OK, I won’t kid you; this is not a quick recipe, or a simple one. But the result is just shy of heavenly. If you are organized and well-hydrated, you can go from ingredients to table in under four hours. If you’d rather break it up, you can do Steps 1 and 2 up to two days ahead. Just refrigerate the sauce and the mushrooms & onions and reheat briefly before assembly.
Zucchini & Mushroom Lasagna
Step 1: Make tomato sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced paper thin
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt (more, if tomatoes are unsalted)
1 teaspoon sugar
Heat olive oil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low & sauté garlic until fragrant, 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Uncover, raise heat, and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.
Step 2: Sauté mushrooms & onions
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb medium white button mushrooms, 1/4 inch trimmed from bottoms & halved
1 pound yellow onions, peeled & chopped 3/4 inch
Heat olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking; add onions and sauté until slightly browned, stirring once or twice, about 10 minutes. Reserve onions. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil to pan and return to heat. When hot, repeat procedure with mushrooms, stirring more often.
Step 3: Fry zucchini
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup milk
2 pounds zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
Whisk the flour, salt & pepper together in a large, shallow bowl. Do the same with the milk & eggs. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat in a 12-inch nonstick skillet until almost smoking. Slice and discard a 1/8-inch sliver of zucchini from each side (the long way) to expose the white flesh. Then cut the zucchini into 1/2-inch lengthwise slices. Dip in the milk mixture, then the flour mixture, being sure to coat the slice well in each. When oil is hot, drop slices into skillet in batches, frying about 1 minute per side, just long enough to turn the coating a nice golden color. Place finished slices on paper towels and blot (press hard) tops with more paper towels.
Step 4: Assemble and bake lasagna
1-1/2 pounds ricotta
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 large handful basil, minced
tomato sauce, above
fried zucchini, above
sautéed onions, above
sautéed mushrooms, above
1 pound mozzarella, grated
half of a 16-ounce can of cannelloni, rinsed & drained (optional)
about 5 ounces fresh spinach
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Combine ricotta, eggs, pepper, and basil in medium bowl; mix well. Oil a 9×13-inch glass baking dish. Spread a half-cup of tomato sauce in bottom of pan. Lay one-half of zucchini the long way to cover bottom of pan. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over zucchini, using a cake spatula. Cover ricotta with half of spinach leaves. Sprinkle onions and beans over spinach, then half of mozzarella. Spoon 1-1/2 cups tomato sauce evenly over mozzarella.
Continue with the remainder of the zucchini, then the rest of the ricotta mixture, then the spinach, then the mushrooms, the rest of the mozzarella, the rest of the sauce, and top with the Parmesan cheese.
Bake in middle of 375º oven for 1 hour; increase oven temperature to 400º and bake until lasagna bubbles along sides of baking pan, about 20-30 more minutes.