This vegetable lasagne is the perfect transition dish, just what you need for the cooler evenings that herald the onset of autumn, yet still light enough that it won’t weigh you down on those nights that still have a hint of warmth in them.
Over the past few years I’ve been eating less and less meat. I’m not vegetarian and, as recipes on this blog attest to, I eat meat, just not so regularly anymore. When I do eat meat I choose organic or free range and shop at butchers with a good record of husbandry and butchery. My reduction in meat eating is both for health and environmental reasons – I feel better limiting red meat to at the most once a week and chicken likewise.
Since reducing my meat intake I’ve been looking at interesting ways to eat veggie – I don’t want to fall into the trap of replacing meat with soy or mycoprotein alternatives, not for any reason, other than I want to celebrate the vegetables I use and make them the star of the show, rather than making copycat meals of meat based things I eat. I appreciate that a vegetable lasagne is a meatless version of a dish I make with meat, however I’m not using meat alternatives here, I’m trying to make veggies the important part.
This recipe started off as Alice Hart’s excellent vegetable lasagne from her book The New Vegetarian, which I would thoroughly recommend, especially if you’re looking for creative, modern plant based dishes that will satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike. However, over time, this has morphed to something a little different and a little more me – I’ve changed the veg, taken out the chilli, added some fennel and included a béchamel.
As the veg is roasted pre lasagne building, this isn’t a quick dish for making after a long day at work, but is perfect for a lazy weekend. You can also make all the constituent parts ahead, bar the béchamel and just keep them in the fridge, covered, for up to to two days. I tend to make the whole dish at the weekend and then eat it over the week for lunches and rushed dinners – it only takes five minutes in the microwave to warm up (more on that at the end).
As always, if you make this, let me know in the comments or on my Twitter or Instagram and tell me what you think/if you like it (I really hope you do!).
Roasted vegetable lasagne
Serves 4 – cook (t0tal) 1hr 40min – serves 4 generously (I eat big portions!)
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 x 400g cans plum tomatoes
Half a clove of garlic, grated fine (on a microplane type grater if possible)
70ml red wine
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
1 – 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 aubergine, cut lengthways into 0.5cm thick slices
2 courgettes, cut lengthways into 0.5cm thick slices
1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and cut lengthways into 0.5cm thick slices
Light olive oil (for cooking)
3 tblsp butter
3 tblsp plain flour
500ml whole milk
1/4 of a nutmeg
One bunch of basil
Dried lasagne pasta sheets (uncooked)
Two balls of mozzarella (cows milk fine)
- First make the tomato sauce. Put the fennel seeds into a medium sized saucepan and put over a medium heat, toast for 30 seconds or until they start to become fragrant. Once you can smell the seeds immediately add the tomatoes and stir. Add in the garlic, red wine, thyme, oregano, olive oil and 1 tblsp red wine vinegar, season and cook on a low heat for an hour. You want it to simmer and bubble a little, but only the odd one or two every now and then – don’t boil. Give it a stir every now and then too.
- Whilst the sauce is cooking heat the oven to 180c (fan) and prep the aubergine, squash and courgette. Once sliced pop onto baking trays in one flat row with no overlapping – you may need to batch cook if you only have one tray. I can usually get all of these on two large trays with a bit of Tetris style placing. Brush both sides of the veg with light olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Pop into the oven and roast until they just start to brown on the tops. The squash will take 20-30 minutes, aubergine 15-20 minutes and the courgettes about 15 minutes, so keep checking. Take out and pop on the side until you’re ready to assemble the lasagne. You could even make the veg the day before and pop in the fridge to get ahead. Unless you’re making ahead, leave the oven on.
- Take the tomato sauce off the heat and taste – add a little more salt, pepper and red wine vinegar to get the taste you like. I like mine with a bit of a sharp bite from the vinegar, not so you know it’s there, but so it’ll cut through the cheese and white sauce. Pop to the side whilst you make the béchamel.
- Put the butter into a small saucepan and add the flour and stir to combine as the butter melts. Once it has come together as a roux start to add the milk little by little, stirring all the time. Once each bit of milk has been absorbed into the roux, add the next bit and continue stirring all the time until you have a smooth sauce the thickness of double cream. Season with salt and pepper, then very finely grate in 1/4 of a nutmeg.
- Now it’s time to assemble! In a lasagne or similar rectangle or oval, deep sided dish place one small spoonful of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish and spread about, then top with a layer of pasta sheets. Then add more layers of tomato sauce, aubergine, squash, courgette, a layer of basil leaves, béchamel, sliced mozzarella and repeat. When you get to the top lasagne sheets and have run out of veg, squidge it all down a little. Reserve some tomato sauce and mozzarella to add to the top of the dish.
- Put the vegetable lasagne into the oven and cook for about 45 minutes – depending on how many layers you’ve got in your dish this could take a little less or a little longer (I usually get about two layers of the sauce/veg/basil/cheese combo with a cheese and tomato layer on top). Test the centre of the lasagne with a knife and if it passes easily through the pasta easily, then it’s ready.
- Take out of the oven and let it rest for the ten minutes before serving – this makes the lasagne a little less liquid and a little easier to cut, it also means you’re less likely to burn the skin off the roof of your mouth (spoken from very painful experience). Serve with a simple EVOO/salt/lemon dressed watercress salad.
Tip – I cook for one and never make this smaller than it is as it’s so good for leftovers (I do sometimes double it if I have guests). If you want to leftover it, it’ll keep covered in the fridge for up to five days – covering it stops it drying out too much. To warm up put your portion into a bowl and add the merest splash of water, cover with a plate and pop into the microwave for five minutes. It won’t be as crispy, but it sure is delicious! You can also freeze the vegetable lasagne and then defrost and cook in the microwave, or just bung it back into an oven from frozen, covered with foil, for about 45 minutes.