Chunky vegetable lasagne
Thu, 1 July, 2021
What type of lasagne do you prefer? I can never decide between the traditional meat ragù, the spinach and ricotta or this chunky Mediterranean vegetable one.
What's your favourite kind of lasagne?
I love a proper lasagne, with thick ragù sauce which, incidentally, should not be made entirely from minced beef but in the best version of a little beef and a lot of Italian pork sausage meat. The thick layers of meat between the pasta sheets, almost like meatball pasta sandwiches, with the bechamel bubbling on top with cheese.
I also adore the spinach and ricotta lasagne variety. Spinach and cheese is the perfect filling for pasta, and it’s rather less calorific than the traditional meat version. Creamed, fresh spinach, a mix of cheeses including a little blue and some Parmesan, not just ricotta, all of it makes the dish quite heavenly.
The recipe below is the third way – which doesn’t mean there cannot be more options. I for one, firmly intend to prepare lasagne with cabbage filling, which might completely confuse keto dieters who use cabbage leaves in a lasagne instead of pasta.
Mushroom lasagne is also on the waiting list, ideally made from fresh porcini mushrooms sent to me by some fortuitous twist of fate, or else with dried, rehydrated ones.
How to make lasagne vegetable filling
For now, it’s chunky vegetables. And I insist they must be chunky. I have seen recipes for lasagne where the vegetable filling was pureed, mashed or blitzed – what an unattractive idea. Ragù is minced but that’s meat; minced vegetables are simply wrong; adults eating baby food.
In my vegetable mix I use peppers, courgettes and tomatoes. Aubergine will get too mushy and mushrooms belong to their own lasagne version. Starting with the peppers and ending with tomatoes, it all takes no more than 15 minutes to cook – chunky, remember? Tomatoes, added at the end, will release lots of liquid so the mix needs to finish cooking on high, until the tomato sauce thickens.
Bechamel for lasagne
The white sauce is a classic bechamel with a little grated Cheddar added at the end – I reason that meatless lasagne is less indulgent and merits some cheese, hence also a mozzarella layer atop the final pasta sheet.
It really is not difficult to cook bechamel bar the stirring and stirring, and so the proportions given below will let you freeze an ample amount for another occasion.
How to build lasagne layers
You should build your lasagne following common sense: you don’t want the bottom pasta to stick, so splash some white sauce first. It will be harder to spread vegetables over bechamel than vice versa, so that’s how you should go about it: sauce-pasta-vegetables and repeat. Mozzarella and extra sauce on top, so it’s creamy and bubbly.
When it’s baked, always let lasagne stand and rest for at least 10 minutes. Otherwise it will need to be spooned instead of neatly cut. I know – I can never wait that long either…
chunky vegetable lasagneServings: 2Time: 2 hours
- For the white sauce:
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 4 tbsp. flour
- 1 litre (1 quart) milk
- 1½ tsp salt
- black pepper
- grated nutmeg
- 3 tbsp. double cream
- 50g (½ cup) grated Cheddar
- For the vegetables:
- 3 peppers
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large courgette
- 3 large tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- black pepper
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- For the lasagne:
- 6-8 dried lasagne sheets
- 100g (1 cup) cooking mozzarella
- grated Parmesan
1. To cook the white sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Stir in the flour and keep stirring until it foams and colours a little. Add the milk gradually, bringing the sauce to a simmer before adding more milk. Season with salt, pepper and grated nutmeg, taste to adjust.
2. When all the milk is in, simmer the sauce, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the cream if using, it will make the sauce extra velvety. Add the grated cheese, stir and cook for a couple of minutes longer. Take it off the heat and let it cool down a little while you cook the vegetables.
3. Core the peppers and chop them into chunky strips.
4. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté or frying pan over medium-high heat and add the peppers. Cook for 5 minutes.
5. Top and tail the courgette and cut it into similar pieces. Add to the peppers and stir. Cook for 3-5 minutes until they start to wilt.
6. Core and dice the tomatoes and add to the vegetables with the tsp salt, a grinding of black pepper, smoked paprika and the garlic powder. Stir and cook for 5 minutes or until the liquid thickens to saucy consistency. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Take it off the heat.
7. Depending on the shape of your lasagne sheets, prepare a gratin dish, ideally the size of one or two slightly overlapping pasta sheets. If you need to trim dried lasagne, use poultry scissors.
8. To build the lasagne, spread 3-4 tablespoons of the white sauce over the bottom of the dish. Cover with pasta sheet(s); there’s no need to precook the pasta even if using dried lasagne. Spread a third of the vegetable mix over the pasta and top with a layer of the white sauce.
9. Repeat with pasta, vegetables, white sauce until you have 4 pasta layers stacked up. Slice the mozzarella and layer over the final pasta sheet. Cover with the white sauce (you should have some sauce left over to freeze for another occasion). At this stage lasagne can be frozen in the dish, covered with foil, or stored in the fridge overnight. If you freeze it, thaw it completely before cooking as below.
10. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Cover the dish with foil if it hadn’t been covered already and bake on the middle rack for 40-45 minutes. Take the foil off halfway through the time and sprinkle the lasagne with Parmesan.
11. When it’s browned and bubbling and gorgeous, let it stand for a few minutes before cutting and serving.
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