Beat the cold with piping hot lasagna

There are many ways to prepare this Italian favorite, including seafood and meatless options

If you’re looking for a hearty meal ideal for cold days that can be made ahead of time and easily reheated, think lasagna.

But lasagna doesn’t have to be the traditional baked dish with layers of noodles, tomato sauce and melted cheeses.

There are spinach, seafood and chicken versions, as well as gluten-free lasagnas  and meatless lasagnas ideal for vegetarians. There’s even a breakfast lasagna that layers hash browns, Canadian bacon, peppers, mushrooms and an egg mixture.

There are versions that primarily use a tomato sauce, some that use a bechamel sauce and still others that incorporate a combination of the two.

Increase your vegetable intake by adding a thin layer of cooked zucchini or yellow squash slices between the noodles or spice up your lasagna by adding a dash of crushed red pepper, freshly ground black pepper, chili powder or ground cayenne pepper to the meat sauce.

Making lasagna is a long process, ideal for weekends. When you make a lasagna, try preparing several at one time, then freezing them for use in the coming weeks. When it’s time to make the lasagna, thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours and increase the baking time to between 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Make sure the internal temperature is 160 degrees before serving.

Some people make and then freeze lasagna in circular containers. Instead of baking them, they heat them in slow cookers.

If a large pan of lasagna is too much for you and your family, you can make single-servings in small dishes, such as gratin pans or even muffin tins. Whatever you won’t eat can easily be frozen.

To cut down on the time spent making lasagna, use a store-bought tomato sauce, perhaps enlivened with fresh herbs. Instead of boiling the noodles, use no-cook noodles or traditional noodles with a runny sauce. The noodles will absorb the hot liquid during baking, cooking them perfectly.

You could also try a skillet lasagna or lasagna rolls.

Served with a green salad and fresh bread, lasagna is a perfect, hearty meal.

Following are lasagna recipes from and

Vegetarian Lasagna Rolls With Pesto

4 medium sweet potatoes
4 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
4 cups loosely packed fresh spinach
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic
15 ounces part-skim ricotta
6 ounces grated mozzarella
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Freshly grated black pepper
2 cups tomato basil marinara sauce
12 lasagna noodles

    Poke sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Wrap each in a damp paper towel and microwave on high for six to eight minutes, until fork-tender. When cool enough to touch, remove the skin.
    In a food processor, combine basil, spinach, pine nuts, olive oil and garlic. Blend until smooth.
    Add ricotta, half the mozzarella, the Parmesan cheese and peeled sweet potatoes to the pesto and process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
    Spread 3/4 cup tomato sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
    Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, then add the lasagna noodles and cook until just al dente. Using a pair of tongs, remove the noodles from the cooking water and place them next to each other on a baking sheet or work surface.
    Divide sweet potato filling onto the noodles and spread to cover them. Beginning at one end, loosely roll each noodle. Place the rolls, seam side down, into the baking pan with the tomato sauce, fitting them as snugly against each other as possible. Top with the remaining tomato sauce.
    Cover pan with aluminum foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil, add remaining mozzarella cheese and bake, uncovered, about 15 minutes, until cheese starts to brown. Cool at least five minutes before serving.


Fresh Spinach Ravioli Lasagna

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 cups whole milk
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste, optional
Kosher or coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 9-ounce packages spinach and artichoke ravioli or three-cheese asparagus ravioli
1 6-ounce package artichoke hearts, roughly chopped

    In a large deep saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook one minute, until the mixture turns golden.  Add spinach and cook about two minutes, stirring frequently, until barely wilted.  Gradually stir in milk. Bring mixture to a simmer. for a minute or two,  stirring occasionally, until thickened.  Season with nutmeg, if desired, salt and pepper.  Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan.
    Combine ricotta cheese, lemon zest, ​and garlic in a bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper.
    Bring a pot of water to a boil, season with salt, let it return to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions, stopping just before it is completely cooked.
    Spoon just enough spinach sauce into the bottom of a greased 9-by-9-inch baking pan or 1-1/2 to 2-quart baking dish to lightly coat it. Top with half of the ravioli, then with a layer of half the ricotta mixture, followed by half the chopped artichokes. Spoon half of the remaining creamy spinach sauce over the top, then sprinkle with half the Parmesan.  Repeat.  
    Bake in a 375-degree oven for about 15 minutes, until browned and bubbly.  Broil the lasagna for a final minute to brown the top if desired.


