I gave myself a little break from the blog last week. It was only when I logged back in last night that I realised the blog is now five years old! You’ve no idea what an achievement this is for me, I never stick at a hobby for a long time. It was also my birthday at the weekend, I’m slightly older though. So I had a lovely weekend of eating too much and I had a couple of glasses of gin for World Gin Day. That’s a thing now apparently.
So after a nice rest I’m back with this recipe for Cheesy Vegetable Lasagne. I was thinking I should come up with a more elegant name for it but this does exactly what it says on the tin. Lately I have been tinkering with my original Lasagne recipe, which I must update soon, and I love the comfort of baked pasta with layers of tomato and creamy sauce. I thought this would be the perfect time to make a lighter meat-free version.
I bought Alison Roman’s Dining In back in January and I love it but find I’m using it more at this time of year. The lovely ladies from A Cookbook A Month are reviewing it for June if you want to have a look at their thoughts on it. Anyway, in this book there is a lovely recipe for Baked Pasta with Artichokes, Greens and Too Much Cheese. The only issue I have with it is the title, too much cheese?! Surely there’s no such thing as too much cheese. In this Alison uses a ricotta sauce instead of a bechamel for her lasagne and I decided to adapt it to use here. If you want to use a traditional bechamel sauce, click through the link for my original lasagne recipe above.
This recipe is great to make ahead, reheats well and freezes perfectly in individual portions.
Useful tips & links:
- I always pre cook my pasta, whether I use fresh or dried. Otherwise I find it soaks up too much sauce when baking. If you want to make your own pasta you can use the recipe from this Crab Ravioli with Lemon Butter Sauce.
- Use any vegetables you like to make this, my preference is for courgettes, aubergines, peppers and spinach. I cook them on a griddle pan as it gives them lovely charred marks which add flavour. At this time of year you could cook them on a cooling barbecue and save them to make the lasagne on a another day.
- A lot of veg lasagne recipes chop the veg up small and roast them or cook them right in the tomato sauce so those are other options for you. I do like them to stand out in the dish rather than blend into the sauce so I layer them in large pieces.
- This dish is meat free but the parmesan means it is not suitable for vegetarians. Use a substitute if your dish needs to be vegetarian.
- I was tempted to top with halloumi to make it even more cheesy but thought it might be overkill. You could also add cheddar to the top if you like.
- A lot of recipes sprinkled breadcrumbs on top for extra crunch when baking, I’m not sure if they really add anything but use them if you like.
- For related recipes have a look at my Stuffed Aubergine Rolls or Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni.
- Peter from The Kinneagh Kitchen has a wonderful recipe here for Vegetarian Lasagne using lentils.
Cheesy Vegetable Lasagne
For the tomato sauce:
- A tablespoon of oil
- 1 onion, peeled and very finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- Celery salt and pepper
- 800g of passata or tinned chopped tomatoes
- A pinch of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
For the cheesy sauce:
- 500g of ricotta cheese
- 250g of mozzarella
- 100g of freshly grated parmesan
- The zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
- Salt and pepper
- ⅓ of a nutmeg, grated
- 250ml of double cream
For the veg and lasagne:
- 2 courgettes or zucchini
- 2 aubergines or eggplant
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 100g of spinach
- 2 roasted red/yellow peppers
- A handful of basil leaves
- 250g of lasagne sheets
- Extra parmesan
- Breadcrumbs (optional)
- Start by pre cooking the pasta sheets. Bring a saucepan of water to a boil and quickly cook the pasta sheets until they are starting to go soft, remove them and drain on a clean cloth in a single layer and set aside to use later. I do them in batches so that they do not stick together in the pot.
- Heat a little oil in the saucepan and add the spinach and season with salt and pepper. When the spinach is wilted down, remove from the pan and set aside.
- Wipe out the saucepan and start making the tomato sauce as this will need time to cook. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat and gently fry the onions until soft. If they start to brown, turn down the heat.
- While the onions are cooking, slice your veg to have them ready to cook. I slice them in long strips lengthways about 4-5mm thick. You can cut them in thin rounds if you prefer.
- When the onions are soft, add the crushed garlic and cook for a further two minutes. Add the celery salt and pepper, passata or tinned tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and oregano. Use regular salt if you don’t have celery salt. Once the sauce starts to bubble turn down the heat and allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Heat a griddle pan or frying pan over a high heat. Brush the sliced courgettes and aubergines with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook them in batches for a couple of minutes on each side until they are tender and you have nice chargrilled marks on them and set them aside. If using fresh peppers cook them the same way or if using jarred then drain them from their oil.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas mark 4.
- Make the cheese sauce by whisking together the ricotta, mozzarella, parmesan, lemon zest, some salt and pepper and a little of the grated nutmeg. When this is combined like a paste pour in the cream, mix well and taste for more nutmeg and seasoning.
- Taste the tomato sauce and again adjust for seasoning or sweetness until you are happy with it.
- Spread a little of the cheese mixture on the bottom of a lasagne dish and put a layer of the pasta on top. Next spread a third of the cheese sauce on top. Layer the cooked spinach on top of this and then the courgette. Pour half of the tomato sauce on top.
- Add another layer of the pasta, another third of the cheese sauce, a layer of aubergines and a layer of the roasted peppers. Pour the remaining tomato sauce on top and a scatter some basil leaves over this.
- Top with the last layer of pasta and the remaining cheese sauce. Grate another generous layer of parmesan on top and add the breadcrumbs if using them. Bake the lasagne in the oven until the cheese is golden and bubbling on top and the pasta is cooked through, approximately 20 minutes. If the top starts to brown too quickly cover it with foil to allow the pasta to cook through.
- When cooked and piping hot, take it out of the oven and allow it to stand for 10 minutes before serving it. It is delicious with a green salad and a cold glass of white wine!