375 for roughly 15 minutes or until you can see that it's all heated through and melty (a glass pan works best for this kind of lasagna voyeurism) then remove the tinfoil and bake for another few minutes to brown the top. You can also broil it briefly (but don't walk away! a broiler is a powerful thing) to achieve the browning more quickly. When you're satisfied with the level of melty-ness and browning, remove from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving so no one burns their tongue. As I've mentioned, it will likely taste even better the next day so you can definitely make this ahead and keep it in the fridge until it's go time. Either way, you are sure to enjoy the leftovers.
Related post on The Garden of Eating: Rustic Roasted Tomatoes with Garlic & Herbs

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