Prosciutto & Roasted Vegetable Lasagna - the best almost vegetarian lasagna that you will ever have ....

Prosciutto & Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

The last time I made a lasagna it was really cold outside. I had been freezing my ass off for days so that morning I figured I may as well just stay in bed and keep warm and stay cozy.  This was very successful for oh - 45 minutes - but really one can only read so much ... boredom finally drove me out of my nest. I pulled on my pink sock slipper things you can buy everywhere for a dollar and put on my huge pink housecoat that is so fluffy but weighs less than a pound and makes me look like a Yeti's girlfriend then set out to make some coffee. Wine is great but it was before noon so I sought out my other favorite drink. In the morning I have only one simple requirement for my happiness - well two but they are so fundamental to my well being that I think of them as one - warmth and great coffee. I said one because it is all about comfort and comfort is one word. In any event I was all set - my housecoat warmed me and my coffee sustained me. I sat and sipped my coffee and started planning my supper. When it is cold, that is what I do. Plan my supper. It doesn't matter what time it is. Part way through my coffee I realized that it was actually quite warm in the house - actually I was sweating to death and it will show up on my heating bill at the end of the month - anyway I took off my Yeti costume and wandered about the house peering into the refrigerator and cupboards nosing around for ideas. I strolled into my office and started rifling through my cookbooks ... seeking inspiration ... something warm and comforting.  When the very air outside takes your breath away and leaves you gasping it is time for something warm and moist and flavorful ... some kind of comfort food casserole.

All of a sudden - I had an epiphany. It would have come sooner but it takes a few minutes for the coffee to kick in. I didn't need a cookbook to figure out what to have on this frigid day - there was really only one perfect food for such weather. One of my favorite foods in all the world - rich sumptuous lasagna, a simple green salad and toasted garlicky garlic bread.

I absolutely love vegetarian lasagna but I have found that it is almost always far to sweet for my tastes. While I love vegetables with all my heart when you combine sweet vegetables with a sweet tomato sauce you end up with something that is saccharine sweet masquerading as a savory dish. So I put some extra thought into which vegetables and sauces I would use and how I would prepare them. I also decided to add a bit of prosciutto for the bit of savory smokiness it imparts. So it is not quite vegetarian after all though it started out that way. The result was this fabulous lasagna which was absolutely perfect the first time!? It is what I have been seeking since the first time ...  don't ask - the gods were kind to me that day - probably because I was freezing my ass off and they took pity on me.

This lasagna is rich and hearty. It has lovely deep flavours and is utterly delicious - everything a winter lasagna should be. It is gently sweet and lovely, and balances the savory beautifully.

I love this lasagna utterly! There are 4 different layers here but none takes more than a few minutes to prepare. This is the best almost vegetarian lasagna I have ever had anywhere. You could easily eliminate the prosciutto completely if you want a fully vegetarian dish.

Prosciutto and Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Tomato Sauce
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 - 4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp oregano
3 cups meatless tomato sauce, your favourite homemade or store bought
1/2 cup tomato paste

Fry the diced onion in the olive oil over low-medium heat until soft and translucent. Add garlic and oregano and cook 4-5 minutes more. Add tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook 15-20 minutes. Take off heat and set aside.

Vegetable layers
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4 thick coins
1 med-large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 med red pepper, cut into 1" dice
2 cups fresh baby spinach (pack fresh spinach into cup to measure)

Pre-heat oven to 425 Fahrenheit. Spread zucchini coins on a non-stick cookie sheet (or a cookie sheet covered with non-stick foil) and spray or toss with 1 teaspoon oil.

Spread eggplant cubes on another non-stick cookie sheet and spray or toss with 2 tsp oil.

Roast in oven 5 minutes. Add the red pepper to the tray of eggplant. Continue cooking both trays for a total of 15-20 minutes. The vegetables should be cooked, soft but not without some firmness & texture. They will be rather dry - good (unless you added a lot of oil - don't). Set aside.

B├ęchamel Sauce
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt or to taste
1 cup milk
1/2 - 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan reggiano

In small saucepan melt butter. Once melted whisk the flour into the butter. Whisk and cook for 2-3 minutes to remove the raw flour taste. Add about half the milk. Whisk one or two minutes until it thickens. Add the rest of the milk. Whisk and cook until it thickens. Add the cheeses, stir for one minute then remove from heat. Add salt if needed and set aside.

6-8 slices prosciutto, your favourite - sliced 3"4 wide x 2" long

Cheese topping
1 1/2 - 2 cups grated mozzarella
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan reggiano

enough for 4 layers in an 8" x 8" square pan

I use a really thick amazing pasta - the thickest one I could find - bring salted water to a boil. Add a teaspoon or so of oil (to keep the pasta starch from causing the water to boil over). Boil the pasta sheets for about 10-15 minutes until cooked al dente (still has some firmness when you bite or press it between your fingers. It will continue to cook in the oven later).

Assemble the layers:
In a deep 8" x 8" baking pan spray or oil the sides of the pan then layer:
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 layer pasta
all the zucchini
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 layer pasta
all the b├ęchamel sauce
1 layer pasta
all the eggplant and red peppers
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 layer pasta
all the spinach
all the prosciutto
1/2 cup tomato sauce
the mozzarella then the parmesan reggiano

Place rack 1/3 up from oven bottom. Bake lasagna at 450 Fahrenheit for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly and the cheese is lightly browned.
Let sit 10 minutes then serve.

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