Pasta dishes are a dinner staple at our house, but one item that hardly ever makes it onto our menu is lasagna. I think it's because I always associate making lasagna with a lot of WORK. I have to make the meat sauce, make the white sauce, cook the noodles, then layer everything, then bake. That's a lot of pans and a lot of time, especially for someone who usually starts thinking about what to make for dinner 30 minutes before dinnertime!
A few weeks ago I decided to bite the bullet and make a lasagna. When planning the ingredients, I decided to use Trader Joe's canned marinara sauce, and that turned out to be the shortcut that turned lasagna into a dreaded time-suck into a dish that I can make as easily as a stir-fry. What I've come to realize is that lasagna is as labor-intensive as you want it to be. You can easily substitute prepared foods for some or all of the ingredients like the white sauce and the red sauce, so all you really have to do is layer the dish.
Here's a set of guidelines for making veggie lasagna, complete with "in-a-pinch" shortcuts. I used the word "guidelines" deliberately -- this is not a recipe! I don't have any measurements, and you can substitute meat for the veggies, or use whatever kind of shredded cheese you have on hand. It's all very loosey-goosey, which is how I usually like to cook. Enjoy!
Easy veggie lasagnaSautee chopped onions, garlic, red bell peppers, mushrooms, and zucchini. Simmer till the liquid evaporates. If you're in a pinch, steam a bag of frozen veggies.
Make a white sauce with butter, flour, milk, salt, and pepper. In a pinch, use a jar of alfredo sauce.
Make a red pasta sauce. In a pinch, use canned or bottled sauce.
Boil lasagna noodles. In a pinch, use no-bake lasagna noodles -- but be forewarned! In my (admittedly limited) experience, no-bake noodles turn out to be hard and chewy unless you par-boil them or let them sit for a while in boiled water... in which case, you might as well boil the noodles anyway!
Layer the ingredients -- tomato sauce, noodles, veggies, white sauce, mozzarella cheese. I try to get to 3 layers.
Finish off with a layer of mozarella cheese. Bake at 400 for 50-60 minutes.
You can make a second batch so that you have enough food for 2 meals without any more work -- just increase the quantities and get out a second casserole!