I love lasagna.
Layers of pasta, warm tomato sauce and ooey, gooey cheeses topped with browned cheese on top. My mouth is watering just picturing the steaming slice of Italian-inspired goodness sitting on my plate.
And while my favorite lasagna includes meat and lots of cheese, I’ve been working on healthier versions which still have all the flavor but with less fat and meat in my quest for the BETTER ME.
Layers of barley infused pasta sauce, homemade whole grain pasta sheets, cottage cheese filling, kale and plenty of fresh mozzarella slices coming together in this Vegetarian Lasagna with Barley Red Sauce Layer and Butternut Béchamel Sauce will make your mouth sing in happiness.
The chewy tenderness of the barley resembles ground meat, so closely that it’s unlikely anyone will realize it’s not unless you tell them. And the cottage cheese is a great inexpensive substitute for the traditional ricotta without losing any of the creamy goodness.
Vegetarian Lasagna with Barley Red Sauce Layer and Butternut Béchamel Sauce can be an expensive dish, using lots of time and money. Time is the biggest expense. You’re looking at easily spending four to five hours making everything from scratch and it’s a labor well worth it in my opinion. But then again that’s probably why we only have lasagna once or twice a year.
But remember this year is about finding the BETTER YOU. So don’t feel guilty if you don’t have four to five hours to spend making lasagna.
Instead, buy your fresh pasta sheets from a local Italian shop or use the already made kind. Use a jar of pasta sauce with a little water added to thin it. And you can use already grated cheese instead of grating your own.
Another great shortcut is to divide the cooking up between a few friends with each person making a layer. Then have a lasagna-making party while drinking a little wine, sharing some laughs and enjoying tasty food at the end.
It’ll still be homemade lasagna and be delicious and tasty. Plus you’ll get to enjoy it faster while still loving yourself. Since I use cooking to help me with my zen, sometimes spending a few hours cooking on one dishes is self-satisfying.
And at least Hubby appreciates the results. He couldn’t stop ranting and raving about it. In fact, he was a little surprised at how “meaty” the barley was in this Vegetarian Lasagna with Barley Red Sauce Layer and Butternut Béchamel Sauce.
This recipe makes a huge lasagna, easily filling the 9″ x 13″ pan to overflowing. I ended up dividing it into two 8″ x 8″ baking pans and leaving one for the homeowners we were house/pet sitting for.
So unless you have a large family, plan on having plenty of Vegetarian Lasagna leftovers. Or make it in two pans, eat one and freeze one for later. It does make the reward of spending so much time on a dish better when you can have another complete meal sitting in the freezer for a later date when you’re too tired to cook.
Let’s get back to loving ourselves and enjoying life through good food, friends and lots of laughter. It’s all about us this year.
Fall Vegetarian Lasagna
A beautiful Fall Vegetarian Lasagna layered fresh whole wheat pasta, a butternut squash bechamel sauce, kale, a barley filled "meaty" tomato sauce and cheese.
Butternut Squash Bechamel Sauce
Rest of Lasagna Ingredients
Pasta Sauce with Barley Mix
Using a medium-sized pot with a lid, bring 2 1/4 cups of water up to a boil. Add barley to boiling water and turn down to a simmer, covering with the lid. Cook for about 20 to 25 minutes or until barley is al dente. Remove from stove and drain any excess water. Set aside until needed.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft before adding the garlic and dried basil. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Pour in tomato sauce and 2 cups of water.
Add sugar and season with salt and pepper. Allow sauce to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. The sauce will be thin.
Remove from heat and stir in fresh herbs and prepared barley. Set sauce/barley mix aside until needed.
Cheese Layer Mix
Mix together cheeses, eggs, salt and pepper and fresh herbs. Set aside until needed.
Butternut Squash Bechamel Sauce
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cooking until soft, 2 to 3 minutes.
Stirring continuously, add flour and nutmeg and cook for about 2 minutes.
Continuing to stir, slowly pour in milk, adding until you reach desired consistency.
Stir in butternut puree. Adjust sauce thickness, if needed, by adding more milk.
Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
Whole Wheat Pasta
Combine flours, salt and pepper in a large bowl or on a clean countertop.
Form a well in the center of the flour and drop in the eggs. Gently pull the flour and eggs together. Mix well.
Add water, as needed, until pasta is pulled together without being too wet.
Form into ball. Divide into four pieces and wrap each piece in plastic wrap. Allow to rest on the counter or in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Using a rolling pin or pasta maker, prepare to roll out rested dough.
Flour surface well and work dough with rolling pin or pasta maker until it is about 1/8" thick. Sheets will be about 15" x 12".
Lightly flour the dough sheets and gently fold together. Do not press. Set aside and complete forming all the dough into sheets.
In a large stockpot, bring 2 quarts of water to boil.
Place chopped kale in boiling water. Blanch for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from boiling water and shock by running under cold water immediately to stopping the cooking process.immediately to stopping the cooking process.
Allow kale to drain in a colander until needed. Most of the water should be gone before using. Squeeze out excess if you need to.
Lightly grease one large 13" x 9" or two 8" x 8" casserole dishes with olive oil.
Preheat oven to 350° F (177° C).
Spread about 1/2 cup of Pasta Sauce with Barley in the bottom of the dishes.
Spread one of the prepared pasta sheets over the pasta sauce, trimming to fit the pan. Cut sheets in half if using two pans.
Layer with 1/2 of Butternut Squash Bechamel Sauce, followed by half the blanched kale, then 1/2 the cheese layer mixuture.
Top with a pasta sheet, trimming to fit the pan.
Spread 1/3 of tomato sauce with barley over the pasta sheet. Top with half the fresh mozzarella.
Layer in the third layer of pasta sheets. Repeat with rest of Butternut Squash Bechamel, Kale and Cheese Mixture.
Layer on last sheet of pasta.
Cover pasta sheet with pasta sauce with barley. Top with rest of mozzarella and 1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese. Drizzle top with honey and sprinkle with freshly grated black pepper.
Place finished lasagna in the middle of the oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly on top.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest at least 30 minutes before serving.
- Use a jar of already made pasta sauce instead of making your own.
- Use already prepared lasagna and cook to package directions
- Use prewashed, precut kale and already grated cheeses
Ingredient Alert: Substitutes for butternut are sweet potato, pumpkin or any winter squash puree.
Lasagna can bubble over while cooking. Cover oven rack with foil or set lasagna pan inside a baking sheet to catch drips.
Lasagna can be frozen for up to 3 months after cooking. Cool completely then wrap in freezer proof wrap. To reheat, allow to unthaw in the fridge, before rewarming at 350° F (177° C) until bubbly and warm.
More delicious lasagna recipes:
Grilled Veggie Lasagna from Simply Sophisticated Cooking
Hearty Cheesy Lasagna with Meat Sauce from Chef In the Burbs
Skillet Veggie Lasagna from Gimme Some Oven
Ham & Cheese Lasagna from The Kitchen is My Playground
Cast Iron Skillet Zucchini Lasagna from The Healthy Toast
Creamy Mushroom Lasagna from Pinch and Swirl