Vegetarian lasagne is one of those incredibly hearty dishes that lends itself well to every season: it’s comforting in winter and light enough for a hot summer’s day (whenever that decides to happen) because there’s no meat. There are a million and one different ways to make it, but this one of mine has proved particularly popular. It’s not the quickest of recipes, but it is somewhat delicious.
- 1 large aubergine
- 1 large courgette
- Olive oil
- 1 large white onion
- 2x tsps sugar
- 2 cloves garlic
- Tbsp butter
- A good splash of red wine
- Balsamic vinegar
- 1x 400g tin chopped tomatoes/ tomato passata
- Fresh basil
- 300g lasagne sheets (of your choice: fresh/ plain/ wholemeal etc.)
- Around 250g chestnut mushrooms
- 2 or 3 large handfuls of fresh spinach
- 40g plain flour
- 350g milk
- Heaped tbsp full-fat cream cheese
- 100g grated mature cheddar
- 2 tbsps grated parmesan
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/ fan 180°C.
- Rinse the aubergine and courgette, pat dry and thinly slice (around 0.5cm) each lengthways.
- Lay the slices out on kitchen paper and sprinkle both sides with salt to draw out the bitterness and moisture. Put more kitchen roll on top and leave to one side.
- Heat a glug of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, finely chopped. Cook until soft and slightly brown. Add the sugar and stir to avoid it burning or sticking. Then pour the wine and balsamic vinegar and stir it again. The liquid should have a syrupy consistency.
- Throw in the chopped tomatoes and stir. Cook on a high heat until bubbling then turn the hob down, cover and simmer for 15-20 mins. Season to taste.
- Meanwhile, finely chop the garlic and add it to a frying pan of sizzling butter. Make sure you stir it to avoid it burning. Chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan. Allow them to reduce a bit before adding the fresh spinach. Cook until the spinach looks a bit wet and then remove from the heat. Pour the contents into a sieve over the sink or a bowl and allow the excess moisture to drip out.
- Put a griddle pan on a very high heat and lightly brush the aubergine and courgette with olive oil on both sides. Carefully place the oiled veg into the pan, turning them over once the cooked side looks slightly charred. This will add a flavoursome richness to the dish. Once all the veg is done, set to one side.
- Check on the tomato sauce, giving it a good stir when necessary. Add the chopped basil. If the sauce has reduced enough to form a thick sauce, then turn off the heat. If it’s too thick, add a little water and incorporate well.
- To make the white sauce (béchamel): melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan; add the flour and stir to form a paste; gradually add the milk and stir well after each addition. If it’s lumpy, then use a hand whisk. Heap in the cream cheese and mix/ whisk again. Finally add the grated cheddar leaving some aside for the topping. Season to taste.
- Once you’re satisfied the mushrooms and spinach have drained properly, add them to the béchamel.
- Now you’re ready to assemble the lasagne: reduce oven to 180°C/ fan 160°C; lightly oil an ovenproof serving dish (30 x 20cm); arrange a layer of the vegetables on the bottom alternating between aubergine and courgette so the flavours are spread evenly; pour over a third of the tomato sauce and then top with a layer of lasagne; drizzle over a quarter of the white sauce.
- Repeat the above until you have 3 layers of pasta. Finally, spoon the remaining béchamel on the top layer of pasta, making sure the whole surface is covered. Scatter the leftover cheddar and additional parmesan, season and bake for around 45 mins until bubbling and golden.
Photos to follow…