When my husband and I started dating, most Friday nights he would come and stay and we would head to the local pub for dinner. Being a small country town, there is generally only ever one vegetarian option on the menu (if you’re lucky) and at this particular establishment it was vegetarian lasagne.
It was tasty, but then we decided we should have a go at making our own…
We’ve changed the recipe a few times along the way, but now it is pretty much the same each and every time. We make two massive lasagnes in my Bessemer pans (which are 39cm x 31cm x 6cm) and once cooled, it is cut up and frozen in small aluminium trays so we can just stick it in the oven when we get home.
The first step is to make the tomato sauce and a béchamel sauce (I will stick the recipes at the bottom of the post).
First cab off the rank is the tomato sauce. The recipe I use is based on one from “Comfort Food: On the Table in 20 Minutes” by Brenda Kitchen but it has been slightly altered by the addition of lentils for some extra protein and passata for more flavour.
Provided I don’t burn the garlic the first time around (every time I make tomato sauce the husband suggests I don’t burn the garlic due to one, or two, times I might have in the past), in go the canned tomatoes and passata with the lentils to simmer away and towards the end, add the basil.
Next stop, the béchamel sauce. Every time I make this sauce I seem to add more cheese to it. The original recipe I used did not have enough for the husband’s tastes so it gradually went up from there to about 4 times the original quantity of parmesan. We currently don’t have a basil plant so we buy our fresh basil from the supermarket and as there is often some leftover, we make “basil cubes”. Loosely chop the basil and place in an ice cube tray. Cover with water and once frozen, store in a zip lock back and drop them into your next tomato sauce. Beats the dried stuff any day of the week!
A tip from the super coach… fresh nutmeg is your friend. You will not go back to that bottled stuff after you use it fresh, it smells absolutely divine and, provided you don’t grate your fingers at the same time, it tastes better too! I make two separate batches of this, as it is easier to manage than making one big batch, and set them aside to thicken more.
Now the sauces are made, it’s time to prep the rest of the ingredients.
Hubby makes the pasta dough first to allow it to rest for a while. The pasta machine was a birthday present from his parents many moons ago, and after we met I soon learned that there is a rule of no store bought pasta in the house (however sometimes I do ignore this rule).
Once the pasta dough is nicely rested, after at least an hour (or when we have finished preparing everything else), it is rolled out and set aside.
When we used to only make one lasagne at a time, when we had a smaller kitchen, we would tend to roast the pumpkin slices in the oven and sauté the red onion. Now that it’s more of a mass production we tend to skip these steps, but roasting the pumpkin certainly does make it more flavoursome so if you have the enthusiasm, please go ahead.The ingredients that we use every time we make a lasagne are red onion, carrots, butternut pumpkin, baby spinach and pine nuts.
Now it is time for the assembly line. First is a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan. Not long before we moved into our new house, I added to my KitchenAid collection, already having the stand mixer, by getting the food processor and the blender. Needless to say the food processor comes in very handy for preparing for this lasagne. I use the 2mm slicing blade for the red onion and pumpkin (slicing them this thin allows the pumpkin and onion to cook in the juices of the lasagne if they’re not cooked beforehand) and the 4mm grater for the carrot. I also purchased the parmesan/ice grating blade for the food processor and tend to buy a block of parmesan, stick it in the freezer and run it through the food processor. Any leftover after making the béchamel sauce is kept in the freezer and this way works out a lot cheaper than buying the cheese already grated.
Next some pasta.
Now smother the pasta with some of the béchamel sauce and the top with all of the veggies. There is no real order, just make sure everything is there.
We then topped with the pumpkin, added another layer of tomato sauce and repeated the process again.
Once the second layer is complete and the final layer of pasta on top, spread the remaining bécahmel sauce over the top and then place some baby bocconcini all over. This is the most critical step as without the bocconcini you will miss out on the crunchiest and most delicious part of the whole dish.
Stick it in the oven to cook slowly for about an hour and bask in the aroma currently wafting around your kitchen.You can then add any herbs that you like on top, or leave it plain. As a general rule I use oregano, but at the moment we have a jar of mixed herbs that the hubby’s mum made for us.
To add a little more green when serving, I tend to serve it with a simple salad of baby spinach, bocconcini and pine nuts, dressed with a little olive oil and lemon juice.
My non-vegetarian husband absolutely loves this lasagne and we always fight over which one of us gets the one with the crunchy top.
The night this was made we had friends over for dinner who requested the lemon tart I had made for Easter, and this time I was able to get the sugar to caramelise so I had to post a picture.
The boys also cracked open the whiskey that came from one of the distilleries we visited on our honeymoon last year and were quite happy afterwards funnily enough.
The recipes are below and these are the quantities for just one lasagne. If you have any feedback, please leave a comment as these are my first recipe entries and hopefully they are easy to follow.