Even in spring, lasagna is comfort food defined

But this traditional Italian entree can be created in many ways, making it a perfect warm weather meal

If you’re looking for comfort food, lasagna may be your meal.

A hearty treat that offers layers of meat sauce, sturdy pasta and gooey melted cheese, lasagna is a delicious entree that serves as the centerpiece of your table.

Just add a hearty loaf of crusty bread or garlic rolls and a green salad to round out your meal.

But as delicious as the traditional ground beef and mozzarella cheese dish is, there are other versions that are just a delectable — including some that are lighter, perfect for spring and summer.

Try a vegetarian lasagna or one made with spinach. Use a white sauce and chicken or, if you’re ambitious, try making your own noodles as well as the sauce.

Add a thin layer of cooked zucchini or yellow squash slices between the layers for added nutrition or spice up your lasagna by adding a dash of crushed red pepper, freshly ground black pepper, chili powder or ground red pepper (cayenne) to the sauce before layering it with the other ingredients.

Even if you pick a traditional lasagna, you can ensure it’s ready when you come home by making it in a slow cooker instead of the oven.

After baking, let your lasagna rest for 15 to 20 minutes before serving. This allows the ingredients to come together, allowing you to make more even squares when you cut it, and ensuring the cheese and sauce won’t run all over the plate.

If you are running short on time when making your lasagna, use no-boil noodles. Just make sure to use extra sauce, since it will be absorbed by the noodles during the bake time.

Or make your lasagna ahead of time. You can refrigerate uncooked lasagna as much as 24 hours ahead of time, adding an extra five to 10 minutes to your baking time to ensure the lasagna is cooked through.

Following are some lasagna recipes from savorthebest.com and foodnetwork.com.

 

savorthebest.com

 

Seafood Lasagna

 

9 to 12 lasagna noodles

1 tablespoon kosher salt

For béchamel sauce:

3 cups whole milk

5 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

Olive oil

For the filling:

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

3/4 pound medium-size shrimp, peeled and deveined, reserve any liquids

1/2 pound sea scallops, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, reserve any liquids

1/2 pound cod, thawed if using frozen, cut in 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 pound salmon, thawed if using frozen, cut in 1/2-inch cubes

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

 

Cook noodles according to package directions. Transfer drained noodles to a large plate or baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. Cover with another sheet of plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.

Heat milk in a saucepan and keep warm.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook about four minutes, stirring, until the flour is well incorporated. Slowly whisk in the hot milk. Mix well and bring to a boil. Cook about 10 minutes, until sauce becomes thick. Stir in nutmeg, salt and white pepper. Remove sauce from the heat and drizzle a little olive oil on top to keep it from forming a skin. Set aside.

To make filling, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook just until the garlic is fragrant. Add the shrimp, scallops (and their liquid), cod and salmon. Cook just until the shrimp begins to turn pink.

Add béchamel sauce and bring just to a boil, gently mixing the sauce with the seafood. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Spread 1/4 cup seafood sauce in the bottom of a 9-by-12-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange one-third of the noodles on the sauce. Spoon one quarter of the seafood sauce on the pasta, then 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.

Repeat with the remaining layers, finishing with mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle parsley on top.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for 35 minutes, until heated through. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.

 

 

 

foodnetwork.com

 

Skillet Chicken Lasagna

 

12 ounces bow tie pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced or diced

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning or herbes de Provence

Salt

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 14 to 16-ounce jar marinara sauce

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

12 fresh basil leaves, cut chiffonade or chopped, plus more for serving

 

Cook pasta according to instructions. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with Italian seasoning and salt. Add chicken to the skillet and cook two to three minutes, until golden brown. Place chicken on a plate and set aside.

Add onions and garlic to the same skillet and cook three minutes, stirring. Add broth, then scrape the bottom of the skillet to loosen the bits. Cook another two to three minutes, then add marinara sauce and red pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add the drained pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan and basil. Add cooked chicken, toss to combine, then add more mozzarella, ricotta, Parmesan or basil, if desired. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan and a little basil.

