I’ve always preferred vegetarian lasagna to meat lasagna as I find it lighter, tastier and more interesting and you can choose the vegetables of your choice. But one day I decided to roast rather than simmer the vegetables and the difference was sublime! Imagine a delicious fresh tomato sauce with fresh herbs and sweet roasted vegetables… this sauce is good enough to eat on its own or with pasta!
First stop the garden. Off to pick some fresh cherry tomatoes and kale. Coupled with the plum tomatoes I picked from my Auntie Irene’s greenhouse, this is sure to make a delicious sauce! I recommend sharing vegetable patches with friends and relatives. Vegetable swapping ensures you don’t have to grow every vegetable under the sun yet also makes sure you have variety in your dishes. I have a small garden yet I have been successful in growing leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, carrots and beetroot. Yes it’s that simple! If you are renting your house and don’t want to ruin the garden then buy patio bags for your kale, herbs and tomatoes and any deep wide pots for carrots and beetroots.
To prepare the roast vegetables, simply cut the peppers and carrots into large pieces. Peel the shallots and along with the peppers and carrots, toss in cold pressed rapeseed oil as this oil can withstand high temperatures. If you prefer olive oil then use the non extra-virgin olive oil as extra-virgin doesn’t withstand high temperatures as well as other oils. Place on a baking tray and spread evenly. Add unpeeled cloves of garlic and bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes. Approximately 10 minutes before the end I add the cherry tomatoes to semi-roast them, however you can also add them to the fresh tomato sauce you are about to make as they cook quickly. Look at that colour!
Steep the fresh plum tomatoes in a bowl of boiling water for 10 minutes to loosen the skins. I then steep them in cold water as this enables the skin to peel off easier. Peel and chop the tomatoes and add to the pan with olive oil, freshly chopped herbs and red wine.
Did I tell how you how much I love my new herb chopper? I always chop my herbs with a pizza roller which is much easier than using a knife or any other herb chopper, apart from a food processor that is. But most of us don’t want to dirty our processor just to chop herbs as that is just making more work for ourselves. I swore I would never buy a herb chopper as I was happy with my little pizza roller….. until I spied this! The fastest herb chopper in the land! It is the equivalent of 6 pizza rollers in one … and believe me it takes less than 10 seconds to chop 2 large handfuls of herbs. You can buy one here, it’ll be the best investment you’ve made. I use mine every day as I cook with fresh herbs every day!
Let the tomatoes simmer gently covered for 15 minutes. When the roasted vegetables are cooked remove the garlic cloves. Squeeze out the soft garlic from the inside and add to the tomato sauce. Now make one of 2 delicious sauces. My secret favourite is the creamy cheese sauce but the quickest one is ricotta. Simply add the ricotta cheese to a bowl and beat in the egg yolks, parmesan cheese and seasoning. Beat well. It’s as easy as that! For the cheese sauce place the milk in a saucepan with cold butter and flour. Mix well until combined then turn on the heat whisking continuously. When it starts to thicken add the grated cheese of your choice with seasoning. It’s really important to whisk the entire time as this gets rid of any flour lumps. Now cook the kale. This kale I also picked from my garden. It is very easy to grow in an Irish climate as it likes the cool damp weather! And so good for you too. Wash the kale and stir fry in rapeseed oil for 10 minutes stirring at intervals.
Now all the components are ready, it is time to assemble the vegetarian lasagna. Place a layer of roasted vegetable at the bottom of the lasagna dish. Spoon over the tomato sauce.
Then place a layer of lasagna sheets over the first layer. Spoon over the cheese sauce of your choice. Then add all the kale in one layer.
Then add a new layer of the remaining roasted vegetables plus the tomato sauce. Add a lasagna sheet, the rest of the cheese sauce and top with grated parmesan or cheddar cheese.
Place in a preheated oven at 175ºC and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden. Delicious served with a crispy green salad and a smooth glass of red wine, although I’ll leave that to you to decide….
- Handful of shallots
- 3 carrots
- 1 red pepper
- 1 yellow pepper
- 1 black or green pepper
- 3 tablespoons non-virgin olive oil or cold pressed rapeseed oil
- 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 2 large handfuls kale
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 6 large plum tomatoes
- 12 mixed cherry tomatoes
- 1 large handful fresh parsley
- 1 large handful fresh oregano
- 100ml red wine, optional
- 10 lasagna sheets
- 1 medium sized lasagna dish
- For Sauce No.1
- 2x250g tubs ricotta cheese
- 2 egg yolks
- 100g parmesan cheese, grated
- pinch salt and pepper
- For Sauce no.2
- 800ml milk
- 80g plain flour
- 80g cold butter butter, diced
- cheddar cheese, grated
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 175ºC.
- Prepare the vegetables. Peel the shallots. Deseed the peppers and slice lengthways into large slices. Peel the carrots and cut into quarters.
- Place in a large bowl and add seasoning, olive oil or rapeseed oil and mix until well coated. Add fresh herbs. Place on a roasting tin and add the unpeeled garlic. Roast for 30 minutes. Set aside.
- Cook the kale by stir frying in oil and steaming in a covered wok with 1 tablespoon water for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't´t burn and add another tablespoon of water if necessary.
- To make the fresh tomato sauce, place the plum tomatoes in a bowl of boiling water, add a little knife slit at the top of the tomatoes and leave for 10 minutes to soften the skins. Replace the hot water with cold water for 2 minutes to cool down and remove the skins.
- Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and add to a pan along with olive oil, tomatoes puree and fresh herbs. Add the cherry tomatoes whole and squeeze the sweet garlic from the skins and add to the pan. Add the seasoning. If using red wine add the red wine to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes stirring continuously.
- To make the ricotta cheese sauce no.1 mix all the ingredients until well combined.
- If you are opting for cheese sauce no.2 place the milk, cold butter and flour and whisk continuously over a low heat until smooth.
- When the sauce thickens add the cheese and seasoning and whisk until melted.
- To assemble the vegetarian lasagna, place the roasted vegetables at the bottom of the lasagne dish.
- Place half the tomato sauce on top of the vegetables.
- Place 5 lasagna sheets over the tomato and vegetable layers.
- Top with the cheese topping of your choice.
- Add the kale in one layer then repeat with a layer of roasted vegetables, a layer of tomato sauce and the remaining lasagna sheets.
- Finally top with the remaining cheese sauce and grated cheese.
- Bake in the oven for 35040 minutes until golden on top.
- Delicious served with a crisp green salad.
- If you wish to roast the cherry tomatoes, add them to the roasted vegetables for the last 10-15 minutes instead of adding to the tomato sauce.