Lasagna with spinach and zucchini.

Lasagna with spinach and zucchini. Credit: Marge Perry

Listen, that lasagna isn’t going to make itself. This is a group effort and you need to do your parts. You, sulking teenage girl who hasn’t seen her friends in, like, a million years: You are in charge of grating the cheese. You, little guy: step away from the video game and go wash your hands. We’re afraid you haven’t blinked in several hours.

Let’s do it: let’s build this thing. I promise not to talk about all that you will learn about team-building, math, and life skills. I won’t even say it will be a fun family project. The payoff will be epic! A gooey, cheesy lasagna, so hearty and satisfying that the avowed omnivores in the group will never miss the meat, while the vegetarian will do her happy dance.

When the ingredients are ready and waiting, the building begins. Everyone takes turns. You, sauce guy: measure and pour. Twinkle toes: you’re going to layer the noodles and spread the ricotta. Video dude: you are now Master of Vegetables, so spread them out, nice and evenly. Me, I’ll just contentedly stand over here and watch while I take another sip of wine.

(Note: This recipe can be done as 1 1/2 times in a standard 9 x 13 baking pan)

Hearty Vegetable Lasagna

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 teaspoon salt, divided

12 ounces zucchini, chopped in 1/4-inch pieces

1 10-ounce bag spinach

15-ounces part skim ricotta

2 cups shredded part skim mozzarella, divided

8 ounces oven-ready lasagna noodles

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is lightly golden, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the diced and crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the zucchini and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is lightly golden, about 7 to 8 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet; add the spinach and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, tossing often until all the spinach has wilted, about 3 minutes.

4. Combine the ricotta and 1 cup of the mozzarella in a bowl.

5. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Top with two lasagna noodles and spread with 2/3 cup of the tomato sauce. Dot 2/3 cup of the ricotta and top with the spinach. Add 2 more lasagna noodles, spread with 2/3 cup sauce and continue to repeat the pattern. Spread the fourth layer of lasagna noodles with the remaining sauce and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup shredded mozzarella.

6. Coat a piece of foil large enough to cover the pan with cooking spray, and cover. Bake 25 minutes, uncover and bake 10 minutes, until the mozzarella has melted and the lasagna is cooked through. Wait 5 to 10 minutes before cutting.

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