 

 

Grilled Lasagna

 

1 1-pound ball fresh mozzarella, halved and thinly sliced

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

2 cloves garlic, grated

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

3 large tomatoes (2 thinly sliced, 1 grated)

12 no-boil lasagna noodles

8 cups baby spinach

1/3 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as basil, mint and/or parsley

 

Preheat a grill to medium.

Combine mozzarella, Parmesan, red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and all but 1/4 teaspoon garlic in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss.

Season the sliced tomatoes with salt. Lay out four double-layer sheets of nonstick foil. Drizzle each with olive oil, top with one noodle and sprinkle each noodle with one tablespoon water. Divide half of the spinach, sliced tomatoes and mozzarella mixture among the noodles.

Repeat to make another layer of noodles, water, spinach, tomatoes and mozzarella mixture. Finish each stack with a noodle, one tablespoon water and a drizzle of olive oil. Bring the foil together and crimp tightly closed to make four flat packets. Grill the packets about 10 minutes per side, covered, until tender. Let rest five minutes.

Mix grated tomatoes, a pinch of salt, the reserved garlic and one tablespoon olive oil in a bowl. Open the packets and cut the lasagna in half, if desired. Top with the tomato mixture, ricotta and herbs.

 

 

Pesto Lasagna Rolls

 

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

12 lasagna noodles

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour

1-1/2 cups whole milk

1 large egg

2 cups whole milk ricotta

10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

2-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

3/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 cup pesto

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Crushed red pepper flakes, optional

 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles one minute longer than the package directions for al dente. Drain well and rinse with cold water. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook about two minutes, stirring, until lightly toasted. Whisk in milk, a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Cook six to eight minutes, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens to the consistency of a thin gravy. Allow sauce to cool slightly.

Beat egg in a large bowl, then stir in ricotta, spinach, 1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup pesto, a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Stir remaining 1/2 cup pesto into the slightly cooled sauce.

Brush a 13- by 9- inch baking dish with oil. Spread 1/4 cup pesto-bechamel sauce on the bottom.

Lay half the cooked noodles on a clean work surface and spread 1/3 cup ricotta mixture evenly over each. Starting with a short end, roll each noodle up, then transfer to the baking dish, seam-side down. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture.

Spoon remaining pesto-bechamel sauce over the lasagna rolls and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake in a 425-degree oven about 20 minutes, until rolls are heated through and the sauce is bubbling. Remove  foil and bake 10 more minutes, until cheese is browned on top. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper, if desired, and let rest five minutes before serving.

 

 

 

 

Fresh Vegetable Lasagna

 

20 lasagna noodles

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 shallots, roughly chopped

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and chopped

8 cups packed fresh spinach

3 cups fresh ricotta cheese

2 cups finely grated Parmesan

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 egg

6 cups shredded mozzarella

3-1/2 cups chunky marinara sauce

For chunky marinara sauce:

1/4 cup olive oil

2 medium carrots, cut to 1/2-inch dice

1 stalk celery, cut to 1/2-inch dice

1 large yellow onion, cut to 1/2-inch dice

3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

Pinch chile flakes, optional

One 28-ounce can tomato sauce puree

One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, hand crushed or coarsely chopped

8 to 10 fresh basil leaves

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

 

To make sauce, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, then add carrots, celery and onions, and cook eight to 10 minutes, until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic and cook one minute, then stir in oregano, chile flakes, tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and their juices, basil leaves, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes, until sauce has thickened.

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook noodles for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, then drizzle noodles with one tablespoon olive oil and set aside. If using no-boil noodles, skip this step.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook shallots four to five minutes, until softened and translucent. Add garlic and zucchini and cook one minute. Stir in the spinach and cook two to four minutes, until wilted.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, salt, pepper and egg, then set aside.

Spoon 1/2 cup marinara sauce into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Top with five noodles, slightly overlapping. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, then add one-third of the cooked zucchini and spinach, evenly distributing over the ricotta. Top with two cups mozzarella, then top with one cup sauce. Repeat layering two more times, ending with a layer of noodles and a sprinkle of mozzarella.

Cover with foil and bake in a 375-degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 to 20 minutes, until bubbling and cooked through. Cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

 

 

All-Crust Sheet-Pan Lasagna

 

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

12 ounces sweet Italian sausage, casings removed

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

15 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 large egg

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped

3/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 pound block whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded

12 flat no-boil lasagna noodles

 

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook about five minutes, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through. Transfer sausage to a bowl, reserving the drippings in the pan.

