Making lasagna in the bowels of the summer is probably a mild form of S&M. But there is no better time to make a pan of vegetable lasagna. Sun-ripened vegetables are abundant. Usually at reasonable, if not dirt-cheap, prices. And everyone needs a break from grilled meat, potato salad and slaw every now and again.

Although this lasagna is bechamel- and meat-free, there’s nothing boring about it. Every layer is designed for maximum flavor: a punchy puttanesca sauce with capers and red pepper flakes, pesto-infused ricotta, grilled summer vegetables, freshly grated mozzarella and a finish of sweet pesto oil.

It’s a meatless dish, but it doesn’t taste like anything is missing.

The individual components can be time-consuming, but there are plenty of opportunities to cut corners without losing the integrity of the dish. Pick up some no-boil lasagna noodles. Jazz up a jarred puttanesca sauce, or add olive oil to a prepared pesto. And feel free to roast the vegetables you have on-hand rather than the combination in the recipe. I used zucchini, peppers, eggplant and onions, but mushrooms and/or squash would add a lot to the mix. You could even grill corn and add the kernels.

But, since there are serious size discrepancies within the vegetable community, don’t be surprised if you have more grilled vegetables than your lasagna pan will hold. Sometimes I make a second smaller pan, but the leftover vegetables could be mixed with couscous and a handful of feta, tossed with pasta or sandwiched between toasted bread slices with a little goat cheese.

So, here’s to getting the most out of the season with more meatless meals and vegetable plates. Let other people OD on hot dogs.

Grilled Vegetable Lasagna with Puttanesca Sauce and Pesto Oil

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

  • 1 1/4 pounds lasagna noodles, prepared according to package directions
  • 2 pounds ricotta
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • Puttanesca Sauce (recipe follows)
  • Grilled Vegetables (recipe follows)
  • Pesto Oil (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta cheese with salt and 1/2 cup of Pesto Oil.
  3. Lightly grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, then spoon 1/2 cup of Puttanesca Sauce onto the bottom of the dish.
  4. Cover with a layer of lasagna noodles.
  5. Top the lasagna with a layer of ricotta, then a layer of grilled vegetables, a layer of mozzarella, and a layer of Puttanesca Sauce.
  6. Repeat layering the lasagna, ricotta, vegetables, mozzarella and sauce in this manner until all ingredients have been used, ending with mozzarella on top.
  7. Bake until the lasagna is bubbling and golden brown, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Allow to rest 10 minutes before serving, drizzled with the remaining Pesto Oil.

Puttanesca Sauce

  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans Roma plum tomatoes, broken into pieces, with juice (recommended: San Marzano)
  • 1 cup tightly packed, pitted, chopped Kalamata olives
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add the onion and saute until soft and lightly caramelized, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes and the remaining ingredients and simmer until the sauce is thickened and slightly reduced, about 40 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste, cover and set aside.

Pesto Oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

In the bowl of a food processor or blender place the garlic and basil and process on high while adding the olive oil in a steady stream. Continue to process until well blended, season with salt to taste and set aside until ready to assemble lasagna.

Grilled Vegetables

  • 4 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
  • 4 red or yellow bell peppers, roasted, seeded and peeled
  • 2 medium eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 2 large yellow onions, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Light the grill or preheat the broiler.
  2. In a large shallow bowl, toss the vegetables with oil and salt. If using the broiler, arrange the vegetables in a single layer on 2 lightly greased or non-stick baking sheets. Grill or broil in batches, turning the vegetables once, until they are tender, lightly browned, and have released most of their moisture, about 5 to 6 minutes per side.