Get All the Flavor Without the Meat in This Cheap Veggie Lasagna

vegetables cooking in a pan
Photo courtesy of Catherine Hiles

When I was first dating my now-husband, the first meal I ever cooked for him was lasagna.

I was by no means an accomplished cook, but my stepmother had taught me how to make a few basics, including a kick-ass lasagna. Back then, it featured ground beef and not too many veggies.

Then, about eight years ago, I decided to go vegetarian. I knew I needed to tweak my lasagna recipe and find a way to make it just as tasty as before but without meat.

After reading thousands of recipes for inspiration, I finally came up with a combination that is easy to make and tastes amazing. It’s a hit with my meat-eating husband — and my super-picky toddler.

You can easily change the ingredients for this lasagna depending on what you have on hand.

I’ve used leeks, zucchini, yellow squash, spinach and even sweet potatoes in my recipe. The main thing to remember is to keep the quantities around the same. So, maybe you nix the mushrooms and use zucchini instead or ditch the shredded carrots and throw in some shredded sweet potatoes. The beauty of this recipe is it’s easy to make substitutions depending on what’s in season.

You also might notice that I use whole-milk ricotta in my recipe. If you want to make this recipe lower in fat, stay away from fat-free ricotta. I tried making the lasagna with the fat-free stuff and found it produced a weird texture that made the lasagna dry and pretty gross.

If you want to reduce this meatless lasagna’s calories, use low-fat cottage cheese instead of ricotta and ditch the egg.

How to Make Vegetarian Lasagna

Ingredients

Servings: 8 to 10

1 tablespoon olive oil: 10 cents

1 onion, chopped: 49 cents

4 garlic cloves, minced: 24 cents

1 bell pepper, chopped: 99 cents

8 to 10 ounces mushrooms, sliced: $1.99

2 teaspoons dried basil and oregano: 32 cents

1 teaspoon dried thyme: 10 cents

Salt and pepper to taste

2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes: 99 cents

1 6-ounce can tomato paste: 49 cents

16 ounces whole-milk ricotta: $2.99

1 egg: 17 cents

½ cup parsley: 99 cents

½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded: 89 cents

1 ½ cups mozzarella cheese, shredded: $1.09

1 12-ounce box lasagna noodles: $1.49

Total: $13.33

Cost per serving: $1.33 to $1.67

Saute the onions and bell pepper in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until the onions start to look translucent. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic and stir to combine, cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the mushrooms to the mixture and saute for another 5 to 7 minutes, or until the mushrooms have reduced in size by about half. Add the diced tomatoes and mix thoroughly, then add the tomato paste and stir well to combine the paste with the rest of the sauce. Add the herbs, salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.

Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce is warmed through and delicious (tasting is highly encouraged).

Meanwhile, grab a 9-by-13-inch pan and heat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix together the ricotta, egg, parsley, Parmesan cheese and ½ cup of mozzarella cheese in a medium bowl and set the mixture aside. Once the sauce is ready, set up your lasagna-making station with your pan, sauce, ricotta mixture, lasagna noodles and mozzarella cheese close by.

Ladle a couple spoonfuls of tomato sauce into the pan and spread it out to cover the bottom. Add 3 to 4 lasagna noodles, then top with half the remaining tomato sauce and ½ cup mozzarella. Add another layer of noodles, then spread the entire ricotta mix over the noodles and top with more noodles. Finally, add the remaining tomato sauce and top with the remaining ½ cup of mozzarella.

Cover the lasagna pan with aluminum foil and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes, or until the mozzarella on top starts bubbling.

This recipe makes 8 to 10 servings depending on your hunger level. To make it go further, steam some broccoli and carrots to serve on the side or throw together a quick side salad. Enjoy!

Catherine Hiles is a Dayton, Ohio based editor, writer, runner, mother and amateur cook. She likes to spend her weekends running really far and then eating all the food.

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