Three Cheese Butternut and Mushroom Lasagna

2 cups peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash
1 chopped shallot
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 no-boil lasagna noodles   
1 cup sautéed mushrooms
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
    Place squash and shallots on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with melted butter, season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet, allowing space in between the cubes when possible.  Roast in a 400-degree oven about 25 minutes, until tender and lightly browned on the bottom.
    Transfer roasted vegetables to a food processor or blender, add broth and sage and puree.   
    In a medium bowl, combine egg, ricotta and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.  Spread one-third of the mixture on each of the three lasagna noodles. Place one of the ricotta-covered noodles into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, cover with one-third of the mushrooms, drizzle with one-third of the squash puree, then sprinkle with one-third of the gruyere. Repeat until there are three layers of each.
    Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Let sit for five to 10 minutes before cutting and serving.


Mozzarella Lasagna

For besciamella sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk, warm or at room temperature
For lasagna:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, drained
10 to 12 sheets of no-bake lasagna noodles
1-2/3 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

    To prepare sauce, melt butter in a heavy bottomed pan over low heat. Add flour and whisk to combine. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, three to five minutes, until roux begins to turn a golden brown. Slowly add milk, constantly whisking, until roux has blended into the milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
    Place tomato sauce in a bowl. Finely chop garlic and add it to the tomato sauce together with the basil.
    Thinly slice mozzarella.
    Butter a large rectangular baking dish, then place a layer of pasta in dish, followed by thin layer of tomato sauce, then add a layer of mozzarella and salt and pepper to taste. Add another layer of pasta and continue layering until all the ingredients are used up, finishing with a layer of pasta.
    Sprinkle grated Parmigiano over lasagna, then evenly pour besciamella sauce over the top.
    Bake in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes. Cover with a sheet of parchment paper and bake another 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before cutting for easier serving.



Lasagna Sandwich

10 round crusty rolls
1 pound pork sausage
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 16-ounce jar pasta sauce
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 3-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 egg, beaten
1 cup grated Havarti cheese
1/2 cup grated part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    Cut a thin slice off the top off each roll and set aside. Hollow out each roll, leaving a shell about 1/4-inch thick.
    In a large skillet, cook sausage with the onion and garlic, stirring to break up the meat, until the sausage is browned and cooked. Drain well.
    Add pasta sauce and Italian seasoning and simmer five to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
    In a medium bowl, beat together ricotta cheese, cream cheese and egg until blended. Stir in Havarti and mozzarella cheeses.
    Divide meat mixture among the rolls. Top each with ricotta mixture and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes, until the cheese on top starts to brown. Let sandwiches cool for 10 minutes before serving.


Creamy Venezuelan-Style Lasagna

1 pound lasagna noodles
For red sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 28-ounce can stewed tomatoes
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup red wine or beef stock
For bechamel sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
4-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
For lasagna:
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
10 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, optional

    Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cool water and set aside.
    To make red sauce, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet or stockpot. Add onions and garlic and cook over low-medium heat until soft and fragrant. Add ground beef, soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce and cook, stirring, until meat is well-browned. Add stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, basil, bay leaf, sugar and red wine and simmer over very low heat for 30 to 45 minutes, until sauce thickens and develops a rich flavor. Season with salt and pepper.
    For bechamel sauce, place butter in a heavy saucepan and melt it over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and cook until bubbly. Whisk milk into the mixture, and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Add salt, nutmeg and Parmesan cheese and stir until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    Spread a thin layer of bechamel sauce on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Cover with a layer of lasagna noodlesand top with one third of the meat sauce. Add a layer of noodles, then spread about 1 cup bechamel sauce on top. Sprinkle one third of the mozzarella cheese and a couple of tablespoons of Parmesan cheese over bechamel.
    Top with another layer of meat sauce, bechamel and cheese. Add another meat sauce layer, then top with noodles and remaining bechamel and sprinkle remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese over the top.
    Cover with foil and bake, covered, in 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until cheese is melted and lasagna is heated through. Cool five to 10 minutes before serving.


