We eat meat but I do like to cook vegetarian food which inevitably means I end up experimenting, after all — that’s how we improve!
This veggie lasagne was no different. The first time I made it I carefully roasted red, green, and yellow peppers along with butternut squash, zucchini, and red onions until they had a slight char. This was certain to mean lots of flavour, or so I thought.
Next I added all of the lovely veg to the garlicky tomato sauce I had concocted and reduced until it was unctuous and silky, which meant I pretty much lost the veg in the sauce and the sauce in the veg!
The assembled lasagne was fine of course, but I wanted the individual veg to play their own lead and mixing the sauce and the veg had ruined that.
I thought about the logistics of this lasagne for a while to format a plan for the next attempt, and the following was the result.
As before I cut all of the veggies into large chunks and threw them on to a roasting tray before drizzling with olive oil and seasoning with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a little dried rosemary (I love dried rosemary on veg). After a good mix I put the tray in a preheated 200 degree centigrade oven until they had a nice char and were tender but not mushy.
Whilst the veg was roasting I made my tomato sauce by sautéing diced onion with lots of garlic (4 cloves, my default setting) in a little oil until the onion was translucent. I then added a good dollop of tomato paste and let that cook out for about 6 minutes (it really makes a difference if you use 6 minute rule on tomato paste – just ask Simon Rimmer!) before adding a tin of plum tomatoes and half a carton of passata. At this point I added a good sprinkle of oregano (my favourite dried herb) and an equally good sprinkle of mixed herbs along with SSalt and FGblack pepper. Sometimes I add a splish of red wine to meat sauces at this point, so I could’ve done here, but I probably didn’t have any open. Then the tomato sauce just has to cook out for a while.
I also made an all in one white sauce (really easy, honest!) by putting 637ml cold milk (I use uht skimmed and it still works), 30g plain flour, and 30g cold butter (I actually use oil, but that’s my preference) into a saucepan (it must all be cold) then heated gently, whisking constantly until thick and bubbling and then simmering (whisk free) for about 10 minutes. I then add 100g ish (always more, never less) of grated mature cheddar and check seasoning. I prefer cheese sauce to béchamel in lasagne. (This recipe yields a generous quantity of sauce for a 2 layer lasagne with 3 sauce layers [bottom of dish, then covering 2 layers of pasta] that produces 8 portions. Sometimes I add Parmesan too, sometimes a little mozzarella, whatever takes my fancy.)
Now, with all of the cooked components ready I got my family sized lasagne dish (after this effort I want 6 portions for freezing — and it freezes REALLY well) and put a layer of cheese sauce, followed by my no pre cook lasagne sheets. I then added enough roasted veg to cover, spooning a good eye quantity of tomato sauce on top. Next it was lasagne sheets, then cheese sauce. I repeated from veg to cheese sauce once more then sprinkled grated cheddar, parmesan, and mozzarella over the top. Sometimes I sprinkle a little dried oregano over the top but I forgot this time.
Next it’s the oven, about 160 centigrade fan (or 180 conventional) until the top is nicely browned and the rest is bubbling gently (only visible if you have a glass dish like me!), about 30 to 40 minutes.
I always let the lasagne rest for at least 5 minutes once it leaves the oven to give it chance to firm up.
The resulting lasagne with the veg prepped separately from the sauce was an absolute success. Each vegetable had its own starring role and the texture lifted the dish far above the version I previously made. It also looked really pretty, I hope you’ll agree!