Veggie Lasagna Rolls with Homemade Ricotta and Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce via Cooking for Keeps

Some have those they call their friends. I have friends I call my family.

I feel very fortunate to not only have a wonderful family that I’m very close to, but I also have a gaggle of girlfriends I feel as though are family. I’d do anything for them and them the same for me. We back each other up. We don’t judge. We make time for each other, even when life is crazy busy (Which is always!).

Some of these friends were acquired through sorority life. Some post college. Some high school. Some elementary school. And some from birth.

Veggie Lasagna Rolls with Homemade Ricotta and Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce via Cooking for Keeps

It’s crazy to think that my longest standing group of girlfriends I’ve known since I was literally in the womb. My friend and neighbor at the time, Meghan was 2 years old when I was born. We became immediate besties. Growing up, we’d play Nintendo, ride our bikes to the gas station, force my brother to watch scary movies when we knew he shouldn’t, walk on the roof, call psychic hot lines on our parents’ phones, light kleenx on fire just to see what would happen and generally create all kinds of crazy havoc.

My friend Amy and I met in Gymboree class when we were just two years old. We had play dates at each other’s houses, we had fun, laughed and got into an equal amount of trouble. We even did Glamour shots together at some point in time, you know, one of those cheesy places they used have at the mall where they made 10-year olds look well past 25? Gosh I wish I had those pictures to show you – classic!

My friend Megan (not to be confused with Meghan) and I are also friends from birth, in fact, we were born just six days apart. When we were little kids we would eat copious amounts of cookie dough, crimp our hair, watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks over and over and over, and ummm also got professional pictures taken together. (I must have REALLY liked to get my picture taken as a kid.)

Veggie Lasagna Rolls with Homemade Ricotta and Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce via Cooking for Keeps

All three of these girls and our Moms had a long-standing tradition of going to the Nutcracker around Christmastime each year; we’d get all dressed up, start the day early by having tea at a fancy hotel in KC, then head to the show and wrap up the night with a nice dinner on the Plaza. It was such a lovely tradition, but now that we’re all adults, we still try to get together at least once a year. (Of course the girls get together every other month or so sans the Moms.) Typically, we’ll do a fancy dinner around Christmastime and exchange some sort of small gift, but this year we did things a little different.

Veggie Lasagna Rolls with Homemade Ricotta and Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce via Cooking for Keeps

Since all of us girls own homes here in the KC area, we thought it would fun to rent a limo, and have a progressive dinner at each house. The Moms would pay for the limo, and the girls would provide the food and drinks at each house.

Megan had appetizers, Amy had the first course, yours truly had the second course and Meghan had dessert. We had a strict time limit, one hour at each house, so of course, each dish needed to be prepared ahead of time. I brainstormed what seemed like a million options until I finally settled on vegetable (one of the girls is vegetarian) lasagna roll ups with homemade ricotta (to utilize the the GALLON of whole milk I had in my fridge) and a humble grilled country bread with garlic.

Something simple, universally loved and in-season.

Veggie Lasagna Rolls with Homemade Ricotta and Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce via Cooking for Keeps

The beauty in the preparation of these, is all the vegetables are cooked in the same starchy, salty cooking liquid as the lasagna noodles. Once the noodles come out, the chopped asparagus goes in. Once the asparagus comes out, the peas go in. Once the peas come out, the corn goes in. All the veggies are then thrown into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process, laid to dry on paper towels and then tossed with chopped artichokes. Veggie filling complete.

The homemade ricotta is a step that is not necessary, but recommended (there is really nothing like homemade ricotta), the creamy cheese is mixed with a combination of sauteed leeks and garlic and then spread generously onto each lasagna noodle. Each one is then wrapped up, tucked tightly into a casserole dish and smothered in a seriously simple burst cherry tomato sauce.

While not exactly effortless in its preparation, these lasagna rolls are worth every bit of frustration when one lasagna noodle sticks to the other, and every morsel of patience required to individually blanch the veggies. They’re creamy, light and as I suspected, universally loved.

Veggie Lasagna Rolls with Homemade Ricotta and Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce via Cooking for Keeps

Veggie Lasagna Rolls with Homemade Ricotta and Burst Cherry Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 12 lasagna sheets
  • 2 ½ cups homemade or store-bought ricotta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 leeks, trimmed and sliced thin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 cup asparagus, chopped
  • 1 cup baby peas
  • 1 ear of corn
  • 4 artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 2 pounds cherry tomatoes
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Fill a stock pot large enough to hold lasagna noodles with water. Bring to a boil. Season liberally with salt. It should taste like the sea. Add pasta sheets one at a time. Cook in two batches if necessary. Cook until aldente. Once cooked drizzle with olive oil and lay on a baking sheet to cool. Leave cooking liquid on a simmer.
  3. Get a large bowl and fill with ice water. Put colander in ice water.
  4. When you remove pasta add asparagus. Cook 2-3 minutes until bright green and still crisp. Transfer to ice water bath.
  5. Add peas to water, cook 1 minute. Transfer to ice water. Remove asparagus and peas from water and drain.
  6. Add corn to simmering water. Cook until corn is bright yellow and cooked, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from water and cut from cob.
  7. Combine asparagus, peas, corn and chopped artichoke hearts. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. In a small sauté pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil, add leaks and cook until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
  9. Add to ricotta along with salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Stir until combined.
  10. To assemble ricotta: Spread about ¼ cup of ricotta on lasagna sheet. Cover with veggies. Roll up.
  11. Place in a greased baking dish.
  12. For the sauce: In a sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over a medium heat. Add garlic and tomatoes. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add wine. Continue to cook until tomatoes start to burst. Once they do, use the back of a wooden spoon and smash all the tomatoes. Let simmer for 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  13. Pour sauce over lasagna rolls and pop into the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes until hot.
  14. Serve with shaved parmesan cheese.
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