A lot of really good things come in layers.


Ball gowns.

Rainbow cookies.

Neapolitan ice cream.

Your immune system. My immune system. Everyone’s immune system.

(Bet you didn’t think I was going there now did you!)
In fact. Let’s talk about your immune system for a minute. Shall we?

Life may be like a box of chocolates. But your immune system. Is kind of like a piece of lasagna.

Let me explain.
First. You have the noodle. Which, while admittedly the simplest of all of the lasagna components, is also the most integral. You need it to hold everything together. Otherwise what you’d have is a huge pile of cheese and, in this case, vegetable filling. Not a bad thing. But not lasagna.

So the noodle. Is kind of like the skin. We all have it. We all need it. And without it, we’d just be a huge pile of viscera, water, and fat. Yuck.

Let’s all take a minute and appreciate our skin. Give it a pat on the back. Or a hug. Let it know we care.

Next. We have the cheese. Just as integral. Because, well, let’s be honest. The noodles are good. But the whole point of eating lasagna is to gorge yourself on mass amounts of ricotta. It’s the closest we can come to just sticking a spoon into the container and going at it. Without seeming like a totally indulgent lunatic (not that that’s ever stopped me. But you know. Some people have a semblance of self respect).

The point being that the ricotta is what makes us so impulsive about lasagna. It’s the reason why we sit there eating it out of the tray with a fork with no regard for portion control. At all. Whatsoever.

Like the innate immune system. Macrophages, dendritic cells, mast cells. Who just jump into staving off infection. Without a thought as to how their actions might impact the body as a whole. They go for it. Hell or high water. Sometimes rightfully so. When the pathogen in question is something like an adenovirus or streptococcus. But not so much when it’s something benign. Like cherry blossoms. Or that adorable puppy next door who you have to pet on your way to work everyday.

Yeah. It can be a bit overzealous.

Finally. The filling. The only truly variable part of lasagna. Meat. Veggies. Both.

A little more thought goes into this layer. It is pensive. Restrained. It can be adapted to taste.

Like the B cells and T cells of the adaptive immune system. It reflects where you’ve been and who you are. It is history. And future. All rolled into one.

You have antibodies against varicella zoster? Then I can tell you that you had the chicken pox when you were five. Along with everyone else in your kindergarten class. And I can also tell you that you will never get it again. No matter how many times you cross paths in the future.

How’s that for fortune telling?

Similarly. What you choose to stuff your lasagna with. Speaks volumes about your childhood. Your lifestyle How clogged your arteries are going to be in ten years.

Whether or not you will ever get someone to marry you for your cooking.

You know. The critical things.
I made this lasagna for my friend Mari when she came over last week. Not to toot my own horn or anything. But it was the best lasagna I’ve made so far. The bitterness of the broccoli rabe played really well off of the almost sweet, rich, creamy ricotta. An unlikely duo. But, hey. That never stopped anyone.

Vegetarian Lasagna with Broccoli Rabe
Serves 4

9 sheets lasagna
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (I used the one above. Yes, I cheated. But it’s only ingredients are San Marzano tomatoes, fresh onions, extra virgin olive oil, salt, fresh basil, and pepper. You can’t go wrong there.)
2 cups part-skim ricotta
1 egg
1 bunch broccoli rabe, rinsed
1 cup shredded mozzarella
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
pecorino romano, for sprinkling on top

1. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Boil the broccoli rabe for two minutes. Drain and blanch immediately with cold water.

3. Mix together the ricotta, egg, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

4. In the bottom of an 8×8 inch pan, spread a layer of the tomato sauce. Top with three sheets of lasagna (or enough to line the pan). Cover with 1/2 of the ricotta mixture and 1/2 of the broccoli rabe. Top with a layer of sauce.

5. Cover with another three lasagna sheets. Add the rest of the ricotta, the rest of the broccoli rabe and some more sauce.

6. Add one final layer of lasagna sheets. Top with sauce, the mozzarella, and a sprinkling of pecorino.

7. Bake, covered with aluminum foil, for 30 minutes. Then uncovered for fifteen minutes.

8. Let stand for five minutes before cutting. Serve.

This is my submission for Presto Pasta Nights, which is being hosted this week by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast.

You are reading this post on Eats Well With Others at https://joanne-eatswellwithothers.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of Eats Well With Others. All rights reserved by Joanne Bruno.
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93 Responses to Vegetarian Lasagna with Broccoli Rabe

  1. Don’t I love this dish?….looks so very yummy!

  2. SE says:

    Lot of good things comes in layers !!! wonderful line…lasagna looks very tempting !!

  3. Debbi Smith says:

    I homeschool my kids and we just started a unit on the human body and were just reading about the immune system (on about a 5th grade level). I’ll bet they’ve love to read your comparing it to lasagna.

