Summer Vegetable Lasagna

On the one slightly cooler day in recent weeks, I succumbed to the temptation to turn the oven on again and roast some vegetables for a lasagna. I since discovered that in order to get perfectly roasted vegetables, instead of using the oven, you can grill them on the BBQ, thereby cutting down oven time by half. In my A/C less kitchen, this is a huge bonus… That said, our BBQ is quite big and I can grill all of the vegetables at once, which makes this method fairly straight forward and fast. If you have a smaller one, you can either grill everything in stages, or go back to oven roasting.

My husband was away for business and one day I channeled all my energy, opened the BBQ, which so far has been his domain 100% of the time, and scrubbed it with all my force. That same night I started to BBQ. Since then I grilled fish, shrimp, mushrooms and various vegetables fairly successfully, except for the one time I was chatting and turned the slices of eggplant into coal. Long story short, I am hooked and will make much more use of the BBQ, even if that means that I need to scrub the darn thing every once in a while.

What you need for a roasted vegetable lasagna in peak summer is what you find in great abundance at your farmers market or back yard. Zucchini, red peppers, eggplant and tomatoes. You’ll also need fresh ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella cheese, good quality pasta (I used spelt… again) and you’re almost there. No need for any herbs, the flavors of the grilled vegetables speak for themselves. The end result is deliciously summery, not too heavy and wonderfully satisfying.

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes, halved crosswise
  • 3 medium eggplants, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ rounds (1.25 cm)
  • 4 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/3″ slices (1 cm)
  • 3 red peppers, cut in half, stems and seeds removed
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 pound (450g) fresh ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, shredded
  • 11 oz. (300g) dried lasagna – about 10 sheets
  • 1/3 cup passata or crushed tomatoes

Method

Heat BBQ on medium heat or oven to 350F (180C).

Brush red peppers, eggplant and zucchini slices with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and season with pepper. Drizzle tomato halves with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

If using the BBQ, brush with oil, then grill zucchini and eggplant slices for 5 minutes on one side and another 3 minutes on the other.  Press down on eggplant slices to release any liquid; they might take a few minutes longer than the zucchini. Remove when done and set aside.

BBQ red peppers skin side down until skin turns black and blisters. Remove from grill, place in a small bowl and cover with cling wrap. Leave for 10 minutes. remove cling wrap and peel off skin. Cut peppers into 1 inch (2.5cm) wide strips.

Place tomatoes into roasting pan, cut side up and depending on the size of your BBQ, either place next to the other 3 vegetables, or grill afterwards. Grill tomatoes for 30 minutes or until soft. Depending on the size, cut grilled tomatoes into bite size pieces. Keep all the juices.

(All these initial steps can be done in the oven. Layer vegetables on baking sheets, don’t overlap and roast depending on the vegetable for 30-45 minutes. )

In a medium bowl, mix together ricotta, egg and Parmesan cheese. Season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 10 turns of the pepper mill.

Prepare your lasagna. I used a 13 by 9 inch pyrex form.

Spread passata or crushed tomatoes evenly on bottom of pan. This will prevent pasta from sticking to the pan. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Arrange 3 sheets of lasagna on top, and if necessary break up a fourth sheet to fill in the gaps.

Layer half of your vegetables over the pasta, starting with tomatoes, followed by eggplant and peppers and ending with zucchini. Spread half of the ricotta mixture evenly on top. Add another layer of pasta and repeat the process, ending up with pasta again.

Sprinkle mozzarella cheese and 2 tablespoons of parmesan  on last layer of pasta.

Cover pan with aluminium foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes.

Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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