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December 10, 2009

Cold-weather vegetarian entrees from the pantry (Recipe: four-cheese lasagne) {vegetarian}

Four-cheese lasagne 

Years ago, Ted and I attended a fancy wedding reception in New York City.

At the sit-down dinner, waiters came to each table, offering a choice of two entrees: one chicken, one beef.

The one vegetarian at our table was not amused.

She requested a vegetarian dinner. What the waiter produced was a plate with four lumps, two of mashed potatoes, two of some green vegetable.

That was the day I resolved never to expect vegetarians at my table to make a meal out of side dishes.

In a couple of weeks, our vegetarian kids and grandkids, and their meat-eating cousins, will be here together to kick off the holiday. Whenever we're all together, I make main courses that are vegetarian, with great "mouth feel" to satisfy the carnivores.

Here are some of my favorite vegetarian entrees for winter and holiday dining, and the pantry items that make them possible.


Pasta
Linguine with tomato-olive sauce
Egg noodle, cheese and cauliflower gratin
Pasta with slow-roasted tomatoes

Rice
Mushroom and asparagus paella
Vegetable paella with spicy garlic sauce
Three mushroom risotto (made with vegetable broth)

Beans
Moros y cristianos
Everything-from-the-pantry bean soup
South End Deep Root Chili

Grains
Kasha varnishkes
Polenta, squash and cheese loaf
Bulgur with cheese and eggplant

Kasha varnishkes

Eggs and cheese
Sweet potato latkes
Oven-baked tortilla Española
Asparagus and cheese tart

Herbs and spices
Roasted vegetables with yogurt and fresh tomato sauce

Pumpkin stew

Thai tofu and winter squash stew

What vegetarian entrees do you like to make during the cold-weather months?

Four-cheese lasagne

This recipe from the archives is a hit with both kids and adults, carnivores, omnivores, locavores, and vegetarians alike. You can make it ahead, and freeze it before or after cooking. Serves 8-10, with a spinach salad on the side.

Ingredients

16 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
8 oz low-fat cottage cheese
1 egg
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground black pepper
16 lasagne noodles (no-cook or par-boiled)
4 cups marinara sauce (store-bought or homemade)
30 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced 1/4-inch thick
1-1/4 cups grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine ricotta, cottage cheese, egg, nutmeg and black pepper in a small bowl. In a 9x13 baking pan, begin the assembly: spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom. Top with a layer of the noodles (you may need to break or cut some to fit them neatly in one layer), then plops of the cheese mix here and there (use 1/3 of the cheese). Add plops of sauce here and there (use 1/3 of the sauce), top with a layer of 1/3 of the mozzarella slices. Then again: noodles, ricotta mixture, sauce, mozzarella. Then a third time. Finally, add a fourth layer of noodles, and spread the remaining sauce on the noodles. Top with the parmesan cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover, and bake 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and allow lasagne to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Comments

I used to take my daughter and her friends up snowboarding each winter and one of the dishes they looked forward to was the vegetarian lasagna I always made for my daughters veggie friend.

Thanks for posting veg dishes, Lydia! As a vegetarian, I always like trying new recipes. One of my favorite winter dishes is curried chickpeas with pasta. I also like anything with the heartier winter greens, like kale and brussels sprouts.

If any one of the regular readers makes this delicous looking recipe and has a bit leftover, they can fedex a slice to: Milton............
haha

Four cheese lasagna makes me perk up every time! I like lasagnas during the holidays.

You're so good!

I agree vegetarians usually get short-changed. My strategy is to make a meal where the meat can be easily omitted from each plate. That way, those that want meat can have it, and those that don't can still have a nice meal.

What a fantastic list- I'll be trying out one recipe from this list in my ongoing recipe marathon.

In winter, I love making biryani (layered rice), hearty Indian curries, enchiladas and soups.

I love the idea of the four-cheese lasagne. Enjoy your time with your family. Sounds like there'll be a lot of good eating to be had by all. ;-)

Paz

My favorite vegetarian recipe now is a pumpkin lasagna, but I don't like making the same thing every time guests come over so I'm always still looking for vegetarian ideas. It gets really hard when others in the group really want large hunks of meat.

You can never go wrong with a big cheesy lasagne. When I make lasagne I never use meat and don't even miss it.