Reduce heat to medium and add remaining olive oil and garlic to the pan. After about one minutes, when garlic begins to brown at the edges, add tomatoes and their juices, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook eight minnutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens.

Mix ricotta, egg, milk, basil, 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Spread 2/3 cup tomato sauce across the bottom of an 18-by-13-inch sheet pan. Space six lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, turning them to fit so there are two noodles across and three noodles down. Top noodles with the ricotta mixture, sausage, 2/3 cup tomato sauce and half the shredded mozzarella. Add another layer of six lasagna noodles and top with remaining sauce, mozzarella, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan.

Lightly oil one side of a large piece of foil. Cover pan with the foil, greased side down. Bake in a 450-degree oven about 20 minutes, until noodles are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Carefully remove the foil and bake 10 to 15 minutes, until top is very crusty and brown.

 

 

 

Vegan Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna

 

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, 2 thinly sliced and 1 whole

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

1 pound white mushrooms, sliced

One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Kosher salt

One 12.3-ounce package firm tofu, strained

One 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

One 8-ounce package vegan cream cheese

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

12 to 13 no-boil vegan lasagna noodles

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella-flavored vegan cheese

 

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced garlic, fennel seeds and red pepper flakes and stir until fragrant, about 45 seconds. Add mushrooms and cook three minutes, undisturbed, until they begin to brown in spots. Cook four minutes more, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add tomatoes, one cup water and one teaspoon salt, bring to a simmer and cook 10 to 15 minutes, until sauce is reduced and most of the water is evaporateded. Let cool.

Place tofu, spinach, vegan cream cheese, basil, nutritional yeast, whole clove garlic, one teaspoon salt and nutmeg to a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Spread a few tablespoons mushroom-tomato sauce on the bottom of the a greased nine-inch square baking dish. Top with four noodles. Add half the tofu mixture and spread evenly. Top with a third of the sauce. Repeat with another four noodles, remaining spinach mixture and half the remaining sauce. Finish twith the remaining noodles and sauce.

Cover with foil and bake in a 350-degree oven about 45 minutes, until lasagna is hots. Remove foil, sprinkle with shredded vegan cheese and bake about 15 minutes, until lasagna is very hot and the cheese is slightly melted. Let cool for a few minutes, cut into six pieces and garnish with basil leaves.

 

 

Turkey Lasagna

 

1/4 cup olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

2 pounds ground turkey

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound mozzarella, grated

3/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 32-ounce container ricotta

1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped

1 large egg, lightly beaten

12 lasagna noodles (not no-boil)

 

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook about eight minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to become translucent. Add turkey and garlic and continue cooking six to eight minutes, breaking the meat up with a wooden spoon, until turkey is cooked through. Add tomato paste, stir to combine and cook five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add crushed tomatoes, then add the whole peeled tomatoes, crushing them with you hand as you pour them in. Stir in oregano, add salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly reduced and thickened. Remove the lid for the last five minutes.

Set aside one cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan.

Mix ricotta, parsley, egg, the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan, one teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.

Spread two cups sauce in the bottom of a deep 9-by-13-inch broiler-proof baking dish. Place three uncooked lasagna noodles across the bottom of the dish lengthwise, leaving about 1/2 inch between each. Place a fourth noddle across the short side of the dish, breaking to fit as needed.

Spread 1-1/2 cups sauce on the noodles. Using an ice-cream scoop or large spoon, dollop one-third of the cheese mixture evenly on top, then arrange another layer of noodles the same as the first, pressing down gently to spread the cheese mixture. Repeat layering two more times, ending with the noodles. Spread the remaining sauce on top.

Cover baking dish tightly with foil and bake in a 375-degree oven about one hour, until noodles are tender when you insert the tip of a paring knife. Remove foil and sprinkle with the reserved mozzarella and Parmesan. Broil five to seven minutes, until the cheese is melted, golden and bubbling. Let the lasagna rest for 30 minutes before serving.

If using a glass baking dish, instead of broiling at the end increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees and bake until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown.

 

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