    I have a couple of vegetarian lasagnas and this looks great! So what really is the difference between broccoli rabe and just broccoli? I know it looks a bit different but is the taste completely different? I could look it up too, I’ve just never used broccoli rabe.

  4. Kim says:

    Let’s all take a minute and appreciate our skin. Give it a pat on the back. Or a hug. Let it know we care – LOL! You’re cracking me up this morning, Joanne! I might just have to go pamper my skin with a bubble bath.
    I’m all for this veggie lasagna with the broccoli rabe. Gotta love those red,white and green layers. Seems like it is some serious comfort food:D

  5. Katie says:

    This lasagna sounds fabulous! I have a hard time finding broccoli rabe, but I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it.

  6. Are we long lost sisters, separated at Birth?Cause you like what I like and viceversa..hmm almost..You love pudding..so do I..you are crazy for broccoli rabe and so am i..lol..
    This is a very unique lasagna recipe dear..never heard of such a thing before..Looking fabulous and if you say this is the best ever lasagna, then I agree.

  7. Little Inbox says:

    This sounds more healthy, will feel less guilty after having it. πŸ™‚

  8. Barbara says:

    Lovely lesson re our immune systems! And comparing it to lasagna is only something a med student would think of!

    But OK. I love lasagna. But what I like most about yours is the amount of green, healthy veggies in it! My immune system is perking up just looking at it!

  9. Pam says:

    You just never know what you’ll find with recipes and I appreciate this immune system lesson and the lasagna! It sounds delicious and the broccoli certainly can’t hurt our immune systems! I will be trying this!

  10. PJ says:

    now this is the lasagna i would love to eat any day any time.. i love cooking with broccoli rabes; somehow it makes me think that i have done something good for my body (so that the followup cake or ice-cream doesn’t feel too bad ;))

  11. This sounds healthy and looks so delicious Joanne!!! Lovely!

  12. elra says:

    Yummy and healthy. Lovely idea Jo!

  13. comfycook says:

    Some of my favorite ingredients put together to make delicious.

  14. Toni says:

    It looks kind of like Christmas. And lasagna is, after all, one of my favorite things (insert the rest of the lyrics abut kittens and whiskers and mittens and rain here.)

  15. Shannon says:

    holy moly, that lasagna looks a-mazing! and loved the immune system reference πŸ™‚ i know, i’m a dork…

  16. Sippity Sup says:

    Layers are an intriguing concept. Both in food and life! GREG

  17. A fabulous idea to make a lasagna with broccoli rabe! It sounds excellent!

  18. Mari says:

    EVERYONE BE JEALOUS OF ME BECAUSE THIS WAS AMAZING! Thanks so much again for the invite and making such amazing eats!

  19. wow such a beautiful lasagne…loved this one too joanne

  20. Wow, SO gorgeous, Joanne. πŸ™‚ You’re such a fabulous person to cook such loveliness for your friends. πŸ™‚

  21. polwig says:

    Love it… broccoli rabe is awesome… plus you are thinking so green that there is no stopping here… Great Spring Lasagnia… keep the meaty ones for cold winter days

  22. Gulmohar says:

    Fabulous…Your friend is so lucky πŸ™‚

  23. MMMMMM, I love broccoli rabe. What a great spring/summer lasagna and a boost for the immune system to boot!

  24. MaryMoh says:

    I should make this for my family…a good way to hide vegetables πŸ˜›

  25. Kelsey says:

    whats better than learning how to make a delicious lasagne? .. well getting an important science lesson from an amazing person of course!! hehe <3 have a fantastic day πŸ™‚

  26. Justin says:

    fascinating post. i personally love broccoli rabe, but is it tricky to cut this into pieces, since it tends to be a little firm? well, i’m sure the flavor is great.

  27. oh this is right up my alley…..i love simple meatless lasagnas πŸ™‚

  28. Pam says:

    I love your medical lessons. And I just got some broccoli rabe from my csa, so I’m going to try to do something sort of similar!

  29. Katerina says:

    I love lasagna and unlike my son I love broccoli. This looks so mouthwatering.

  30. I can do vegetarian with this on the menu

  31. Marcia says:

    Oooh, Joanne that looks really good. I love lasagna, and have never tried it with broccoli rabe. Broccoli and kale, yes.

  32. Julie says:

    So, does eating lasagna help my immune system? Because I’m really good at that. Never had rabe, wonder where I can buy that around here.

  33. Fabulous Recipe I use Broccoli Rabe in many things have done a spinach shrimp lasagna, this is a great idea~ will try this πŸ™‚ thanks for sharing looks fabulous

  34. Mary says:

    I love a good lasagna and this one looks fabulous. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings…Mary

  35. Amy says:

    Great, now I will never be able to eat lasagna again without thinking about my immune system or my skin. There’s something I never thought I’d say!

