Lasagna is easy to assemble and it’s a family favorite, but the one thing I always associate with lasagna is the wake of dirty pots, pans, and bowls that are left behind – even before it makes it to the oven! Could I make a lasagna with ZERO prep work? What about ingredients that go straight into the pan and then straight into the oven?
In college, I would make pasta sauce from scratch, sauté mushrooms and various veggies, cook down spinach, sauté ground turkey or other meats, and shred various cheeses, sometimes mixed in bowls with other ingredients. I would also boil regular lasagna noodles (no-boil noodles weren’t available 20 years ago, or I just didn’t know about them) and juggle them from the pot to the sink to the pan. By the time I popped the lasagna pan into the oven, the kitchen looked like it was hit by a tornado.
When my husband and I were first married, lasagna was a regular part of my recipe repertoire. In the beginning, I would make it with the anticipation of enjoying a meal together, then having plenty leftover for lunch the next day and a bit more to freeze for a meal down the road. Alas, it never worked out that way. My husband, who has always been an avid athlete, would literally polish off an entire pan in one sitting. “Cary, would you give me a hand and put away the leftovers?”… “Um…What leftovers?”
Over the years, I got a bit more efficient and faster at making this popular dish. Sure, once in a while, I still like to do it all from scratch, but when dinner is around the corner, shortcuts such as no-boil noodles, marinara sauce, prepped veggies, and shredded cheese can save the day! And the variations are as limitless as your imagination. Spinach & ricotta lasagna, grilled veggie lasagna, pesto lasagna, hearty sausage lasagna, olive & artichoke lasagna, seafood Alfredo lasagna, 4-cheese lasagna…the list goes on and on. In our first cookbook, “Cooking with All Things Trader Joe’s,” we even made an Indian-themed lasagna inspired by the Indian dish, Saag Paneer.
In this recipe: No Prep Veggie Lasagna, we take advantage of all the shortcuts. No-boil noodles, prepared marinara, canned artichoke hearts, frozen Misto alla Griglia (grilled eggplant and zucchini), ricotta, frozen chopped spinach, and shredded cheese. All the ingredients go straight into the pan, leaving you a clean sink and stovetop. Let the oven do all the work while you read, relax, help the kids with homework, or throw the ball for your dog. The recipe is flexible – if you don’t like spinach, artichoke hearts, or even the Misto…just leave it out or substitute with another cooked ingredient. Even TJ’s breaded eggplant cutlets would work here if you like them better than the Misto. If you want to make it “meatier” but still vegetarian, substitute TJ’s popular soy chorizo for one of the ingredients.
- 1/2 (16-oz) box No Boil Lasagna Noodles
- 2 jars Tomato Basil Marinara (26 oz each)
- 1 (14-oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (optional)
- 1 bag frozen Misto all Griglia (grilled eggplant & zucchini), thawed
- 3 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1 (15-oz) container Fresh Ricotta or Fat Free Ricotta
- 1 (16-oz) bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 1/4 cup Parmesan or grated Pecorino Romano
- Basil or Italian parsley for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350° degrees F.
- Cover the bottom of an 8×12-inch or 9×13-inch baking dish with 1/2 cup marinara. Put down one layer of noodles (I used three noodles for each layer).
- Spread half the container of ricotta on the noodles.
- Squeeze the water out of the spinach. Layer half the spinach on top of the ricotta. Top with Misto alla Griglia slices and artichoke hearts. Pour on 1/3 of the marinara. Sprinkle on 1 cup mozzarella.
- Top with another layer of noodles, remaining ricotta, and remaining spinach, and remaining Misto slices and artichoke hearts. Pour on 1/3 of the marinara. Sprinkle on 1 cup mozzarella.
- Top with another layer of noodles, remaining marinara, and remaining mozzarella. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
- Bake, covered with foil, for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 20 minutes or longer, until top is bubbling and melted. Let lasagna cool for a few minutes before serving so it will hold its shape. Garnish with herbs when serving.
Make sure to thaw completely any frozen ingredients before layering it in the lasagna. Don’t be shy about using your hands when you make lasagna. I find it much easier to spread the ricotta and spinach with my fingers, and I compact and even out the layers by pressing with my hands.