Originally posted July 18, 2015. Revised and updated February 17, 2017.Jump to the Recipe
Who doesn’t love a good lasagna? It’s the perfect dish to prepare for family or friends.
This version is a wonderful and light alternative to your standard lasagna, which is often prepared with ground meat and béchamel sauce.
It is a vegetarian alternative that easily compares with the original. And it comes with a special twist.
When it comes to today’s healthy eating habits, the idea that you have to eat meat at every meal, or at least every day, is a thing of the past.
Throughout most of human history, meat was only consumed occasionally (depending on the culture and geographic location). Even today, meat is not the primary focus of diets in many cultures or locations.
Vegetarian alternatives often taste equally delicious when compared to their meat-based counterparts, and they’re packed with vitamins, too. This recipe combines healthy spinach (perfect for good eye health!) with creamy ricotta, and fresh orange juice for a tangy twist.
Spinach is not uncommon in lasagna and is sometimes even used in combination with salmon instead of ground meat. You can use the frozen version in this recipe as well, if you have some already in the freezer or fresh is not available.
Be sure to thaw and thoroughly drain the spinach, so your final dish won’t become too watery.
Using orange juice as an ingredient in lasagna might sound odd, but it gives the lasagna a wonderful fruity aroma, and harmonizes really well with the tomatoes and the ricotta.
Try to use fresh oranges for this recipe. They have a more intense flavor than pre-made orange juice will.
This recipe calls for sieved tomatoes or “passata,” which is a common product found throughout Western Europe. From what I understand, this is not a product that’s commonly used in the US.
Anyhow, you can make a suitable substitute by running canned tomatoes through a food mill. Crushed tomatoes may also be used, or canned tomato sauce.
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Prepare Mise en Place
First, wash all of your produce well. If you are using fresh spinach, dry it in a salad spinner, then give it a rough chop.
If you are using frozen spinach, set it in a colander over a large mixing bowl or your sink to defrost and drain. Once it has reached room temperature, press with a spoon or paper towels to remove the excess water.
Squeeze the oranges and measure 1 cup of juice. Reserve the remaining juice for later use in this recipe.
Mince the garlic, chop the onions, and thinly slice the tomatoes.
Measure out the quantity of thyme, sugar, and butter that you will need, and grate the parmesan. Oregano or basil also make nice alternatives to the thyme, and you can substitute fresh if it’s available.
Step 2 – Sauce
Pour the canned tomatoes into a saucepan. Add the thyme, sugar, half of the garlic, and your pre-measured cup of orange juice.
Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. A pepper mill is a great kitchen tool to have on hand, to add the most flavorful seasoning, though pre-ground pepper may also be used if you prefer.
Step 3 – Ricotta Mixture
In a bowl, combine the chopped onions and the remaining garlic with the ricotta.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 4 – Spinach Mixture
In another pot, heat up the butter with the remaining orange juice.
Let the fresh spinach wilt in the mixture, or heat the frozen and defrosted spinach through, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Step 5 – Layer the Ingredients and Bake
Preheat the oven to 400°F (about 200°C).
Spread some tomato sauce in an even layer in the bottom of a 9×13” baking dish.
Layer with lasagna noodles, tomato sauce, spinach, tomato slices, and ricotta.
Repeat until you have used up all of the ingredients. The last layer should be ricotta.
Scatter the parmesan on top. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on top.
If you are worried about burning or drying out the top layer of your lasagna, you can cover it with foil before putting it in the oven. Remove the foil during the last 1o minutes of baking, or broil for a few final minutes of cooking to crisp the top.
Enjoy Some Meatless Magic
This wonderful vegetarian lasagna should be your next choice for Meatless Monday – or any other day of the week on which you would like to enjoy a creative and delicious meal.
The orange juice provides just the perfect amount of sweetness to complement the tasty tomato sauce. With rich ricotta in between and hearty parmesan on top, this lasagna will be as delicious as its classic relative.
Excited to try this classic dish with a new twist? Have you tried it at home? Share your thoughts and comments below – we want to hear from you!
And for more delicious lasagna recipes, check out some of these tasty dishes:
- Ricotta, Pecorino, and Mozzarella Lasagna with Mushrooms & Broccoli (Vegetarian)
- The Best Vegetarian Lasagna You’ll Ever Sink Your Teeth Into
- Mighty Meaty Lasagna for Weeknight Wins
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Photos by Nina-Kristin Isensee, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Nina-Kristin Isensee
Nina lives in Iserlohn, Germany and holds an MA in Art History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies). She is currently working as a freelance writer in various fields. She enjoys travel, photography, cooking, and baking. Nina tries to cook from scratch every day when she has the time and enjoys trying out new spices and ingredients, as well as surprising her family with new cake creations.