Meat and Vegetable Lasagna Recipe

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a reader named Pamela, who said she was working her way through the C&Z archives — I am so heartened when people do that — and had noticed, in this older-than-salt post, a reference to the lasagna our friend Zoe made for us when we visited her in London. Did I ever end up sharing that recipe? Pamela asked.

The short answer is: no. The long answer is: I’ve thought about Zoe’s lasagna on a regular basis since then, but somehow the opportunity to reproduce it failed to arise. Such is the fate, I’m ashamed to admit, of 99% of the recipes I collect, because I seldom cook from recipes at all, and because I collect a staggering volume of them anyway.

From the oven emerged a well-balanced, flavorful lasagna, satisfying but not too rich, which fed a tableful of appreciative friends.

But Pamela’s note was the nudge I needed: I opened the drawer in which I keep my old notebooks, and found the one that had accompanied me to London. I flipped through the pages, read the notes I’d jotted down according to Zoe’s explanations, and rolled my eyes: my scribblings made sense at the time, I’m sure, but five years later they had become rather dim, and in particular, I had included no ingredient measurement whatsoever.

Still, the overall process was documented, and lasagna-making is no exact science after all, so I decided to wing it. What was the worst that could happen? And instead, the best did: from the oven emerged a well-balanced, flavorful lasagna, satisfying but not too rich, which fed a table of appreciative friends.

So if, like me, you tend to overlook the most evidently pleasing dishes in your pile of recipes, I can only encourage you to stop, and make this one. It is the perfect gloomy weather dish; the ideal project for a lazy Sunday afternoon, giving you a few things to chop and stir and poke at, without distracting you too much from the brilliant book you’re reading, in which France’s most ingenious cook makes a pot-au-feu and sets out to recycle the leftovers over the next five days.

Meat and Vegetable Lasagna

Meat and Vegetable Lasagna Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Serves 6 to 8.

Meat and Vegetable Lasagna Recipe

Ingredients

    For the meat sauce:
  • 400 grams (14 ounces) ground beef (the leanest type available), preferably organic
  • 300 grams (10 ounces) uncooked pork and/or veal sausages (I use Toulouse-style sausages, one smoked, one regular; they're similar to the Italian sausages shown on that page), preferably organic, casing removed
  • 2 small yellow onions, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence (or a mix of dried oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili pepper
  • 500 grams (17 1/2 ounces) tomato paste/purée (not double concentrated; I avoid canned; jarred or in a carton tastes much better)
  • 400 grams (14 ounces) diced or crushed tomatoes, preferably from a jar, or fresh (peeled and seeded)
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) red wine
  • For the vegetable and cheese layers:
  • 600 grams (1 pound 5 ounces) mixed grilled vegetables, cut into bite-size strips (I used the very good mix of zucchini, eggplant, and bell peppers sold at Picard, thawed; you can substitute roasted bell peppers, sautéed zucchini, browned mushrooms, sautéed spinach, rucola...)
  • 250 grams (1 cup, or 9 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) milk
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • And finally:
  • A pat of butter
  • 250 grams (9 ounces) sheets uncooked dried lasagna
  • 70 grams (2/3 cup) freshly ground parmesan