  36. Jen says:

    mari is so lucky she got to eat some, that looks AMAZING!!!!

  37. Lea Ann says:

    Indulgent Lunatic?? LOL, that’s me when it comes to ricotta and Italian Sausage lasagne. This version sounds wonderful and I will be giving it a try. As always, fabulous post!

  38. “What you choose to stuff your lasagna with. Speaks volumes about your childhood. Your lifestyle How clogged your arteries are going to be in ten years.

    Whether or not you will ever get someone to marry you for your cooking.”

    Admitting you have a problem is the beginning of finding a cure…

    Add a meat sauce and invite a date over (and leave off the Broccoli).

  39. grace says:

    broccoli rabe in lasagna? get outta town! what a great idea–it adds color, texture, and an awesome and complex flavor. right on, joanne.

  40. teresa says:

    oh my gosh, i think i might just like this better than regular lasagna, it’s so pretty too!

    i loved this post, i feel like i come away with a greater appreciation for the human body!

  41. Debbie says:

    This lasagna looks delicious. One of the very best veggies ones I have seen. I’m saving this recipe. Thanks!!!!

  42. Bob says:

    What an… interesting… way of describing lasagna. Heh. Looks great! πŸ˜€

  43. Raina says:

    This looks amazing. Great idea with the broccoli rabe. I love the added nutrition and flavor that it would add. Yum..definitely going to try this! That is one healthy immune system! Thanks Doc!

  44. Radhika says:

    This looks fabulous Joanne! And what a great idea to use broccoli rabe in it, one healthy immune system for sure!

  45. Your comparisons to medical school always make me realize how nerdy future doctors really are πŸ˜‰


  46. Julie says:

    holy lasagne gasm.

    if our immune system is like lasagne i hope i get to eat mine..

    weird comment hahahaha

  47. What a gorgeous veggie filled lasagna!! I would love this. Digging your vivid lasagna meets MD descriptions.

  48. Mo Diva says:

    what amazing photos.
    And I really dug the comparison of our immune systems. Maybe If I keep reading your blog while youre in medical school I can get my degree too, yes? LOL

    Im coming over next time. punto.

  49. sweetlife says:

    layers, yes I’m so many layers not all good..this looks fab, hey mari is a lucky gal…


  50. Pam says:

    Thans for the immune system lesson. I always learn something new from your posts… for example, never tell a cab driver I am single. πŸ™‚

    The lasagna looks FANTASTIC! I love the photos.

  51. gaga says:

    How tasty and healthy too. It looks beautiful.

  52. theUngourmet says:

    Thanks for the lesson! I’ve never had broccoli rabe in lasagna. It looks fantastic!

  53. Sophie says:

    A stunning looking lasagne!!

    I so love broccoli rabe or rapini in Italian!

    Lovely food, Joanne!

  54. Beautiful presentation dear,,like the way u made the lasagna..

  55. Nicole, RD says:

    Skin is pretty wonderful, yep! Even wrinkly!

    The lasagna looks wonderful! I’ve always seen broccoli rabe (and I think I tried, and loved, it once) — it’s not any more bitter than broccoli, is it? After my bitter arugula the other day, I’m weary of bitter! But this looks and sounds wonderful! Besides, I haven’t not loved a dish of yours I’ve tried thus far! πŸ™‚

  56. Yosha says:

    This is why I love your site – great pics, food for the eyes. Delicious recipe, food for the soul. A lesson in the human body, one that is interesting and makes sense, food for the brain! Where were you when I was in grade 10 and dropping my bio class because it didn’t make sense and too much memorization with little logic?!!!

  57. dude, i should make this for my mom ! she loves lasagna!

    and dude. fro yo is AWESOME! cookies and cream! coffee! endless amounts of toppings! AUGHH!

  58. Yasmeen says:

    Interesting lesson about immune system and a very healthful green lasagna πŸ˜€

  59. Jessie says:

    *Tries to imagine herself a as huge pile of viscera, water, and fat. Thankfully fails, so decides to pat her skin in appreciation. Draws strange strange looks* At least I’m not patting lasagna noodles πŸ™‚

    Once again, your lasagna recipes is great! I shove down ricotta by the spoonful, so this recipe looks like just what I need. My T-cells need nourishment, right? πŸ™‚

  60. Beth says:

    I LOVE broccoli rabe!! So excited to try your lasagna with the bitter green. Sounds delicious!

  61. Looks so delicious with the greens! I am thinking shepherd’s purse would be perfect too for this veggie treat!

  62. daphne says:

    oh Joanne- this must be the most GREEN lasagna I have ever seen! You did such a great job with it too-I feel hungry looking at it already!

