As we near the end of August, I feel like I’m still immersed in summertime. Our porch is covered in colorful chalk scribbles courtesy of my two-year-old, and my feet have very distinct flip-flop lines, brightly painted toenails, and callouses that scream for a pedicure. I also have the Great Smoldering Sunburn of 2009 on my back that makes it hard to move. Or wear clothes. Or carry my purse. Or lay down. (Lie down? I can never get those straight.) Summer also means eating outside whenever possible.Last Sunday, I ate lunch out on the porch because everyone inside was taking a nap, and the sun was coming in through my kitchen window at a funny angle, making it hard to get a shot of the lasagna I was about to eat.
This lasagna could also be called “Tribute to Trader Joe’s Lasagna” because just about every ingredient in it came from that lovely store. (I’m a new convert.) Or “Postpartum Mothers Lasagna” because I made three of these in one day — froze one, baked the other two, then gave one away to a friend who just had a baby.
Or even “Slightly Different From Mom’s Lasagna” because this is basically the way my mom makes it makes it, with a few minor changes. She always used sausage (Jimmy Dean bulk sausage) in her lasagna and over the years she’s tweaked the recipe to absolute deliciousness, while still keeping it simple. I think it’s the pan she cooks it in. (It has wavy sides like traditional lasagna noodles have). And love. Lots of love.
So in my version of my mom’s lasanga, I added grilled zucchini, used (Trader Joe’s) sweet Italian chicken sausage, (Trader Joe’s) roasted garlic pasta sauce, and (Trader Joe’s) Italian cheese blend. Because of the size of (Trader Joe’s) no-boil noodles, and that I was making three of them, it made better sense to use 9×9 pans. So, the recipe below is for one 9×9 pan — a nice size for a family of four without having a ton leftover.
Seriously, though? If you’re going to make one, you might as well make three. It doesn’t take that much time to put the other two together if you’re doing them all at once. I put my lasagnas in those disposable foil baking pans that you get at the grocery store. The “chicken roasting” ones work well because they’re square and the sides are high.
Grilled Zucchini Lasagna
9 no-boil noodles (the kind that don't have the wavy edges are best)
1 24 oz jar of pasta sauce
2 1/2 c cottage or ricotta cheese
12 oz shredded Italian blend cheese (Parmesan, Romano, Provolone, etc.)
6 oz shredded mozzarella cheese (about 1 1/2 c)
1 lb bulk-type sausage (that you can easily remove from the casings and crumble up)
3 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
1 lb zucchini (1 large), sliced diagonally into 1/4-inch slices
salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
To prepare the zucchini, heat a BBQ grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Toss zucchini slices in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lay in a single layer on the grill. Cook until nice grill marks form and zucchini begins to soften, turning halfway through, about 5 mintues. Set aside.
Remove sausage from casings, crumble up and throw into a skillet heated to medium-high heat. Break up the sausage into bits and cook until browned. Remove from pan, draining any excess fat.
Prepare baking pan with nonstick spray and spread a couple of spoonfuls of sauce in the bottom. Lay three noodles in the bottom, slightly overlapping if necessary. Top with 1/3 of the sausage, 1/3 of the sauce, 1/3 of the zucchini, a handful of spinach, 1/3 of the cottage cheese, and 1/3 of the Italian cheese blend, and 1/3 of the mozzarella. Lay down three more noodles and repeat layers two more times, ending with remaining mozzarella.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until everything is heated through and cheese is melted, bubbly, and starting to brown.
Makes 9 servings.
adapted from my mom, Debbie Phillips