Instructions

    Prepare the meat and tomato sauce:
  1. In a heavy pot set over medium-high heat, add the beef, sausage meat (casing removed), onions, and garlic, and cook until the meat is cooked through and browned, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. If the meat renders a lot of fat, remove the excess. Sprinkle with the cumin, herbs, salt, and chili pepper, and cook for 2 more minutes, until fragrant.
  2. Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and wine, and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook at a low simmer for at least 1 hour, and up to 3 hours (the longer, the better), stirring every once in a while to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning. (The sauce can be made up to a day ahead; let cool, cover, and refrigerate.)
  3. Prepare the vegetables and ricotta sauce:
  4. While the sauce simmers, prepare and cook whatever vegetables you'll be using -- I used a mix of grilled vegetables that simply need thawing. Make sure the vegetables are drained well. They can be prepared a day ahead, too.
  5. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the ricotta, egg, and milk, and season with a little salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Assemble the lasagna:
  7. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F), and butter the bottom and sides of a large baking dish, preferably square or rectangular -- mine is a square 26-cm (10 1/4-inch) ceramic dish.
  8. Arrange a layer of lasagna evenly across the bottom of the dish, without overlapping; you may have to break sections of the sheets to fit.
  9. Spread 1/2 of the meat sauce over the lasagna sheets. Top with 1/2 of the vegetables, and 1/3 of the ricotta sauce.
  10. Arrange another layer of lasagna sheets on top. Top with the remaining meat sauce, the remaining vegetables, and 1/3 of the ricotta sauce.
  11. Arrange a final layer of lasagna sheets over the top, spread with the remaining ricotta sauce, and sprinkle with the parmesan. (You can prepare and assemble the lasagna a few hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.)
  12. Cover loosely with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake, uncovered, for another 30 minutes, until the top of the lasagna is nicely browned and crusty.
  13. Bring to the table and serve with a green salad.
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Meat and Vegetable Lasagna

  • Atf

    I love this recipe of such confort food (though I would only skip the cumin…for I don’t like its combination with meat but rather with fish)
    And, I too, have the habit of digging into your rich and yummy blog by opening all the links you put here and there so my reading (and pleasure) increase exponentially with each C&Z page!!
    Thanks Clotilde!

  • http://crynfiction.com Corynne Escalante

    wow! that looks really scrumptious. i think i’ll have to give it a try. i like the combination of meat and vegetables.

    a question about the cumin… you said to use whole cumin seeds. will they break down during the cooking process or remain whole?

  • Natalie

    I recently dug into your archives, and made the Hazelnut & Pepper Biscuits for a “Bake Off” at work. I won a prize for most unusual ingredient! (And they were scoffed very quickly)

  • Eleonora

    Your blog is super. So are your photographies. They make me hungry. I have spent a nice moment when seeing them. Thanks a lot.

  • http://sweetcilantro.canalblog.com jo_L

    Ricotta and pesto instead of bechamel? That sounds lovely to me… I think I would go for rucola instead of the not-sold-here Picard vegetables.
    I have a wonderful pesto lasagna recipe from an Italian friend of mine, with vegetables too; it is a perfect twist to the traditional ones!

  • Carolina Little

    I can hardly wait to try this. I am a half and half. I use recipes straight through once, then jazz them up as I go along! I have a staggering collection, too!

  • Katie H

    This looks really good! But is the comment to only use jarred or carton tomatoes necessary? I don’t think I’ve ever seen either for sale where I live. But if I did, I’m sure they’d be very expensive. The dish is almost too expensive to make (all that cheese, meat, and wine), so buying special tomatoes would put it over the top. All I’m asking is… quit making me feel inadequate!

    Just kidding. I would feel inadequate no matter what you did. ;-)

    Can’t wait to try it (cheap tomatoes or not ;)

  • http://www.pantoum.org Mary Alexandra Agner

    Just curious: why do you suggest avoiding canned tomatoes (versus jarred or paste in cartons)??

  • http://www.livingtastefully.weebly.com/-passions-to-pastry.html Eileen

    You’ve inspired me to be more adventurous. I have files and more files filled with recipes that I’ve collected over the past 30 years; clippings and pages torn from magazines and newspapers. I pass over most of them thinking, I can’t make them now because I’m looking for an old favorite. I need to go back to them and say, now is the time! Oh… the lasagna sounds absolutely wonderful. I will not put this recipe aside for later.

  • http://sailusfood.com sailaja

    I can so relate to your post. It happens to me often, collected hand written recipes neatly filed and forgotten.:)

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Corynne – The whole cumin seeds do melt away in the simmering; they’re not noticeable in the finished product.

