An age-old recipe in our family and one of our favorites is a dual sauce vegetarian lasagna with one half of the tray sauced with pesto and the other half with marinara. Mind you these are both homemade sauces with homegrown ingredients. We make it this way because my dad and sister absolutely love pesto, while my mom and I always go for the marinara.
Vegetarian Lasagna is a culmination of incredible ingredients, flavors, and textures that just isn’t appreciated enough. There is a gooey mozzarella on top that’s stringy and chewy with just a tiny bit of caramelization on the crusts. As you work your way down you began cutting into al dente lasagna sheets and a tangy marinara sauce or a nutty herbaceous pesto. Then you strike gold with perfectly sauteed vegetables that are crunchy, tender, and chewy. As you scoop all those textures and flavors into one bite, you know you are in heaven.
On the outside, a lasagna seems like a mess of ingredients, but when you dive into the backstory of everything, it becomes a beautiful, nuanced dish with complexities at every level. It also has a personal significance in my short culinary journey. Each aspect of this dish brings back memories of first experiences and learnings. Making the marinara for the first time was also my first major contribution to our garden. Even the vegetables bring back memories of learning to sautee, what temperature, what vegetables go in first, garlic or no garlic. You get the point. This dish is more than just a plate of delicious food which is why it will always have a place in my heart.
This recipe is a well-guarded secret in our household so I won’t be giving it all away, but I will slip some secrets to improve any attempts you make at home. Our marinara sauce begins with the most important ingredient, homegrown tomatoes. We plant in spring and began picking in summer to get the freshest, sweetest, and slightly tangy tomatoes. We’ve grown and tested heirlooms, Super Sweet 100s, Big Boy, Beefsteak and the classic San Marzano. This is what has worked for our palette, but fo you, you may want to change up the types of tomato to suit yours. By the end of the harvest season, we’ve canned marinara enough to last us through the year, around 40-pint jars. To begin the sauce making process, we roast the tomatoes to get a slight char and to take away any unnecessary acidity and tang. We also slice up a tiny bit of carrot to develop a richer deeper color and add a hint of sweetness. Over the years, we have developed a proprietary bouquet of herbs and a blend of spices that complement our tangy tomatoes and bring out the sweetness of San Marzano. I would tell you what these herbs and spices are but my mom would never allow me in the kitchen again.
A few years ago my sister made a video detailing our pesto making process. In summary, we throw in a little bit of everything green and some walnuts. This sauce mainly consists of homegrown basil picked in the summer, homegrown parsley, a very tiny bit of minced garlic, store-bought walnuts (sadly enough), and the secret ingredient you have all been waiting for: carrot tops. It’s definitely not your conventional pesto, but it sure does do its job. It has a nice creaminess from the fatty walnuts and freshness from the homegrown herbs and of course, carrot tops.
- 8-10 sheets no-bake lasagna sheets
- 8oz of marinara sauce
- ¼ cup of cream
- 6 oz pesto
- 1 small eggplant
- 1 box of mushrooms (white button mushrooms)
- 1 bag of spinach
- 5-6 cloves of garlic
- 2 heads of garlic
- Olive to sautee vegetables
- One ball of fresh mozzarella, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, ¼ cup parmesan cheese, ¼ cup Italian blend (shredded)
- Salt and pepper to taste
How To Make:
- Separately, saute the eggplant, mushroom, spinach, and broccoli with a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of olive oil, and 1-2 cloves of garlic.
- Place your sauteed vegetables in separate bowls
- In a saucepan, heat up the marinara sauce with cream, a clove of minced garlic, chili flakes, salt, and pepper, ¼ cup of water to thin the sauce.
- Take a glass baking pan (8×8 recommended but most medium size pans will work) and pour a layer of pesto on half the pan and on the other half of the bottom of the pan, pour your marinara sauce. You should be pouring about ⅕ of the pesto and marinara for each layer of sauce
- Place 2 sheets of lasagna side by side
- Pour ⅕ of pesto sauce over one sheet and marinara over the other sheet
- Spread your mushroom all across the lasagna, covering both sauces
- Sprinkle on all your Italian blend shredded cheese
- Repeat steps 4 & 5
- Spread your broccoli all across the lasagna, covering both sauces
- Sprinkle shredded mozzarella on top of the broccoli
- Repeat steps 4 & 5
- Spread your spinach and eggplant across the pan covering both sauces
- Repeat steps 4 & 5
- Slice up your mozzarella ball into 8-10 slices and spread them across the top of the pan. Sprinkle some extra parmesan as needed.
- Cover the top of your pan with aluminum foil and put it in a 350° for 30 minutes. Take off the aluminum foil and bake for another 10 minutes.