Nearly 20 years after winning American Idol, Carrie Underwood is a force to be reckoned with in the country music industry. At 41, the eight-time Grammy Award winner navigates a packed schedule including a Las Vegas residency called “Reflection,” managing her own SiriusXM channel, and preparing for performances in Hawaii, all while upholding an intense fitness and nutrition regimen. 


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How does the mother of two do it all? Underwood credits at least some of her superwoman powers to a quirky dish she calls “ugly” lasagna.

Carrie Underwood’s ‘ugly’ lasagna 

Originally from a cattle farm in Oklahoma, Underwood shifted to a mostly plant-based diet at an early age after witnessing farm practices firsthand. Despite calling herself a “wannabe vegan” in the past, throughout the years, Underwood has made exceptions such as consuming eggs and honey from the animals she and her husband raise. 

When it comes to Underwood’s “ugly” lasagna, the dish deviates from the traditional, often heavy, meat and cheese-laden comfort dish to embrace a healthier, vegetable-forward approach. 

“Overall, keeping things as simple as possible is always the best. We live in a world right now where everything is ultra-processed and it seems like the easiest thing is to grab fast food,” Underwood recently toldToday.’ 

This dish—which she prepares in a slow cooker—earns its name from its less visually appealing appearance, which contrasts sharply with the often meticulously layered traditional versions. However, what it lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in nutritional value and taste.

Making lasagna the ‘ugly’ way

The foundation of Underwood’s lasagna is an abundance of fresh vegetables. Instead of layers of ground meat, her recipe includes spinach, bell peppers, and onions. For a heartier version, she suggests bulking up the veggies with sliced mushrooms, chopped-up broccoli, more diced bell peppers, quartered cherry tomatoes, half-moon slices of zucchini and/or yellow squash, sliced okra, shredded carrots, and shredded cabbage. 

VegNews.UglyLasagna.NathanCongleton-TodayNathan Congleton/Today

These vegetables are not only fiber-rich but also packed with vitamins and antioxidants, contributing to a lower-calorie dish that supports overall health and wellness. The inclusion of these ingredients aligns with Underwood’s dietary focus on consuming more plants and whole foods, reflecting her commitment to a healthier lifestyle.

Instead of the typical ricotta or mozzarella, Underwood opts for plant-based cheese, and the dish is finished with a simple jar of marinara sauce, olive oil, and Italian seasoning. All of this is combined with whole wheat noodles for extra nutritional value. 

The “ugly” in the name also speaks to the lasagna’s rustic and homey feel. Unlike traditional lasagna, which is often meticulously assembled to achieve perfect layers, Underwood’s version is more about tossing together wholesome ingredients in a straightforward and uncomplicated way. 

“Things that are very simple and nutritious, you’ll never go wrong with that,” Underwood said. “I feel like that’s the best for your body and it makes you feel the best and then you can put your best foot forward.”

This method ensures the dish is accessible and easy to prepare, even for those with busy lifestyles or limited cooking experience. Moreover, Underwood’s approach to lasagna emphasizes adaptability and personalization. She encourages adding or substituting vegetables based on seasonal availability or personal preference, a flexibility that cleverly prevents meal fatigue.

More ‘ugly’ lasagna recipes 

If you care more about nutrition and convenience than aesthetically pleasing lasagna, here are three more recipes you can “ugly up” just like Underwood did. 

VegNews.EasyVeganLasagna.NYCVegan.JackieSobon.FeatureJackie Sobon

1Cheesy Vegan Spinach Lasagna: the ‘Ugly’ Version

Our version of a classic lasagna with all of the cheeses you crave but made entirely without dairy. 

Wholesome twist: Replace regular lasagna noodles with whole wheat versions to increase fiber. Mix spinach with kale and Swiss chard for a nutrient boost and a vibrant layer of greens.

Chunky and rustic: Opt for a chunky homemade tomato sauce with crushed tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions to add more body and flavor to the dish. 
Get the “pretty” recipe


2Vegan Pumpkin Lasagna Rollups: the ‘Ugly’ Version

These individually portioned rollups are already a creative way to have your lasagna and eat it, too, stuffed with nutritious pumpkin.

Heartier filling: Add more beta carotene to the pumpkin filling with a bit of mashed roasted sweet potatoes. 

Dip into more flavor: Dip the rollups into a robust tomato sauce to add even more complexity. 
Get the “pretty” recipe


3Vegan Pastelón (Puerto Rican Sweet Plantain Lasagna): the ‘Ugly’ Version

We’ve always thought about lasagna as a flexible dish with many interpretations, like this plantain-packed version for a Puerto Rican twist. 

Layers of texture: Lightly mash some of the plantains to vary texture between smooth and chunky, which makes every “ugly” bite unique. 

More protein: Add in a mix of lentils and black beans, seasoned with traditional Puerto Rican spices, to maintain the depth of flavor with an extra hit of protein. 
Get the “pretty” recipe

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