    Katy and Mary – As noted in the recipe, I avoid canned tomatoes whenever possible because I find the alternatives (in a jar or carton) give the sauce a more pleasant flavor: canned tomato products can lend a slight metallic flavor to sauces. But if you can’t find the equivalent in jars/cartons, or if they’re too expensive, you can certainly make the recipe with canned tomatoes.

  • Lisa

    Fresh lasagna or dried? Can one get Fresh lasagna sheets in Paris?

  • morgaine

    To an Italian like myself this lasagna is a bit odd, but I have only two objections.
    The first one is that you put in too many flavorings: tomato, cumin, mixed herbs, pesto and so on, but I understand that this is very personal, as my style is one or at most two commanding flavors at a time.
    But the real question is: why on earth do you add an egg (of all things) to the pesto ricotta mix?
    And just a little aside: we start at the bottom with pasta, not with meat, so that the filling is all encased, but I understand this does not have to be a must for anybody.

  • http://thecanberracook.blogspot.com Cath the Canberra Cook

    I have a habit of buying too many tomatoes, and roasting the leftovers at the end of the week. And then freezing them, if I have no immediate use planned for them. These are excellent in any pasta sauce.

  • http://www.fromsingletomarried.com Tabitha (From Single to Married)

    This looks delicious and I appreciate the detailed instructions – very helpful for a newbie like me!

  • http://www.spicedish.typepad.com EB

    I do the same thing. It is rare that I actually cook from a recipe but I have literally hundreds of books, dozens of notebooks, recipe boxes and stacks of torn out recipes. Why oh why?

  • http://www.justfoodnow.com Jacoba

    This has to be the single most unusual lasagne recipe that I have ever come across! It sounds absolutely stunning and I’m doing it tomorrow. Thanks so much, once again, for something new!

  • http://www.davidlebovitz.com David

    Nice yellow casserole! : )

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Lisa – Thanks for catching that: I used dried lasagna. I’ve never seen fresh sheets of lasagna for sale in Paris, but I’ve seen fresh cannelloni sheets. I imagine they could be used instead?

  • http://www.le-potage.blogspot.com Michelle

    This does sound like the perfect gloomy weather food. Think I’ll try it out this weekend along with a glass of red wine by the fire.

  • http://discoverunearthed.wordpress.com Discover Unearthed

    Great for feeding friends, because EVERYbody loves lasagna! Except for vegetarian… and they love vegetarian lasagne…

  • Lisa

    Speaking of working through the archives, one day a couple of weeks ago I (in East Lansing, Michigan) and my sister (in Palo Alto) were making C&Z recipes at the same time! I thought that was a pretty funny coincidence. I made the orange cake and she made the carrot and rosemary scones. Both were said to be delicious at the parties that we made them for!

  • http://www.wearenotmartha.com Sues is not Martha

    Mmmm I love the idea of putting Chili powder and pesto in my lasagna. I’d probably use some different cheeses because I’m not a huge ricotta fan!

  • http://www.kitchencaravan.com Ellie from Kitchen Caravan

    The cumin sounds like an interesting addition…I’ll have to try this sometime. Yes – I agree, Lasagna is the perfect cold weekend comfort food.

  • sara

    My Grandmother makes that best lasagna. Funny thing is, there is hardly any cheese in it. She uses spinach and meet for the filling and then just a little parmeasan cheese to bind it. Grandma makes her own sauce of course and it is absoluley fantastic! It is filling and light as well.

  • http://recipitation.com Chou

    Good advice, this pulling out of old recipes. :) I had a train conversation yesterday about pot-au-feu recycled five times in a row–I wonder if this is a technique that has finally been codified? Then again, my mother (and many others, I imagine) perfected leftovers years ago . . .

