The ultimate veggie lasagne
Veggie lasagne is one of those dishes I’ve struggled to get right. Which really bothered me, as it’s one of my favourite things to eat – the combination of tomatoey bolognese, white sauce, pasta and cheesy topping… I could eat it every day. My own recipe was finally perfected yesterday, after a good few years of experimenting. The amounts below are a bit slapdash, because I didn’t originally intend to write this up, but as long as you get them mostly right, you’ll end up with a rich, delicious sauce and a lasagne with a perfect crispy top – as evidenced by this appreciative video, with voiceover by Scooby Doo.
Ingredients (serves 6):
1 large white onion
1 small red onion
1 red pepper
1 medium courguette
3 cloves garlic
250g-ish veggie mince (I used Quorn frozen mince)
2 tins tomatoes (Napolina are the best)
1 teaspoon Marigold bouillon powder
2 big pinches mixed Italian herb seasoning
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Big squirt ketchup
Big glug red wine
Couple handfuls of spinach
1 jar white lasagne sauce
Lasagne pasta sheets
Mary-Anne’s Dairy “hard cheese” – thumb-sized lump
Start by preheating the oven to 200 degrees. Make sure you have a large, rectangular dish to make your lasagne in – one of the Pyrex ones is ideal.
Pour a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil (or coconut oil, sunflower, whatever you usually use) into a big saucepan or wok (I use a wok with a lid, it’s great for everything and gives the ingredients more room than a saucepan) and let it heat up while you chop up the onions. Add to the oil, then chop up and add in the red pepper, courguette and garlic cloves. Soften everything for about 5-10 minutes, until the onions start to get some colour on them. Take your packet of mince out the freezer and smack it on the side of the counter a bit, to break up all the frozen chunks – this is both necessary and very cathertic, do not skip. Add about 250g, or half of a big bag, of mince to the cooking vegetables. Stir everything about until the mince and veg are all mixed in, then sprinkle a teaspoon or so of bouillon powder straight into the pan, along with the herbs. Season with salt and pepper (big pinches, life is short).
Next, add both tins of plum tomatotes, and mash them down a bit to break them up. I used to buy the cheapest chopped tinned tomatoes, but over the years realised they were a false economy, as they made everything taste sour and crap. Get the Napolina ones in packs of four when they are on offer, it’s worth it. Now add in the rest of the wet ingredients – the tomato paste, the wine and the ketchup. You can either use the really old dregs of a bottle of cooking wine (like I did), or you can open a fresh bottle and have a glass for you, and a glug for the dinner. Leave everything to cook over a low-medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
To assemble your lasagne, first add a couple of splodges of white sauce to the bottom of the Pyrex dish. A lot of people will sneer at using a jar of sauce, but I’ve never managed to make a sauce that’s as thick and tasty as one that comes out of a jar. It’s also less effort, and less washing up. I’d recommend this one. Now, lay your first layer of pasta sheets down, single thickness, to cover the bottom of the dish. Add a layer of bolognese (don’t make it too thick, we’re going for more layers rather than thicker layers). Add another layer of pasta sheets, then cover with white sauce (again, not too thick, just enought to cover the pasta). Arrange some spinach on top of the white sauce, to act as a barrier underneath the next layer of bolognese you put on. Continue in this way – bolonese, pasta, white sauce, spinach – until you’ve used everything up. It can be tricky working out quantities, but you want to end up with your final layer being white sauce. Finally, grate the hard cheese (generic stuff is more likely to be vegetarian, actual Parmesan-with-a-capital-P is never) and sprinkle it over the top.
If you have a fan oven, you can cook this in the middle for 40 mins and it’ll be fine – if you have a crap oven with no fan, like I do, you’ll want to cook it higher up, and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. I cooked mine for 30 minutes at the top, then moved it down so I could cook garlic bread on the top shelf for the last 10-15 minutes. Be sure to leave it in until the cheese is crispy, and finally cut up into squares and enjoy! x