Vegetable Béchamel Lasagna

The story of making my first true batch of béchamel sauce comes thanks to my annual visit from a good college friend. Krystal and I go back a few years, proud Bay Path alums. Honest to goodness, she is pretty much the only friend I enjoy hosting at my apartment, because she’s so easy to deal with! We go out to Sweet Chick in Williamsburg for her annual devouring of chicken and waffles, we wander with no real agenda or pressure to do anything else in specific, we blow up our friends’ Instagram feeds, we watch TV and take naps at my apartment, and it’s all a beautiful thing.

Williamsburg

Krystal looking amazing at MatchaBar in Williamsburg; Me looking like an angry grafitti pig in Greenpoint.

This past visit happened to land on Derby Saturday. (Read: Another unofficial drinking holiday all bars in NYC try to profit off of. Heh. Mint Juleps, anyone?) There were a few specials for this day at Sweet Chick, including an appetizing turkey sandwich. Krystal asked me, “What’s béchamel sauce?”  The sandwich was laden with it. I explained it to her in the simplest terms: it’s a generic white sauce. I make it constantly, in its quickest form, whenever I make my famous Classic Mac & Cheese. Later that evening, I was sitting on my couch, thinking of a good vegetarian dinner to make to compliment a bottle of good red wine. After thinking of vegetable lasagna, I cruised Google for some recipes, and came up on one for a “Spinach Lasagna Béchamel”. Perfect! The food nerd in me was excited to show Krystal what a béchamel was all about.

bechamel sauce

Bèchemal Sauce, on fleek and Instagram-ready. 💁

I remember eating a very similar béchamel-based vegetable lasagna in college, one of my favorite meals in the veritable questionable landscape that was my college cafeteria. Granted, mine was much better, but it did bring back nostalgia from roughly a decade ago.

 vegetable lasagna

Vegetable Béchamel Lasagna
(Adapted from Cooks.com Spinach Lasagna Béchamel recipe)
(Serves…well…at lot.)

Ingredients:

Béchamel Sauce
– 6 cups whole milk
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter
– 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
– Salt & pepper to taste

Lasagna
– 1 package pre-boiled lasagna noodles
– 1 large white onion, chopped
– 1 small zucchini, grated and drained
– 1 16 oz. container ricotta cheese
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 eggs
– 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
– 2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
– 20 ounces frozen spinach (roughly two packages), thawed and drained
– 3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
– 3 tablespoons olive oil

Before We Get Started…

– Expect to use a lot of time cooking this! Though I usually do not count my prep times, it took me roughly 45 minutes to create plus another 50 minutes to bake.

– I used three different sauce pans; you’ll need one to sauté the vegetables, one to heat the milk for the béchamel sauce, and yet another to make the roux for the sauce. The sauce pan that will heat the milk should have a capacity of at least 8 cups, and the one for the roux should have a capacity of at least 10 cups. Be prepared and get ’em ready!

– Frozen spinach, compared to fresh, really is your best option here. It’s already cooked and compressed. Though I’d certainly never stop you, cooking your own spinach just adds an extra step to an already long process.

– This is best cooked in your average 9″ x 13″ sheet pan.

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease baking pan and set aside.

2.) Heat up olive oil in sauce pan (medium-high heat); add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Add spinach, zucchini, and 1/2 cup of the parsley. Mix and set aside.

3.) In large bowl, mix ricotta, eggs, 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese, and the remainder of the parsley.

4.) In sauce pan (10+ cup capacity), slowly heat butter until melted. Add flour and whisk into a light roux. (Refer to this recipe if you need instructions on creating a roux.) In another large sauce pan (8+ cup capacity), add milk and heat on medium-high until hot but not boiling. Slowly add milk to roux, whisking each time milk is incorporated. Once all milk has been added, continue to whisk until sauce is thick and smooth.

5.) Layer ingredients in baking pan, from the bottom to the top, as follows:

-1 & 1/2 cups béchamel sauce, spread along the bottom of the pan
– 3 to 4 lasagna noodles (dependent upon how close you place them to each other)
– Half of the vegetable mixture
– 1 & 1/2 cups mozzarella
– 1 & 1/2 to 2 cups béchamel sauce
– 3 to 4 lasagna noodles
– All of the ricotta mixture
– Remainder of the vegetable mixture
– 1 & 1/2 to 2 cups béchamel sauce
– 3 to 4 lasagna noodles
– Remainder of béchamel sauce
– Remainder of both parmesan and mozzarella cheeses

6.) Bake for 50 minutes. If preferred, cover with aluminum foil for the first 40 minutes of baking to prevent browning of cheese. Remove lasagna from oven and allow 15 minutes for lasagna to set before serving.

 vegetable lasagna

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