Spicy Chicken Lasagna

9 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente and drained
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound boneless chicken breasts
Chili powder
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups milk
1 cup tomatillo salsa verde
6 to 8 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 cup chunky salsa
10 to 12 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 large tomatoes, diced

    In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Carefully slice each chicken breast into thin cutlets or strips. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chili powder, then saute in the hot oil, turning frequently, for eight to 10 minutes, until cooked through. Chop chicken and set aside.
    In a medium saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, two minutes. Add milk and tomatillo salsa and cook, stirring, until thickened. Stir in the green onions, cilantro and cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
    Spread about half the chunky salsa in a 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking pan. Lay three lasagna noodles side-by-side over the salsa. Top noodles with half the spinach, half the cooked chicken and half the diced tomatoes. Spread with about 1 cup cheese sauce mixture.
    Repeat with three more noodles, remaining spinach, chicken and tomatoes and spread with another cup cheese sauce.
    Top with the remaining noodles, then spread the remaining chunky salsa and cheese sauce mixture.
    Cover with foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer.


Perfect Spinach Lasagna

16 ounces ricotta cheese
2 10-ounce packages frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 16 to 24-ounce jars marinara or spaghetti sauce
8 to 10 ounces lasagna noodles, cooked and cooled
16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

    In a medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese with half the spinach, half the grated Parmesan cheese, egg, garlic powder, and salt. Mix to blend well.
    Mix remaining spinach with the marinara sauce.
    Spread 1/2 to 1 cup marinara-spinach mixture over the bottom of a lightly greased 9-by-13-by-2-inch baking dish. Top with a layer of noodles, then spread about 3/4 cup marinara over noodles. With a small spoon, dollop one-third the ricotta mixture over the sauce, spacing evenly. Sprinkle with one quarter of the mozzarella cheese.
    Repeat, making two more layers of the noodles, sauce, ricotta mixture and mozzarella.
    Top with another layer of noodles, the rest of the sauce, shredded mozzarella and the grated Parmesan cheese.
    Grease a sheet of foil large enough to fit over the lasagna. Cover lasagna tightly with the foil, greased side down.
    Bake lasagna in 350-degree oven about 45 minuters, until it begins to bubble. If baking pan is very full, place a foil-lined baking sheet on a lower rack to catch spills. Remove foil and bake 20 to 30 minutes longer, until very hot and cheese has melted.

Basic Lasagna With Meaty Sauce

For sauce:
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground chuck or round
1 28-ounce  can tomatoes, crushed
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon basil
1 bay leaf
2 cups water
For lasagna:
8 ounces lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
16 ounces low-fat ricotta cheese
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

    For sauce, sauté onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large deep saucepan over medium heat until onions are soft. Add ground beef and brown, stirring frequently. Pour off excess fat. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 teaspoons salt, cayenne pepper, sugar, basil, bay leaf and 2 cups water. Stir well. Reduce heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, for one hour, until sauce has thickened.
    Bring a stockpot full of water to a rolling boil. Add salt and lasagna noodles and cook as the package directs, stirring frequently. Drain, then toss gently with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
    Spoon four to six tablespoons sauce into bottom of a three-quart rectangular baking dish. Top with a layer of noodles. Spoon about 1/3 sauce over noodles. Spoon about half the ricotta cheese evenly over the sauce and sprinkle with a few tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Add one third of the mozzarella cheese.
    Repeat, then finish with one more layer of noodles, sauce, and Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
    Bake, uncovered, in a 325-degree oven for 45 minutes. If the top browns too fast or the noodles are burning, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Let cool 10 minutes before slicing into squares and serving.



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