Weekend cooking is such a treat. Hungry Hubby and I are very used to staying home. Time was, weekends were for shopping, clubbing, day trips to the zoo, parties and playing computer games into the wee small hours with takeaway pizza next to us. You name it – it was about fun, young love and excitement. These days, grown up sensibility has taken over and we’ve tightened our belts, focussing on getting rid of the debt accumulated over all those years being students before we start living the life of the young professionals I suppose we are. Both of us yearn for the ability to go on exotic or adventurous holidays and see a bit more of the world than that which we can glimpse at through the stained glass windows of the Apple Chapel but really, we are pretty content to stay home and potter a wee while longer. For Hungry Hubby, “pottering” means football and computer games; for me it of course means time to let my creative side flow in the kitchen. Weekdays are all too tiring to spend hours stove side but come Saturday and Sunday, there’s nothing I love more.
Of course I do get to leave the house on occasion even despite the self-imposed financial shackles – a trip to one of the several top quality local grocers we are very fortunate to have on our doorsteps is more often than not how I spend my time. A jar of pesto (so sue me), two alligator green courgettes and a bright, shiny, purple Gonzo nose which is how I think of aubergines caught my eye. The pot of slow cooked tomato sauce bubbling away back in my kitchen was begging to be turned into a complete meal and the idea for a sort of vegetarian lasagne came together.
Pre-roasting the thinly sliced courgettes and aubergines gave them a nice crisp edge and a hint of char even to intensify their flavours. The heat of the oven dried them out a touch meaning they wouldn’t leach out any moisture of their own, which would run the risk of diluting the final dish – instead, they sucked up moisture and flavour from the pesto spiked tomato sauce. Hungry Hubby requested I added sweetcorn as he really loves a traditional meat lasagne with a little added veg like corn, peas or even a bag of mixed frozen veg. The pesto gave a new dimension to the final dish – there is some basil in the tomato sauce which is unusual for me as I usually go oregano in the summer and rosemary in the winter. It just feels right to do so. The basil gave a fresh edge to a rich dish. I’d also made some ciabatta when we had this so we had some sliced, rubbed with garlic and griddled before they were brushed with more pesto and topped with heritage tomatoes and balsamic glaze for a starter to the meal. A rocket salad completed the meal. It was a finger licking dinner, Italian style. One to stop and savour for a while. Hungry Hubby didn’t even mind the fact it wasn’t his all time favourite beef lasagne and if he didn’t miss the meat, you won’t either. Hence why there is no “cut” photograph – we were too busy enjoying the meal for me to stop and get a shot!
- 1 aubergine thinly sliced
- 2 courgettes thinly sliced
- 1 small can of sweetcorn extra crisp if possible, well drained
- 400 ml tomato sauce*
- 2-3 tbsp pesto check the jar to ensure it is vegetarian if you need or or make your own with vegetarian parmesan cheese
- Olive oil
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 2 tbsp butter
- 400 – 500ml milk
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Cracked black pepper
- 6 sheets of lasagne or enough to create three layers in your dish
- 6 tbsp grated mozzarella
- 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
- *= see here for my recipe or if time is really an issue use slightly less passata as it will be more liquid than this thick rah sauce -https://joblogsjobakes.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/full-bodied-tomato-sauce/
Spray or brush the sliced aubergine and courgette with olive oil, season then roast in a single layer in the centre of a preheated oven at 180°C for 20-25 minutes. They should be crisping around the edges and browning lightly. Put to one stand as you prepare the white sauce.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan then add the flour, mustard powder, a good grating of nutmeg and plenty of black pepper and after a couple of minutes, start dribbling in the milk. Whisk or stir constantly until all the milk has been incorporated and the sauce thickens. This can take several minutes if using skim milk as there is a higher water:fat ratio and it needs to evaporate. Take off the heat when ready.
Whisk the pesto into the tomato sauce.
Take a small oven proof dish big enough to take your lasagne sheets and pour a third of the tomato sauce into the base. Layer up a third of the roasted veg and a third of the sweetcorn. Lay on top two sheets of pasta and then spread over a third of the white sauce and 2 tbsp of the mozzarella. Repeat this step twice more finishing with extra nutmeg and black pepper then top with the parmesan.
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes at 180°C until the pasta is cooked and the top browned and bubbling. Stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.
I like to use brown rice “pasta” lasagne sheets when I’m not making fresh pasta (you can find a few recipes for fresh pasta on the blog) and they cook just the same as regular dried egg pasta.