Lasagna is a perennial favorite, but it’s not an Italian meal you typically make in the summer.
There’s the time factor—lasagna is hands-off once it’s in the oven, but it typically takes an extended time to bake, which means it makes your kitchen hotter than maybe you want it to be. Or maybe you’d rather be outside doing outside summer things than cooking a big lasagna.
And there’s all that cheese. I love cheese, but too much of it in the summertime when it’s already hot, weighs me down (I’d much rather take my dairy in ice-cold form—are you with me?)
And the super-hot nature of lasagna when it does come out of the oven is not necessarily something one craves when it’s already hot out. Enter, the deconstructed, no-bake lasagna!
This no-bake summer lasagna eliminates all of those variables.
- There’s no oven, and therefore no baking, involved.
- You eat it at room temperature, because there is no oven involved.
- There’s no burning of the tongue, because there is no oven involved.
- It assembles quickly, because there is no oven involved.
Are you noticing a trend here?
What is in this no-bake lasagna?
This no-bake lasagna is somewhat minimalist, but still totally feels and tastes like lasagna, albeit in a summertime, fresh-from-the-garden kind of way. It’s a colorful mix of cherry tomatoes, zucchini, and summer squash that get just the barest amount of stovetop stirring.
Whip some ricotta cheese with lemon zest to brighten up the flavors even more, then layer with the vegetables and noodles on individual plates.
Assembling No-Bake Lasagna
You don’t need the entire box of noodles, first of all. One noodle yields one full serving of lasagna because you cut the noodle into thirds to create three layers.
I typically make extra noodles because experience has taught me that there’s always at least one or two rogue noodles you have to replace because they split or get stuck together and then tear when you try to separate them. You might also want to load your lasagna with an extra layer, or you might want want to have some already-cooked noodles for eating up leftovers the next day.
To assemble this lasagna, it’s a one-plate-at-a-time deal: You cut each noodle into thirds, then layer with the ricotta, the squash mix, the tomato mix, and then the basil leaves. Pick the biggest basil leaves you can find in your bunch and don’t even bother cutting them. Leave them whole as if they were spinach leaves.
Top the whole thing with a shower of fresh Parm, or, if you’re feeling the need for something a little sharper, pecorino romano. (This is often my go-to.)
How to Serve No-Bake Lasagna (It’s Not Hard!)
Something interesting happened with this dish the last time I made it. When I’ve made it before, I’ve typically plated each serving individually. It feels fancy and special to get a totally composed dish presented to you on a weeknight, and it doesn’t really take that much time. It’s kind of the opposite of how you operate with traditional lasagna, but it only looks fussy—scout’s honor.
(It’s also the kind of dish that would be ideal to make AFTER the kids go to bed, if they’re young enough that you don’t think this would go over, but you’re feeling adventurous and want to eat something that feels, ahem, more grown-up.)
However, the day I photographed this recipe, my kids came over with their dad during dinner time, and they needed to eat. I brought out all the leftovers from earlier in the day, and everyone assembled their own plates—kind of like you would do with tacos.
My son Desmond deconstructed it further and treated each noodle like its own creation—almost akin to pizza. He decided he didn’t want ricotta but loaded up on Parm and basil and tomatoes.
So basically, this dish can be a one-plate-at-a-time meal, or something you can bring to the table in separate components and have people do it themselves. In the latter scenario, you may find that you need a little more flexibility with amounts. You know the crowd you’re feeding. (Mine loves tomatoes, so I’d up the tomato amount if I were intentionally serving it this way.)
This dish is not hot. It’s not cold. It’s best served at room temperature. And that’s about how it ends up, once you cook the noodles and the filling and layer everything.
WAYS TO USE UP THE LEFTOVER CHARD
This is going to sound weird. I admit it. I’m using the Swiss chard in this recipe just for the stems.
I tried sautéing chard leaves for this recipe, but they just made the lasagna overwhelmingly earthy and it was too distracting. The chard stems, however, brought just enough earthiness to the base flavors of the dish when chopped and cooked with the shallots.
What to do with your leftover chard greens after making this recipe? Take those greens, chop them up, and add to scrambled eggs, a soup with some potatoes and lentils, or use them in a salad with other assertive greens. Or check out these 10 ways to use up a bunch of greens!
Bonus: If you can get rainbow chard, those stems will be even prettier when you cut them up and add them to the pan with the shallots, and combine them with everything else! We eat with our eyes first.
WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS
This dish makes fantastic leftovers, and it’s even more rewarding because you’ve already done the work. Yahoo! They’re good for at least two to three days, and after that, pasta just gets a little dried out.
Store the leftover noodles by themselves in a covered container in layers separated by paper towels or wax paper. Then, you can just reheat the tomatoes and zucchini just the barest bit (or hotter, if you want!) separately in the microwave. To warm the noodles, run boiling water over them to warm them up a bit (or, if you’re feeling super lazy, super-hot tap water is fine). Shake them out a bit or pat them with paper towels, and you’re good to go.
I like this dish at just barely room temperature, which is how it will taste by the time you’ve plated everything. I love it when a plan comes together!
Love Pasta With Summer Veggies? So Do We!
No-Bake Lasagna Recipe
- 6 to 8 lasagna noodles
- 1 (16-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
- Zest of one lemon
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup minced shallots
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped (save the leaves for another purpose)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 1/2 cups zucchini, sliced 1/2-inch thin and quartered
- 1 1/2 cups summer squash, sliced 1/2-inch thin and quartered
- 2 1/2 cups mixed cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 bunch basil, largest leaves
1 Cook the noodles: Bring a large pot of salted water over high heat to boil. Boil the lasagna noodles according to the package directions. With tongs, remove carefully from the water one at a time and set them over a wire rack to air dry until cool enough to handle.
2 Prep the whipped ricotta: Using a hand mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the ricotta cheese, lemon zest, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and a dash of freshly ground pepper for about a minute, until it’s fluffy and airy – whipping helps it go further and makes it spreadable. Set aside.
3 Sauté the veggies: Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a medium sauté pan set over medium heat. Once the oil starts to shimmer a little bit, add the shallots, chard stems, and garlic. Add the rest of the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, just until they begin to soften.
Add the zucchini and squash, and cook for about 5 minutes just until the veggies are tender. Remove from the heat, and remove the veggies to a separate bowl.
4 Cook the tomatoes: Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to that same medium sauté pan (don’t even bother wiping it out, it’s all going in the same place anyway!) and add the halved tomatoes. Cook just until they start to soften and release some juices—this should take no more than a couple of minutes, especially because the pan will still be hot.
5 Assemble the lasagna: Cut all the noodles into thirds. Place a cut noodle down on a plate, and spread a layer of the whipped ricotta, about a couple of tablespoons or so, on top, spreading it all the way to the edge.
Add the squash and shallot mix (about 2 tablespoons or so), followed by a few tablespoons of the tomatoes, followed by a couple of leaves of basil. Add another layer of noodle, and repeat twice. And then repeat the whole process for the rest of your diners!
Alternatively: Take a stack of cut noodles to the table, loosely separated by wax paper or damp paper towels. Have everyone serve themselves the lasagna ingredients of their choice, in the order that they prefer, with the precise arrangement of veggies and cheese as desired. Really, it’s up to you!
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