I am going to make this over the weekend.

Such a thoughtful meal planner you are! I'm curious though, do you end up cooking a meat entree as well, or create a meat-based side dish instead? I ask because I often find myself in this very predicament, trying to please all palates involved.

I know, you're a Great cook and I adore your blog.

I am hosting an Event in my site about Kitchen Mishaps! Would you like to participate?

Valli, Milton, Peter, Paz, Maris, Daryl: Lasagne is a no-miss favorite, and there's something about this one -- so basic and yet so good -- that never fails to please. I hope you all enjoy it.

Deena, Nupur: curries and other hearty Indian dishes are a mainstay of our vegetarian meals, too. The Thai tofu squash is truly delicious.

Julia, sometimes that's my strategy, too, but I usually end up making more than one main dish, so nobody has only side dishes.

Jessica, I've had some butternut squash lasagne that I really loved, very much like pumpkin. Whenever I'm serving a vegetarian meal to non-vegetarians, I just don't mention meat, so they don't think of it!

Sandie, most of the time I do not put meat on the table when I'm doing a meal for both vegetarians and meat-eaters. I want everyone to enjoy everything, and I don't want the vegetarians to have to keep asking if this or that dish has meat. So my strategy is simply not to serve it, and to use a hearty, often pasta-based main dish that works for everyone.

Yes, there are so many vegetarian cheese available these days. How do you know if it is vegetarian? Look at the list of ingredients. If Rennet is listed then it isn't because rennet an animal product, requiring the said animal to be slaughtered.

But look and read "vegetarian rennet" or "vegetarian enzymes/starters", "enzyme is non-animal rennet" and all is well

Mmm, looks totally delish. I agree about the mouthfeel. I cook veggie a couple of nights a week, and try to make it hearty enough for my meat-loving hubby.

Lydia, thanks for a very timely post - I have been looking for some new vegetarian recipes. The gratin and the paella have gone to the top of my "try when my veggie son gets home for winter break" list.

Equally as bad as the "let them eat side dishes" approach is the "ask them to bring a veggie dish" approach, which has happened at a few of our extended family Thanksgivings. While everyone brings something, no one should have to make their own Thanksgiving entree! This year I made a cornbread and broccoli rabe strata with sauteed mushrooms, gruyere, and ricotta, which everyone loved - and my son appreciated.

I have three sons. One keeps kosher, one is a vegetarian, and one is a locavore! Last Christmas I made the Barefoot Contessa mushroom lasagna with white sauce, which is delicious. Another favorite: sweet potato and black bean patties, from Everyday Food (Martha Stewart).

Thanks again for the topic!

Michelle, thanks for reminding us that not all cheese is vegetarian.

Natashya, I do find that most times a hearty vegetarian meal will satisfy even the most dedicated carnivore!

Judy, you certainly have challenges trying to come up with menus that will work for all three of your sons! I think it's awful to ask anyone to bring their own Thanksgiving main dish, just so they will have something to eat. The cornbread and rabe strata sounds delicious; I'm going to borrow that idea for my own vegetarian kids.

As a vegetarian (lacto-ovo; everyone has his own peculiarities, including thinking that fish is somehow "vegetarian") since 1977, I've encountered too many of these scenarios. What I don't like is the restaurant concession of a pasta entree which is almost entirely pasta, usually in a very rich sauce -- without the sides like veg or salad that the meat entrees get. What I like is on your list! Recently made a veg version of Cincinnati Chili(from a blog, one hot stove) that was really good.

I was a vegetarian for many years and suffered eating mashed potatoes and mushy string beans at most events. People often don't realize how easy is it to make well-balanced vegetarian meals. So kudos to you for this post, Lydia!

late comment but...

my mother has been a stead-fast vegetarian for 38 years. (lacto-vegetarian - only cheese - loves it) and one thing we have learned is that at restaurants instead of just suffering with the meager offerings - is to ask the place to put together a veggie plate or custom salad. Most places with a chef/cook that has any kind of pride-of-craft will jump at the chance to impress with a custom dish. She has had many successes (not all but most)just by simply speaking up.
good luck to all veggie-heads!
(and by the way - try as she might - she could not convert us kids;-)

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  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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