Stripey & Sweet:
gourmet veggie lasagna recipe
STEPS 8 INGREDIENTS 14 (inc. salt etc.) TIME 70-80 MINS
Let's start by explaining who this veggie lasagna recipe
• If you're in a rush to make dinner, you're out (this dish is all about gradual step-by-step creation).
• If you refuse to eat anything without meat in it, click away my friend.
... If you're a budding gourmant who loves the taste of something a bit different, a a serious mélange of flavors that your tastebuds will need a few mouthfuls to comprehend, then step this way and come with me to a land of succulent and stripey pasta pleasure.
You get all sorts of tastes with this slow n' steady plateful: creamily sweet potato, mashed with butter; nutrient-jammed spinach with the flavor and sturdy texture of mixed mushrooms; and running through it all the creamy nutty delight that is slow-simmered white bechamel sauce.
In contrast to many of the recipes on this site, this is not a traditional Italian recipe. Instead we created it when a good friend came to stay, based purely on the ingredients we found and loved at my local farmer's market here in Southern Switzerland.
The friend in question is Martin (right), the proprietor and chef of The Clough House gastro-pub in Northern England (a highly recommended eatery if you ever visit the Yorkshire area).
So thanks Martin, thanks reader (for getting through this hefty intro)... and I hope you love this dish too.
500g/17.5oz box of lasagna sheets (or make it fresh!)
Parmesan cheese (to grate)
Extra virgin olive oil
For the filling
2 small onions
5 small / 3 large sweet potatoes (how to choose/store them)
550g/19.5oz fresh spinach leaves (or frozen works too)
330g/11.5oz fresh or dried mushrooms (your choice - we mixed shitake and chanterelle, but porcini work great too)
1-2 sticks of fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves
For the bechamel sauce
1 liter/2.1 pints of skimmed/semi-skimmed milk
100g/3.5oz butter (cut into small 1cm-square cubes)
60g/2oz (4 tablespoons) plain/all purpose flour
Half a teaspoon of grated nutmeg (ideally bought whole and grated)
1 bay leaf
2 stalks of parsley (or half-handful of dried parsley leaves)
STEP 1 - For our preparation, we need to:
- Rinse and roughly slice the mushrooms.
- Unpeel, de-end and finely chop the garlic.
- Wash the spinach leaves and remove any long stalks (if using frozen, try to defrost in advance at room temperature).
- Rinse the sweet potatoes and prick with a fork.
- Peel and de-end the onions. Then slice 4 slices off one, put these to one side (they're for the bechamel sauce), and chop the remaining onion into chunks.
STEP 2 - Pop the potatoes in a hot oven (i.e. 180C/350F) and bake until soft.
(Set your timer for 40 minutes then check at 8-10 minute intervals until done.)
STEP 3 - Pour the milk into a pan with the 4 slices of onion, the bay leaf and a good pinch of salt.
- Bring to the boil on the hob, then simmer (bubbling very gently) for 2 minutes. Now take off the heat and we'll leave this to fill with flavor while we do the rest.
STEP 4 - Melt half the the butter in a deep frying pan on a medium heat hob, then add all the spinach, a good pinch or two of salt, and cover with its lid.
- Heat through, stirring occasionally, until the spinach completely wilts (softens and loses its size). We usually allow around 10 minutes for this leafy reduction.
- Drain away any excess water and store the cooked spinach in a separate bowl.
STEP 5 - Rinse the frying pan and then drop in: the chopped onions, a little salt and pepper, the leaves from the sticks of thyme, garlic and a good glug (6 tablespoons) of olive oil.
- Fry this mixture for around 8 mins on medium heat hob, until the onion softens.
- Then add the mushrooms with a good pinch of salt and fry, stirring regularly, for another 10 minutes, until the shrooms are soft and most of the moisture evaporates.
- Finally, take off heat and mix in the spinach. That's the filling for our green layer done!
STEP 6 - Now the this dish's orange layer:
- Take the baked sweet potatoes, cut in half and use a teaspoon to scoop their soft flesh into a large mixing bowl.
- Drop in a teaspoon or two of butter and use a potato masher to hammer until all big lumps are gone.
STEP 6 - Now back to the milk and we'll make our bechamel sauce. This is needed to ensure there's enough moisture between this veggie lasagna's layers.
- Fill a sieve with flour and gently shake it into the pan of milk, using a wooden spoon to slowly stir the milk forwards and back.
Still lumps of flour in the milk? Squash them against the pan’s side with your spoon.
- Repeat until all the flour is in the sauce and no lumps remain.
- Pop the pan on a maximum heat hob for 2 mins (to warm milk slightly), then turn down to medium (we don’t want to burn the milk!).
- Grate in a little nutmeg, add the remaining butter, and 3 teaspoons of salt.
- Slowly and continually stir the sauce until the butter melts and the sauce turns very creamy. (This is the least exciting part of this veggie lasagne recipe; allow between 5 and 10 minutes.)
Tip: Look out for the moment the sauce ‘turns’. It switches quickly from milk to syrupy white sauce. Kind of neat.
- When the sauce drips slowly off the spoon, it’s done. Take off the heat.
That's the filling for our orange layer done.
STEP 7 - Last step? Why of course, building our veggie lasagna!
(Note: no need to pre-cook dried lasagna sheets, this is a common misconception. Only if you made it fresh should you cook it lightly first in boiling water.)
- Grab a large baking dish (our perfect oval-shaped dish is 30cm/12" long) and 'stain' the bottom with a little bechamel sauce.
- Add a layer of lasagna sheets, breaking them to fit any weird gaps.
- Add another thin layer of white sauce on top of these sheets, then a full layer of spinach and mushrooms.
- More lasagna sheets.
- Now white sauce, with sweet potato mixture on top.
- Repeat until your fillings are used up (we get 2 layers of each type from these ingredients), making sure you leave a good layer of white sauce for the very top layer.
- Finally, grate a little parmesan over the top too. (We added some Swiss gruyere cheese we had in the fridge too, or you could use cheddar etc., as you like!).
STEP 8 - Pop your stripey veggie lasagna feast in the oven for 20 minutes at 180C/350F, then stand for 5 minutes to cool.
To serve: slice into big chunks and munch alongside a fine bottle of wine. Since there's no meat (no need!), white wine can work just as well as red.
Enjoyed this veggie lasagna recipe?
Then why not try...
‘No problema’ eggplant lasagna
3-cheese spinach lasagna
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