Tantalized by Vancity Allie’s recent mouth-watering blog post on her home-made lasagna, I could not seem to get the thought of lasagna out of my head. Oddly enough, I have never made lasagna in my life. I’m not sure why but I have just never gotten the urge to, until now. With my recent lean towards a more vegetarian life-style (thanks to Food Inc.) I decided to make my lasagna vegetarian and I wanted to cram as many delicious vegetables in it as I could. I really didn’t follow a recipe (except for the béchamel sauce, which was Allie’s recipe) so I basically just cooked as many vegetables as I could and layered them all together. The results were incredible! I am going to be cooking this again for some friends that are coming over for dinner tonight, so hopefully they will be as impressed by it as B and I were. Oh, I did cheat a little and I used a jar of quality organic pasta sauce rather than using a tin of tomatoes and a small tin of tomato paste – it just seemed easier when I looked at everything else that I had to do!
Vegetarian Lasagna – Serves 6 generous portions
Ingredients for the Sauce:
A splash of olive oil
½ onion, diced into small pieces
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and diced
1 carrot, diced into small pieces
2 celery stalks, diced into small pieces
1 jar of good quality pasta sauce (or you could use a large tin of tomatoes and small tin of tomato paste)
A splash of red wine
1 organic vegetable bouillon cube
½ of a red chili (optional)
Salt and pepper
Assorted herbs (I used rosemary, thyme, parsley and chives)
Method for the sauce:
Drizzle the olive oil in a pan and on a medium heat, sauté the onion and garlic for about 2 minutes and then add the carrot and the celery. Allow to sauté for another 2 minutes before adding the pasta sauce. Bring to a simmer and add a splash of red wine, the chili, black pepper and salt and crumble the bouillon cube into the sauce. Leave to simmer until the sauce thickens. Just prior to serving your sauce, add the fresh herbs and stir through.
Ingredients for the veggies:
2 peppers of assorted colours, sliced into quarters
1 small butternut squash, cut into thin, long slices
1 leek, sliced into rounds
About 7 button mushrooms, sliced
1 Japanese eggplant, sliced into rounds
2 zucchini, sliced into rounds
2 Heirloom tomatoes, cut into thin slices
Method for the preparing the veggies:
Preheat your oven to 375F. On a baking tray, lay the butternut squash slices and the quartered peppers and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of black pepper and salt. Place in the oven and roast until the peppers have softened and the skins have slightly blackened, and the squash is looking softer and slightly golden (you don’t want it too roasted). This will most likely take about 20 minutes. When they are ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Peel the skin off the peppers and discard the skins. Slice the peppers into thin strips. Leave the oven on at 375F.
Whilst you are roasting the squash and the peppers, add a small amount of butter and a drizzle of olive oil to a fry pan and gently sauté the leek over a medium heat. Once soft, take off the heat and put to the side.
Prepare your eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes.
Ingredients for the béchamel sauce:
3 cups milk
5 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/4 cup of good quality flour
1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of ground chili pepper or paprika/cayenne (optional)
Method for the béchamel sauce:
In a small saucepan, bring 3 cups of milk to the boil. In a separate pan, melt the butter over a medium heat and then whisk in the flour until very smooth. Keep stirring for about 6 minutes until the mixture turns golden. Add a small bit of the milk at a time to the butter mixture, whisking the sauce each time to keep it very smooth. When you’ve used all the milk, you’ll want to bring the sauce to a boil and then turn off the heat and stir in the nutmeg, salt, pepper, and chili pepper for another minute or so. Set this aside off the hot burner.
1 packet of fresh lasagna sheets
Roughly 2 cups of different grated cheeses, like a Parmesan and a good, strong cheddar
Grate all of your cheese and set aside. You can add as much or as little cheese as you like.
Prepare the lasagna sheets, as per the instructions on the packet, as you need them. They only take about a minute to cook so I prepared mine whilst I was layering (see below).
Putting it all together:
Here is where it all finally comes together! I started out by greasing the bottom a large oven-proof pan with butter and then I added one layer of the lasagna sheets to make the base (so that it wouldn’t fall apart when I served it). I then added about half of the tomato sauce and spread evenly over the pasta. I then sprinkled the peppers and the squash slices over the sauce. Next, lay the eggplant rounds over the peppers/squash sauce mixture. Add a layer of pasta over the eggplant rounds. Spread half of the béchamel sauce over the pasta and then sprinkle half of the cheese over the top.
Next, spread the mushrooms out to cover the béchamel sauce. Do the same thing with the leeks and then the rounds of zucchini. And then top with the heirloom tomatoes. Add another layer of pasta and spread the remaining béchamel sauce over the top of the pasta and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. In my opinion, the cheesier the better, so feel free to add as much cheese and as much variety of cheese as you want here. Finish with a good sprinkle of ground salt and pepper.
Put the now-prepared lasagna into the pre-heated oven and allow to cook for 35 to 40 minutes. Keep an eye on it – you want it to be golden when it comes out. Remove from the oven and, now comes the hard part; allow to rest for about 20 minutes before serving. I just wanted to dig right in! Serve with a delicious light salad.
Man, oh man, this was good! We were still happily munching on this for a few days after I made it. Even though this really is a long, drawn out recipe, and certainly one that is very time-consuming, it was worth it in the end.