Thursday, August 26, 2010

Garden Harvest Lasagna

An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh. -Will Rogers

I may have mentioned that I'm kind of a picky eater {I'm picky about a lot of things, but that's another post}. It is my goal in life to disguise vegetables as something that tastes good. Because you're supposed to eat vegetables every day. A lot of them. Zucchini season is in full swing, and so to take advantage of the fresh produce {because even vegetables taste better fresh}, I've been using old favorites and trying out new recipes that feature zucchini.

I've been on strike from making lasagna for about 9 or 10 years now. I used to make an easy lasagna where you put the noodles in uncooked and added a little extra water, but the noodles didn't come out cooked enough for Mr. Bug's taste that way, so we've been eating lasagnas from the freezer section of the grocery store for the last decade or so. I decided that it was time to call an end to the strike and I while I was at it, I decided that I should make a tasty and nutritious lasagna.

I found a recipe for Garden Harvest Lasagna on-line and it seemed the perfect thing. This lasagna recipe is huge. With larger meals, I either cut down the recipe or freeze half because we have a small family of picky eaters. Noodles and dairy products don't freeze well and even though I knew that our little family wouldn't be able to eat this giant lasagna in one or even two meals, I imagined that it would be so fantastic that we'd have no trouble polishing it off in maybe three days because everyone would love it so much. So I went for the whole lasagna. After all, this was my lasagna comeback and it was going to be epic. How could this go wrong? I wondered. Noodles. Pasta sauce. Cheese. Vegetables disguised as something edible. It's the perfect meal! Or so I thought.

I have to give the recipe credit. The concept is fabulous. But on the taste scale, it was a huge disappointment. And after spending an hour placing the noodles and the sauce and the cheese into perfect layers, it was the least spectacular lasagna comeback in the history of ever. It was just bland. I have to wonder where I went wrong. I think I'll blame the zucchini. I bluster on about wanting to disguise vegetables as something with flavor, but you may have noticed I kind of have a crush on zucchini. I like the way it lends a subtle, earthy flavor to foods. It totally didn't do its job in the lasagna. It was absolutely flavorless and I may have to rethink my crush on it.

Since I'm not completely happy with how the lasagna turned out, I'm not going to post the recipe here. You can follow the link above. But here are my notes on the recipe and what I would and wouldn't do again:

• We're omnivores, so I added 1 lb. ground beef to the pasta sauce.
• The recipe said to sauté the zucchini {and mushrooms} in some olive oil. I think if I were to make this recipe again, I would reduce the amount of olive oil to 1 tablespoon and add a little salt {maybe ½ teaspoon}, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, a {minced or pressed} clove of garlic and about ¼ cup finely diced onions.
• I substituted Italian seasoning for the basil the recipe calls for.
• I wonder if the Italian seasoning and the pasta sauce cancelled each other out and that contributed to the non-taste of this dish. I also wonder if I should find a recipe for red sauce and make my own for this.
• The amount of pasta sauce should be increased. By a lot.
• The amount of ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheese should be doubled.

I haven't given up on this recipe completely. Unless someone has a tried and true recipe that they absolutely love for lasagna, I think I'll do it again with the above alterations. In about 5 to 7 years.

Other zucchini recipes that are fabulous:
Italian Chicken Pasta Toss
Two-Bean Chicken Chili
Zucchini, Chicken and Rice Casserole

{P.S. Mr. Bug laughs when my dinner gets a photo op. I hesitate to add photos of my food because food doesn't photograph well. I wonder if it makes the recipes look less appetizing. While discussing the photo, I've got a little confession. My meals aren't always 'gourmet,' 'well rounded' or even 'complete.' That big empty space on the plate is where the watermelon I was too lazy to cut should go. Also, you should know that I only used zucchini in this recipe and not zucchini and squash like I sometimes too. There really is such a thing as yellow zucchini. My neighbor grows it because she can hide it in things better than the regular.}


pinksuedeshoe said...

There is nothing so disappointing as spending all day making something that is supposed to be fabulous only to be completely underwhelmed. I've got a lasagna recipe that I love.... I'll see if I can dig it up and pass it your way.

Paulette said...

Hm, from the ingredients, it doesn't look like it would be blase (how do you make that accent mark anyway?). Sometimes it tastes better the next day.

I have a great recipe for veggie lasagna that tastes like it has meat in it (you could add the lb. of ground beef and it'd be fine too.) I used to make it all the time (back in my cheese and gluten-eating days). I'll dig it up and email it.

Shay said...

Your first clue to the fact this meal would be blerk and blah was the fact the main ingredient was vegetables...

I'm going to make a cheese lasagna one of these days.


Wanda said...

I have made many a lasagne in the course of 31 years of marriage and I have decided that the cheese is the answer...lots of it. More than a recipe calls for! So I agree with what you wrote about what you'd do differently. I have to admit I have never made one good vegetable lasagne yet. I think its because if you are making vegetable lasagne and you want it to be healthy, you just think less cheese, but in all my other lasagnes the cheese is what made it. And I sometimes use the already shredded Italian Blend and that is really good. Sprinkle more cheese on it when you warm the seconds! :)

Jenn said...

I make veggie lasagna; it's yummy. I've had guests say so too. I normally like to saute zucchini and mushrooms (with some Mrs Dash & Parmesan cheese), but think for lasagna I would skip that (and definitely cut back on the oil- my goodness). It's been a while, but I think I just blanched it with onions and red peppers to soften them up a bit.
And for the sauce, I would think all that meat might soak some of it up, so if you have to add meat, then I would increase the sauce for sure.
I make my own lasagna noodles too... :)

whimsyfox said...

Don't beat yourself up, I've never been able to make a satisfactory lasagna. It's ok, even flavorful, but I can't ever get it to WOW me. But I do agree with Wanda, you always need more and more cheese! And when you cook the veggies and even the meat you should season them. And you can't go wrong with more sauce. I know you like the zuccini, but perhaps if they were cut up smaller that would help with the disguising for the kiddos?