Main Dish

What Everyone Brought Lasagna

One summer I suggested friends bring food items from the backs of their pantries and freezers to use up during a beach vacation. We ended up with a medley of useful and practically inedible items, but it helped me discover that nearly anything can work in a lasagna.

This recipe utilizes one of my favorite substitutions – replacing some or all of the ricotta cheese with Greek yogurt. Whatever spices you have on hand can be added to or substituted for the nutmeg and red pepper.

You can mix the captured ingredients together – say beans in tomato sauce – or use different items in each layer. You will need around nine cups of filling total. 

This lasagna served with a salad easily constitutes a full meal.

Serves 12


For the Ricotta mixture:
3 pounds fresh ricotta cheese
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound uncooked lasagna noodles
Oil or spray for pans

Options for the filling:
Any tomato sauce, room temperature
Cooked vegetables, sliced thin
Cooked meat or meat substitute like seitan, ground or sliced thin
Cooked beans or lentils
Cheese, sliced at most 1/4” thick

1. In a large bowl, mix ricotta, egg yolks, salt and spices. Cover and chill.
2. Place rack in middle of oven and reheat to 400 degrees. Grease an 11-by-14-by-3-inch lasagna baking pan.
3. Bring a large pot of water with one tablespoon salt to boil. Add oil and, one at a time, lasagna noodles. Cook until al dente, based on the time on box.
4. Meanwhile, grease a cooking sheet. Remove lasagna noodles with tongs and place in a single layer on cookie sheet or colander. Spray or drizzle oil between noodles if you have to layer them.
5. Spread about three cups of desired filling on bottom of prepared baking dish. Top with a single layer of lasagna noodles, using pieces of noodles to fully cover.
6. Top with ricotta mixture, then another layer of filling, then more lasagna noodles, until you reach the top of the pan. On the top layer of lasagna noodles, spread a thin amount of ricotta mixture, or layer with sliced cheese.
7. If you are saving for later, cover and refrigerate. To serve soon, bake one hour. If cheese or noodles brown too early, cover partially or wholly with aluminum foil.
8. Let cool for 15 minutes, then cut into 12 3.5” squares. Cover with a lid or tin foil until ready to eat.

Reheat leftovers in original pan or microwave.

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