OPINION | FRONT BURNER: Spread the Lasagna Love with this cheesy recipe

Three Cheese Vegetable Lasagna Rolls (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Kelly Brant)

I'd never heard of Lasagna Love (aside from the kind I feel when I'm eating lasagna) until a few weeks ago when friends in different states (Arkansas and Missouri) wrote about their experiences making and sharing lasagna with neighbors in need.

Lasagna Love was created by Rhiannon Menn in March 2020 as a way to help other moms in the early days of the pandemic. She and her young daughter made and delivered lasagnas to families in their neighborhood, families who needed a little help getting dinner on the table — whether the struggle was financial or emotional.

As word spread, the program grew with more moms (and dads) joining Menn in preparing and delivering homemade lasagnas.

As of late March of this year, Lasagna Love had connected neighbors and delivered more than 41,000 lasagnas in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

Anyone can participate and anyone can request a meal, including those with dietary restrictions. For more information about Lasagna Love, visit lasagnalove.org or facebook.com/WeAreLasagnaLove

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Three Cheese Vegetable Lasagna Rolls

  • 1 yellow squash or zucchini
  • Salt
  • 6 or 8 lasagna noodles
  • 1 red bell pepper OR 1 jarred roasted red bell pepper
  • 1 (15- or 16-ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided use, plus more to taste
  • 4 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning blend, or to taste (I use a blend of oregano, basil, garlic and red pepper)
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups marinara (homemade or jarred)

Very thinly slice the squash or zucchini, either into rounds or long strips. I used a mandoline set at 3 mm. Sprinkle the slices lightly with salt and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cool water.

If using a fresh bell pepper, heat the broiler to high.

Cut the bell pepper in half, cutting from the stem through the blossom end. Remove stem, core, seeds and ribs. Place the halves, skin side up, on a foil-lined broiler safe pan. Broil pepper halves until skins are uniformly blackened. Pull the corners of the foil up around the pepper halves to steam.

Using paper towels, pat or squeeze dry the salted squash or zucchini; set aside.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 ½ cups of the mozzarella, the parmesan, Italian seasoning, a pinch of salt and generous grind of ground black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired, and then add the egg and mix well.

Remove the charred skin from the bell pepper and finely dice the pepper flesh. Stir diced bell pepper into the cheese mixture.

Spread enough of the marinara to coat the bottom of a medium baking dish (I used a 2-quart Pyrex).

Working with one lasagna noodle at a time, spread a thick layer of the cheese mixture down the center and then top the cheese with a layer of squash or zucchini. (You can reverse this order if you like, arranging the squash on top of the noodle and then spreading with cheese.) Carefully roll the noodle up and place it in the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining noodles, cheese and squash.

Pour the remaining marinara over the lasagna rolls and sprinkle the remaining mozzarella on top.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Makes 6 or 8 rolls.