Roasted Vegetable Lasagne
When it comes to comfort food the first few meals that come to mind are slow-cooked casseroles, hearty soups and Mums roast dinners. These are meals that take that little bit longer to prepare as they simmer, bake, cook and release that wonderful aroma that feels like a big, cozy bear hug. Its the pleasure that has been had, by the cook, who has set aside time to create that makes them truly special.
This is a recipe that does require you to set aside a pleasurable amount of time as you stand at your kitchen bench and succumb to the enjoyment of chopping, slicing and stirring, allowing the sauce to simmer away gently. Its also one that I have been "playing" around with for years. It was, in fact, one of the first recipes that I learnt to cook and it came from the Australian Women's Weekly, "Great vegetarian food" cookbook. Which was also one of the very first books to start off my cookbook collection.
I would follow each step so precisely and re-read each direction that it was telling me over and over again. Carefully layering the eggplant and capsicum in between each sheet of lasagne, finally spreading the thick, rich and creamy layer of béchamel sauce all over the top.
Over time I began to feel a little more confident and I would swap things around, testing different ingredients and what flavours worked well together. Scribbling down my notes as I went along, I now no longer look at the recipe in the cookbook, instead, I read my own. My handwriting staring back at me from the page and I cant help but think back to those days in the kitchen where I was so afraid of straying from the recipe for fear of "stuffing it up." I have come to learn that by doing this I actually learn even more and I no longer worry about that fatal stuffing it up stage. Instead, I take it back to the kitchen and create it again and again and again until I and my chief taste-tester, (AKA my husband) are happy with it.
My next project....A meat lasagne. would you believe me if I said that I had never made one before? Well, I haven't and I think I owe it to Ben to make one sooner rather than later. And bring his dreams of layer upon layer of slow cooked beef, Napoli sauce and molten mozzarella béchamel sauce to life!
Roasted Vegetable lasagne
250g packet of lasagne sheets or approx. 12 sheets of fresh lasagne
pecorino or parmesan for grating on top
For the sauce
1 brown onion, diced
2 sticks of celery, sliced
1 carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
2 tins diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. tomato paste
dash of balsamic vinegar
dash of red wine vinegar
1 bay leaf
a scattering of oregano
2 eggplants, sliced into 1cm rounds
1/4 of a kent or butternut pumpkin, peeled and sliced into 1cm slices
2 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into 1cm rounds
2 red capsicums, quartered, seeds removed
1 free-range egg
100g soft goats cheese
small handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 cups kale or cavolo nero, leaves stripped from the stem, washed and chopped
1/2 cup of roasted almonds
zest and juice of 1 lemon
60g grated pecorino
approx. 100ml light olive oil. If you have macadamia oil its also really lovely doing a mix of this with the olive oil.
Pre-heat your oven to 180c. Line about 3 trays with baking paper and place all of your vegetables in a single layer on to them. drizzle with a good amount of olive oil and salt and pepper then pop into the oven for about 30 minutes. Once they are done, place the capsicums in a bowl and cover with cling film, then peel the skins off once they are cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, place a frypan over a medium-low heat add 1 tablespoon of light olive oil and scrape in your onions and garlic. cooking and stirring until starting to soften, add in the celery and carrot and continue to cook until just starting to colour. Now tip in your tomatoes, add the paste, vinegars, bay leaf and oregano. Stir everything together and then bring to the boil before turning down to simmer away for at least 30-40 minutes or until it starts to thicken. Once this has been done, remove from the heat and carefully spoon into your food processor or blender and blitz until its lovely and smooth. season with salt and pepper.
Mix together the ricotta, egg, salt and pepper, goats cheese and parsley in a medium bowl. I find that using a fork to do this makes it a lot easier to mash it all together.
For the pesto, place all of your ingredients apart from the olive oil into a small food processor, and blitz until it is very finely chopped. Drizzle in some of the oil and blitz again. You want it to be a smooth paste consistency. Check to see if it needs a little salt and pepper. or, more lemon juice, I will let you decide that one.
Using a 20cm, x 30cm lasagne dish, drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom then place a quarter of the passata on top. Spread out a layer of spinach leaves and then top with lasagne sheets. spread more passata on top of these making sure you spread it out right to the edge, follow this with the pumpkin and half of the eggplant. Lasagne sheets, passata, spinach, sweet potato, rest of the eggplant and capsicum. Dollop the pesto over the top and using the back of the spoon, spread it around as best as you can. Top this with another layer of lasagne sheets, passata and finally the ricotta. I use the back of the fork to smooth this out to the edges as best as I can and then grate over a very generous amount of pecorino or parmesan. place a sheet of baking paper over the top and then cover with foil. Pop into the oven for 45 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the top has turned a beautiful shade of golden goodness. Sometimes I turn the grill on just for a few moments to really get that lovely colour on top, but keep a close eye on it!
Serve with a really simple green salad. Leftovers, if there are any, are even better the next day as the flavours intensify overnight and make it even more delicious. It also freezes really well.
* Just a little behind-the-scenes peek into my food styling ways