There are many things in live without but vegetables are not one of them. I adore vegetables in whatever shape or form they come in, and most especially when their subtle flavours are not hidden under heavy sauces. This vegetable lasagne is one of my absolute favorites.
Yield – 6 servings
1 box lasagne sheets
Tomato and Vegetable Sauce
1.5 tbsp EACH – olive oil and unsalted butter
3 whole unpeeled garlic cloves
1 medium sized red onion, peeled and finely diced
2 banana shallots, peeled and finely diced
1 aubergine, finely diced and salted for 15 minutes
1 long sweet Spanish green pepper, chopped
1 long sweet Spanish red pepper (Pimiento Morron), chopped
50 grams Chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
400 grams prepared Italian plum tomatoes – skin, remove seeds, sieve or finely chop
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
300 ml vegetable or chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
125 grams fresh baby spinach leaves – wash, pat dry, julienne
70 grams unsalted butter
70 grams plain white flour, sifted
700 ml warm milk
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
100 grams English mature white Cheddar cheese, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
Finely grated Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses (amount to taste)
- Cook the whole unpeeled garlic cloves in simmering stock until tender, drain and allow to cool a little then squeeze out the pulp; mash with a fork, reserve.
- Preheat oven to 190ºC, 170ºC fan assisted, 375ºF
- Warm the oil in a large deep frying pan, add the onion and shallots, gently fry over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes, without browning, add the garlic purée for the last 30 seconds.
- Add the aubergine, green and red peppers, gently fry for 3 minutes, tossing constantly.
- Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, oregano, rosemary and stock, lightly season (to taste) then bring to the boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Stir in the baby spinach, cook for one minute, remove from the heat and reserve.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan set over a low heat, add the flour while stirring constantly, then cook our for three minutes without browning – to cook out the floury taste.
- Slowly (in a thin steady stream) add the warmed milk – when all the milk has been incorporated, bring to the boil and cook for one minute, add the nutmeg – if using – along with the cheese, stir until the cheese has melted, season to taste.
- Sieve the sauce if necessary.
- Spoon one third of the Béchamel Sauce into the base of a large ovenproof dish, generously buttered.
- Top with a third of the pasta, half of the tomato and vegetable sauce.
- Repeat layers once – add a third layer of pasta and top with remaining Béchamel Sauce, evenly covering the pasta.
- Scatter the Parmesan and Pecorino over the Béchamel Sauce.
- Bake for between 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the sauce is bubbling.