  63. well..this is…..interesting. I actually prefer the “skin” to the filling. Sounds really good with the bitterness of the broccoli rabe!

  64. Beautiful dish. Gorgeous photos. Good luck, hope you win the competition. Cheers!

  65. Stella says:

    Very cute comparison, Joanne! Besides being like the immune system, this lasagna looks like it would be good for one’s immune system-I like all of that green going on in there!!
    Broccoli Rabe is good too…

  66. Danielle says:

    I will never look at a lasagna the same again! LOL…love your veggie lasagna!!!

  67. kickpleat says:

    Oooh, it’s been ages since I’ve had lasagna and this one looks stunning!

  68. Kathleen says:

    Joanne, this looks amazing. Delicious and good for you. That’s a win win in my book!

  69. Cynthia says:

    That was the most informative comparison I’ve ever read lol. Your doctors roots are showing ;). I saw a recipe for broccoli rabe lasagne the other day and I thought it sounded delicious and here you are making it. I bet the crunch of the rabe and the softness of the noodles were a great combination!

  70. Andreas says:

    Looks delicious.
    I need more lasagna in my life. πŸ˜‰

  71. Andreas says:

    Looks delicious.
    I need more lasagna in my life. πŸ˜‰

  72. This looks delicious and easy to prepare. Thanks a lot of the recipe.

  73. This looks delicious and not too heavy, which turns me off lasagna usually; I have never seen one with broccoli rabe before. Great dish Joanne! Like you medical comparisons too!

  74. Duchess says:

    OOOO this is yummsy.

  75. msmeanie says:

    Hmm…I thought I left on comment on this post, because I it looked so fabulous when I first saw it. Seriously, lasagna is one of my favorite foods ever, and this veggie version sounds amazing. The broccoli rabe sounds like a great accompaniment to this dish. I am always sneaking in leafy greens in my lasagna. I think they really add to the flavor and texture.

  76. Alisa says:

    mmmmm! I must be having some weird cravings lately, because that rabe spilling out is what really caught my eye πŸ™‚

  77. Katy ~ says:

    You can just scoop a huge serving right over my in direction, please, and I’ll go and eat in quiet and contentment and in great appreciation!

  78. Thank God for skin! We’d all be icky puddles of goo without it. I love this with all that green broccoli rabe nestled inside! The way you described it has my mouth watering.

  79. Catherine says:

    My son would go crazy over this dish! He loves everything in it! I’ll have to make it soon!
    Cheers Joanne~

  80. Esi says:

    I need to use more broccoli rabe. This sounds delicious.

  81. sophia says:

    Joanne, are you planning to be a human anatomy teacher? lol. Oh gosh, I did not want to think lasagna as a “skin”….esp since skin can be dirty, sweaty, flaky, eeeewww! But what about the fine hairs? Double eeew!

    But your pictures fixed all that. Amazing, looks totally edible, skin and all!

  82. Muneeba says:

    I have SO much catching up to do in the food world … broccoli rabe must be my next venture! Now stop flaunting your superior medical knowledge in my face woman, and gimme a piece of that lasagna! ;)) (kidding, I giggled all the way thru your post – enuf to make the hubbs look at me funny and ask what the matter was)

  83. sra says:

    Interesting analogies, though I may always think of brain cheese and skin in association with lasagne now!

  84. Ruth Daniels says:

    As always, a truly great post. And I never thought to put Broccoli rabe in my lasagna. That will obviously change.

    Thanks for being such a great PPNer.

  85. Donna-FFW says:

    Love your metaphorical prose there!! Do you use your comparison of food with anatomy to help you study? Too funny. You are a BRILLIANT lady.So special.

    Lasagne looks fabulous too!

  86. Apu says:

    This dish is simple and so yummy!! Very tempting.

  87. Erica says:

    My vegetarian husband would love this!!1 I am going to print the recipe. Delicious!

  88. Claudia says:

    Your take on immune system vis-a-vis lasagna was cool. I gave myself a hug, in appreciation of my skin/noodle. Great recipe too!

  89. Debinhawaii says:

    Wow! Gorgeous lasagna and some learning about the human body too–a full service post! πŸ˜‰

  90. Shirley says:

    You have to bring the lab into the kitchen, right?lol
    Great recipe!

  91. Foodycat says:

    This looks like such a delicious lasagne! I’ve had good meat lasagnes, but I nearly always prefer the vegetarian ones.

  92. Marisa says:

    Oh oozing layers of cheese, now I have a craving for lasagna!

  93. Cook Sandy says:

    Hey Joanne — Jake told me to check out your blog. Amazing. I love this recipe. I have a great (and super fast) recipe for pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage. The sauce is ready by the time the water boils! Sandy Bagley

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