I love adding a new dish to my culinary repertoire and in my time have perfected making an authentic Pad Thai, can rustle up a mac n cheese that manages to pretty much wow anyone that tries it (trust me I don’t like to blow my own trumpet but every dining guest that has ever tried my fig, blue cheese and rosemary mac n cheese has said it was the best mac of their life…) and also make a mean range of Ottolenghi inspired vegetable dishes that aren’t only a feast for the eyes but also bloody tasty.
I’ve never been too bothered about learning how to make a lasagna from scratch, mainly as I mostly associated this Italian classic with mince meat and also because I had never actually enjoyed a none stodgy veggie version. This however was all to change when I invested in a glass baking dish one weekend on a whim when I fancied a frittata but lacked the cooking vessel to make one.
A day later or so after I had made a rather lovely Mediterranean veg frittata (which was a great recipe find but not quite worth blogging about) I started to ponder just how perfect this new kitchen addition lend itself to making a lasagne and began to research. After all I may have not had an amazing vegetarian lasagne in my life so far but that didn’t mean that there wasn’t a recipe for one out there somewhere.
After lots of Pinterest research I came across this recipe for roast butternut squash, aubergine and courgette lasagne with a tomato sauce made from scratch and a garlic, spinach and ricotta filling. I have to say this is not a recipe to tackle on a week night when you are after a quick dinner- in fact all in all it took most of my Sunday to prep (bear in mind the roasting of the veg, preparing the filling, making the sauce and assembling), but I found it an incredibly rewarding experience and the final result was utterly stunning, in fact one of the best things I have ever cooked – flavourful, comforting and worth every moment I slaved over it.
The other plus point? You can prep the whole thing before your friends arrive for dinner so that all that is left to do is shove it in the oven for a good half hour while you enjoy your wine and company. If you don’t mind a little bit of prep this is an utterly brilliant option to feed a crowd and I have been dreaming of another slice of it ever since we finished even the last left over. A lasagne to not only please but wow.
Feeds 4 (with plenty leftovers).
ROASTED VEGETABLE LASAGNA
170g no-boil lasagna
For the vegetable filling:
900g butternut squash
1 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt & pepper
For the marinara sauce:
2 cans crushed tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium size yellow onion, chopped
1 medium size red bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper
For the cheese filling:
425g ricotta cheese
450g mozzarella cheese, grated
220g parmesan cheese, grated
170g baby spinach
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp ground pepper
salt, a pinch
FOR THE VEGETABLE FILLING:
Preheat your oven at 200 celsius F and prepare your baking sheet for roasting vegetables. Slice squash, zucchini and eggplant into 1/8 inch thick and place them in separate bowls (no need to peel, unless preferred otherwise). Drizzle some olive oil, add 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper in each bowl. Coat sliced vegetables evenly and place each kind on a baking sheet on a single layer , making sure they don’t overlap or crowd too much (you don’t want to steam the vegetables, instead you want to dehydrate them and concentrate the flavor). Roast it in the oven for about 15 minutes. Set aside when ready. When done roasting the vegetables, turn the oven temperature to 250 degrees celsius.
FOR THE MARINARA SAUCE:
In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Add red bell pepper and cook for another 3 minutes. Pour in tomato sauce. Add dried oregano and basil. Add salt and pepper, adjusting to your taste. Let it come to a boil and set aside.
FOR THE CHEESE FILLING:
In a bowl, save a heaping cup of mozzarella cheese and half a cup of parmesan for later.
Wilt the spinach on a pan with a little bit of olive oil (I used baby spinach so I don’t get the stringy stems). In another bowl, combine ricotta cheese, the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Slightly beat the eggs and pour into the mixture. Add the spinach, nutmeg, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix well.
On the bottom of the dish, spread marinara sauce, just enough to cover the surface. Layer with lasagna noodles (note that the noodles expand as they cook). The cheese mixture goes next (about a cup and a half), spreading evenly. Layer the vegetable starting with the squash, then zucchini and eggplant. Spread the marinara sauce over. Repeat the layering – noodles, cheese mixture, vegetable filling and marinara sauce. Top with noodles, then add the remaining sauce and dollops of the remaining cheese mixture. Lastly, top it off with the mixture of mozzarella and parmesan cheese that was set aside. Bake for 35-40 minutes, uncovered (Check the cooking instructions of your no-boil lasagna).
Let the whole thing cool for about 15 minutes and enjoy!