  • http://citygirllifestyle.blogspot.com City Girl

    This looks lovely — this is the third unusual lasagna recipe i stumble on this week — the first was a lasagna stuffed with meat sauce but also cooked ham and hard boiled eggs, and the second was a buffalo chicken lasagna with blue cheese. And yes, all three are now in my recipe file :)

  • http://www.dinnersforayear.blogspot.com EAT!

    You are so right. I am always trying to prepare new and exciting recipes. It is time to go through my files and pick out all of our family favorites and get cooking!

    Thanks for the lasagna recipe.

  • http://www.justfoodnow.com Jacoba

    We made it!! It was a bit fiddly with the ricotta directly on top of the meat but I love the ricotta! It worked beautifully and was a tremendously satisfying dish. It has been christened C&Z lasagna in our home.

  • Thomas

    Wow, I agree with morgaine that there’s an aweful lot going on in that dish (which if it’s your thing, great).

    As for the egg-ricotta mixture, that’s done in some Italian-American communities. I don’t know if it comes from some regional variation, but it sounds likely.

    I’ve seen fresh lasagne in Paris, but any large sheets of pasta can be used just fine. Personally, I tend to make my own, since it’s no harder than trekking over to a pasta shop. I reserve that for more complicated pastas.

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Jacoba – I’m pleased you enjoyed it; thanks for reporting back! (I wouldn’t worry about maintaining a neat separation between the meat sauce and cheese layers; it all becomes one in the oven anyway.)

    Morgaine and Thomas – I am not one for busy dishes either, but frankly, I don’t think Zoe’s recipe warrants this comment.

    The cumin and chili serve to bolster the meat flavor in the sauce in a rather classic way (though, to be fair, fennel seeds are a more iconic flavoring for Italian sausages than cumin), and using herbs (mixed dried herbs + basil in the form of pistou) in a tomato-dominant dish hardly seems iconoclastic.

    Would you use no spice/herb at all, neither in the tomato and meat sauce, nor in the ricotta layer?

  • http://futurereference.org Emily

    I made this recipe a few days ago. Overall it was delicious however, I think the cumin should be omitted. It essentially makes the tomato sauce chili. It then overpowers the pesto or tapenade in the ricotta. Also, the amount of ricotta needs to be increased.

  • Gauri Gupta

    Dear Clotilde,

    I absolutely love your blog!!! For a vegetarian version of this lasagna, how long does the tomato sauce sans the meat need to be cooked? Fresh vegetables instead of grilled thawed vegetables is fine right? Waiting to make the lasagna…

    Thanks

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I would simmer the meatless tomato sauce for about 1 hour. As for the vegetables, you might want to precook those that are likely to render a lot of juices (zucchini for instance) to prevent cooking water pooling at the bottom of the dish. Happy lasagne-making!

  • http://ahmz-homecooking.blogspot.com ahmz

    This was great – everyone loved it, and was very easy to make.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’m happy to hear it, Ahmz, thanks for reporting back!

  • Nanda

    I’ve been craving a good lasagne for over a week but with an 8 month old bub, I haven’t had the chance to do some actual cooking after work… until yesterday. On a whim I did a search to see if you had a lasagne recipe and this sounded wonderful. Well guess what? It tasted wonderful too. My other half who isn’t a vegie person even went for extra helpings.

    I knew I couldn’t go wrong in making my first ‘getting back into the world’ dish from your array of recipes. Thank you so much :)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Very happy to hear it, Nanda! And it looks like our kids are the exact same age. :)

  • Lucia

    Are the lasagna sheets that need to be used for this recipe the “oven ready” ones? I am confused as I always cook the noodles before assemblyng the lasagna but I don’t buy the oven ready ones. Please let me know as I am really eager to make this tomorrow.
    Thank you

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      I’ve actually tried it with both and both work equally well, without pre-cooking the noodles.

  • Camille BESNIER

    Miam miam miam, this will be my next recipe :) thanks Clotilde!

    http://jecuisinequoicesoir.me/

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      You’ll have to report back if you try it!

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