Not for the faint of heart!
Lasagna is labor intensive, veggie or not. But it can be done in stages in order to fit into a busy week. I made the bolognese sauce and the bechamel sauce on Sunday, so tonight after work I only had to assemble the layers and scoot it into the oven. The plusses of such a time-consuming meal? Hmmm, I don’t know why but Americans really love their lasagna. Something about the yummy gloopiness of it. So that’s a plus. Also it’s a way to get some sneaky veggies in there. And it’s one of those hearty meals that we seem to need some days. It will feed a crowd of hungry people on a cold evening. Not every October night is salad night. Oh and, um, this is just as good if not better than any meat lasagna out there. I love you puy lentil. Sorry green lentil…
Ingredients for 4-6 people
1 1/2 cups of cooked lentils (puy, black or lentil verites)
1 can of tomatoes, chopped with their juice, or 200g of homemade tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1/2 large onion or 1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 celery, chopped finely
1 carrot, chopped finely
1/2 red pepper, chopped finely
1 fresh ripe tomato, chopped
about 6 mushrooms, chopped finely
1-3 sundried tomatoes, soaked and chopped finely (not the antipasti kind in olive oil)
1 tsp dried basil or 3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
9 lasagna noodles, no pre-cooking necessary is recommended*
2 1/2 cups of shredded cheese (a mix of white cheddar and mozzarella is good)
Breadcrumbs for sprinkling on top (optional)
fresh grated parmesan for sprinkling on top (optional)
*This can be done with normal lasagna noodles that you don’t precook but you will need a bit extra sauce and longer cooking time.
for the bechamel
2 cups milk
3 tbs (or a bit less than 1/4 cup) of butter
1/4 cup white flour
handful of white cheddar or sharp white cheddar
1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg
salt and pepper
1) Cook the lentils according to directions. They don’t take long and can cook while you prep the veggies. Drain and set aside.
2) In a big pot, heat up olive oil and gently fry all chopped veggies until soft. Stir a little and turn down heat if they are browning. Around 15 minutes. The sun-dried tomatoes makes this a RICH sauce. Depending on how strong they are, start with one first.
3) Add in the lentils, homemade tomato sauce or can of chopped tomatoes, seasoning and the 1/2 cup of water if needed. The sauce should be a little soupy.
4) Simmer gently for a few minutes and adjust seasoning if needed. This should be packed with flavor, as the noodles will absorb much of the sauce. Turn off the heat.
For the bechamel sauce
1) Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.
2) Add in the flour a little at a time and whisk over the heat. The texture of the roux should be like wet sand.
3) Allow to cook gently for a couple minutes to take out the taste of flour and then add in the milk.
4) Cook on a low heat, whisking every so often so the flour-butter roux incorporates into the milk and thickens it. Don’t let the milk boil.
5) When the sauce has begun to thicken, turn the heat down very low and season with plenty of salt and pepper and fresh grated nutmeg (1/4 tsp).
6) Add in the handful of cheddar, whisk to melt and taste the sauce. Adjust if necessary. This is not meant to be a super cheesy sauce as more cheese will be layered over it, come assembly time.
Assemble the lasagna
1) Preheat the oven to 375
2) Ladle some tomato sauce into a large baking tray and place down three lasagna sheets next to each other, not quite touching
3) Spoon about 3 heaping tbs of lentil tomato sauce on each lasagna sheet and spread
4) Next spoon about 1 1/2 or 2 tbs of bechamel sauce on each lasagna noodle
5) Sprinkle evenly with cheese
6) Repeat with two more layers
7) Add a little extra cheese to the top and then sprinkle with a little more basil, shredded parmesan, olive oil, breadcrumbs and salt and pepper
8) Cook in the oven for about 30-40 min or until golden and bubbly on top. Or cover with tin foil and then uncover for the last few minutes and brown the cheese on top under the broiler.