Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a great New Year’s Eve, and if you didn’t, don’t worry about it, it was just a Monday night except with a lot of expectations 😉
Speaking of expectations, what do you think of when somebody says the word “lasagna”? I once learned that to most people, this means layered pasta with tomato-meat sauce and cheese, whereas I had always known it with a vegetable filling (and bechamel with parmesan). Since I went vegan I’ve had to reinvent it. I still like it, so it’s a happy new lasagna.
It’s also a pretty good meal for serving a lot of people (or just for myself, me tomorrow, maybe a bit for someone else, and the rest for me again) , so I decided to make some for the party last night. I’ve heard some good things about it and I’ve been asked for the recipe (succes!), so here you go. It’s not the quickest or easiest recipe (the bechamel being the main cause of both these things), but trust me it’s worth it.
ingredients for one over dish, feeds 4-6 people
lasagna (the pasta)
—- filling —- 1
3 garlic cloves
500g passata di pomodoro
red wine (optional)
can of (green) lentils (or cook your own)
200g spinach (I used fresh but frozen should be fine too)
salt, pepper, mixed herbs (dried oregano, basil, that sort of thing)
—-bechamel —- 2
30g vegan butter/margerine
~3 heaped tbsp plain flour
400mL almond milk (or soy or oat…)
200g grated vegan cheeze (I used violife block)
2 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes (engivita)
Filling Chop the onion and finely mince the garlic. Cut the courgette in small-ish pieces. Put a large pan (preferably cast-iron or other thick pan) on medium high heat and add some olive oil once it’s hot, then fry the onion for a few minutes. Add the garlic, stir, then add the courgette.
After frying for about five minutes, add the wine – if using – and the passata di pomodoro. Also stir in salt, pepper and mixed herbs. Add in the spinach3 , rince the lentils and add them as well. Have a taste of the filling to see if it needs more salt/pepper/herbs.
Bechamel Put a saucepan on medium heat and melt in the butter. Then turn the heat low and stir the flour through the melted butter, the clumpy stuff you get it called a roux. Add a little bit of nut milk and stir, it gets absorbed into the roux. Add a bit of milk again and so on, switch to a whisk once the clump becomes more liquid4. Add in the rest of the milk and keep whisking while the sauce thickens. Switch to a large spoon to stir in the grated cheeze and yeast flakes.
Build your lasagna. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees celsius (fan oven). Take a low and wide over dish, and start with a very thin layer of your tomato filling5, then a layer of lasagna (it’s okay to break the sheets to fill the shape of the dish). Spread half your filling on top of the pasta, then poor half your bechamel on top of that. Repeat with another layer of pasta, filling, bechamel. Try to cover the top of the lasagna with the bechamel to keep the filling from spilling out too much, spread using a spoon if needed. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes (check the top doesn’t become blackened or dark brown, you may need to turn down the heat a little). Done!
1] This is one of those recipes where I might as well write “veg” in the ingredients list, since you can swap in basically anything you like for the filling. For example, peas or olives work really nicely as well.
2] The quantities for the bechamel sauce are a horrible guesstimate, sorry. If you find your sauce is too thick, just add some more milk. If you find it’s too thin and it really doesn’t thicken after cooking it for a while, that’s a bit tricky since just adding lour makes it clumpy. You can either live with it and hope melting in the cheese makes it thick enough (it just needs to not seep through your vegetable layer), or make a new roux of butter and flour in a separate pan, then bit by bit add the bechamel you already have in.
3] The spinanch may not all fit at once, but it reduces a lot once it’s heated. So just add in handful after handful and stir through the sauce until the next batch fits. If using frozen spinach, also add it at this stage but it’ll take longer since it needs to thaw.
4] You can use a whisk for all of this, but I find using a spoon for the first bit easier since the clumpy roux tends to get stuck inside the whisk. You can also add more milk at a time once the first clumpiness is overcome.
5] The purose of the layer is to make it easier for the bottom layer of pasta to cook; since it’s the liquid in the filling that cooks it.