Archive | May 4, 2014

My vegetarian lasagne – for busy women


So I’ve made this twice and varied the vegetables and the type of tomato base I put in slightly. It is soooo yummy. (And I’ve made other vegie lasagne, ones with roast veggies but they just take too long.) I will be making it regularly forever, much to one of my son’s displeasure because he only likes lasagne with mince.

Tough, I say. Cook your own.

Firstly I make the veggie sauce the day ahead. It needs to simmer for an hour. I don’t ever, except on weekends when I couldn’t be bothered anyway, have the time to prepare and cook a dinner that takes over two and a half hours from start to finish. So I make the sauce the day or two before when I am cooking something else. It can simmer away on the stove, then I pop it in the fridge in a plastic container. Then the day of the lasagne, I layer it up. On the positive side, for most of the cooking time, both for the sauce and for the baking, you don’t need to do anything. So have the red wine ready. I find it helps pass the time. Or, as I like to say, sets the mood for a sort-of Italian dinner.

So first to the sauce.

Sauce Ingredients:

  • Some olive oil to cook the vegies
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups grated carrot (lots of grated carrot. More than two cups. I don’t really measure but grate until I’m bored – I hand grate – or it looks enough.)
  • 2 zucchinis, chopped (I’m not a fan of too much zucc. Becomes an overpowering texture. So small ones.)
  • 1 red or green capsicum, chopped. (Red is better. But sometimes they are so much more expensive – $9 vs $3 a kilo – that you just can’t justify it, even in a cheap veggie dinner.)
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (measurements are rough. My measurements are more of the handful variety. Think I use about two handfuls. Again, I just chop until it looks enough.)
  • Other veggies, as you see fit to use up, or that you like. I had some celery last time and put about three stalks, chopped of course, in. The thing is everything needs to be chopped. No great big chunks.
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar (very important this. Don’t leave it out. Think I heap it, because that’s how I roll.)
  • 1 tbsp dried basil, or more if it is fresh, or both if you like. I’ve done dried and fresh.
  • Dried mixed herbs – I really don’t measure, but sprinkle it on till I think it’s enough.
  • Chopped parsley, a small handful, or big. It adds depth but disappears in the sauce.
  • Now to the options for the tomatoes in the sauce:
    The first time I made it was the best. I used:

  • 800g jar of passata
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • And a little water (I’m a tight arse. So put some water in the tin and jar and swish out all the tomatoey goodness I bought.)
  • The second time, I followed the recipe as I originally copied it. Not as good in my opinion, too watery, not rich enough:

  • 400g tin tomato puree
  • 400g tin peeled tomatoes in juice, chopped
  • 1 1⁄2 cups water. (But it wasn’t tomatoey enough for me so I squirted in tomato paste.)
  • Sauce Method:
    1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy based saucepan and add onion, garlic and carrot. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are soft.

    2. Add rest of veggies, pepper, then tomatoes, seasonings and water. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    3. Simmer for at least an hour so the flavours mix and the sauces thickens. (Go off for the wine, or cook something else. Your family will smell it and ask when can they eat it. Smack their filthy paws off it. But you can eat some. A good cook always tastes their cooking. It’s yummy enough to eat right then and there. Don’t let it burn though! So easy when you have a few.)

    4. Turn off the heat. Let sauce cool. Put it in a container and in the fridge until you feel like making the lasagne. This makes a huge, extra large wok full for me. If you don’t have this much, you won’t get two lasagnes, so add more veggies or more tomatoes.

    So now it’s the next day and you want to make the lasagne!

    Day 2 ingredients

  • The container of sauce
  • Lasagne sheets
  • 50g butter
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • Grating of fresh nutmeg
  • Grated cheese – cup or two
  • Take the container out of the fridge.

    Make the white sauce. I’ve made recipes that call for a mixture of ricotta and other stuff. Yeah, they may be healthier, they may have fewer calories but WHITE SAUCE IS THE GO. OK? Just trust me.

    White Sauce Ingredients (This is when I measure. I get a bit nervous with white sauce, but both times it has turned out lovely.)

  • 50g butter
  • 6 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • Grating of fresh nutmeg – use a light grating over the sauce, then mix in. Careful, a hint of flavour is better.)
  • White sauce method
    1. Melt butter.
    2. Add flour and cook until it forms a lumpy mixture.
    3. Slowly add milk and mix, and mix, and mix. Look, I won’t lie. Last time I was impatient (What? Me? Never!) and poured in two of the cups at once and was a little worried that it would be too lumpy. No worries. I just stirred and stirred and it was fine.
    4. Grate over some nutmeg. And stir and cook until it is thick.

    Time to layer the lasagne.

    The recipe I followed said to have 400g of lasagne. God! How much pasta, or how many layers must they have? I use half the packet of 357g dried, instant lasagne pasta AND I GET TWO LASAGNES. DID YOU HEAR THAT? TWO!!! Yeah. All that cooking and I have two dinners made!

    Anyway, back to the lasagne.

    1. Heat oven to 160°C.
    2. You may wish to grease your baking dish. I don’t and haven’t had any issues.

    I use a regular ceramic lasagne dish, 30cm by 24cm, 5cm deep, AND a 23cm round glass Corningware/Pyrex kind of thing because that is what I have. Remember, I get two lasagnes. The round one is much smaller, but you can add salad when serving. (Or have it for four lunches yourself!)

    3. Spread a little sauce on base, cover with a pasta sheet to fit. As I use the dried sheets and they are square, and one of my dishes is round, I just crack bits off the corners of the sheets, and layer like a mosaic. No one notices.

    4. Cover sauce a but deeper this time, then pasta. That’s it. I only have two layers of sauce. It’s plenty. All my sauce is used up. So you have two layers of pasta, and the second one is on top. You don’t want to overfill the dish.

    5. Top with white sauce.

    6. Sprinkle grated cheese on top.

    7. Cook 45-50 minutes at 160°C. Leave to settle 10-15 minutes before serving.

    Reheats well. I put one in the fridge for a later dinner. Or lunch.