A Lasagne For Summer

A few weeks ago, we wrote about that Italian Restaurant/Frozen Meal/Much Maligned Classic, Lasagne. The debate between Paul and I, Bechemal Sauce vs. Ricotta or Cottage Cheese, is always omnipresent whenever one of us makes Lasagne. Some things will never change.
And whilst I had stated that I would never fiddle around with the original recipe, retaining its slow-cooked ragu, I found myself bored in the kitchen last Sunday, wondering to prepare for supper. I wanted Lasagne but it seemed a little pointless spending three hours simmering a meat sauce for just the two of us. I got to thinking. As usual I had a drawer full of vegetables going wrinkly quickly. I had a tomato sauce recipe that was quick and delicious and I had a craving for pasta so I devised a vegetarian lasagne.
I have a work colleague who is proud of her Lasagne. She says it has a “vegetarian layer of spinach”. I question her time and time again on this “vegetarian layer”.
“Don’t you mean it’s a layer of vegetables? Because you can’t serve an otherwise meat-based Lasagne to vegetarian friends, vegetable layer or not.”
But she remains adamant – and proud – of her invention of the vegetarian layer.
And I digress.
My Lasagne truly is vegetarian but the addition of sautéed mushrooms (long known as the vegetarian’s meat) and courgettes (zucchini) would fulfil even the most fervent carnivore. Paul said it reminded him of Manicotti (the famous American dish of pasta tubes stuffed with ricotta and spinach that most Italians have never heard of, despite the Italian sounding moniker) but I thought it was perfect summer alternative to the richer meat Lasagne.
There are no hard and fast rules with this recipe, if you have a favourite tomato sauce recipe, then use that. It is a great dish to showcase seasonal vegetables – thin layers of squash would make this a lovely, warming Autumnal dish, whilst chargrilled peppers or slices of sautéed aubergines are perfect for the summer. You can replace even the Bechemel with Ricotta if you must…
You can also assemble the whole Lasagne (or just the tomato sauce) well in advance before baking. If you are making it the day before, make sure to cover it with tin-foil or clingfilm and refrigerate.
One final handy hint that I recently picked up is to stir the tomato sauce into the Bechemal sauce for a no-fuss assembly of the Lasagne.
1 Box Dried Lasagne
Parmesan and Mozzarella or Cheddar for grating on the top
Tomato Sauce:
2 Cans Tinned Tomatoes
1 Onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and finely chopped.
Teaspoon Sugar
Teaspoon Vinegar, Malt is fine
Squirt of Tomato Puree (Paste)
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Olive Oil
Some Basil Leaves or Parsley or a pinch of dried Oregano
Bechemel Sauce
25g Butter
25g Flour
1 Pint Milk
Salt, Pepper and a rasp of Nutmeg
“Vegetarian Layer”
1 Courgette, topped, tailed and sliced lengthwise, thinly
150g Mushrooms, cut into slices
30g Butter
To make the tomato sauce:
Soften the onions and garlic in a little warm olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree sugar, vinegar and a little seasoning.
Squidge the tomatoes down if they are whole so that they break down into the sauce quite quickly. You can play safe and chop them up in the can first, but I always like to avoid the little squirts of tomato juice that comes shooting out at you when you pop them with a wooden spoon.
Bring the sauce up to the boil, then turn down to a brisk simmer. Leave to cook for about half an hour or until thickened and reduced slightly. Add the herbs and taste for seasoning. Add more salt, sugar, pepper if necessary. You may even need to add another squirt of tomato puree if it’s not tomato-y enough for you.
Leave to cool slightly. This can be made well in advance.
To make the Bechemel Sauce:
Heat the milk gently in a saucepan.
In another saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat, taking care that it doesn’t burn, and add the flour. You should get a thickish, yellow paste. Pour over the warmed milk and whisk to whilst the sauce comes up to temperature. Add some salt, pepper and nutmeg. Keep whisking until the sauce has thickened to the consistency of thick cream, then turn down the heat and leave to simmer gently for about 5 minutes more, to cook out the flour taste. Remove from the heat.
To sauté the vegetables:
Divide the butter over two saucepans, melt over medium heat and place the courgettes in one, the mushrooms in another, seasoning lightly. Cook the courgettes for no longer than 2 minutes, or until lightly golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
Fry the mushrooms gently until the water they have exuded has evaporated. Remove from the heat.
To assemble:
Mix the tomato sauce into the Bechemel Sauce (optional). Place a thin layer onto your Lasagne dish, then add a layer of the Pasta sheets.
Put another layer of the red and white sauce(s), the thin layer of the courgette, then the pasta. Repeat but with a layer of the mushrooms instead.
Continue until you have used up all your sauce and mushrooms, ensuring that you end with a layer of the white (or mixed) sauce.
Smother with grated Parmesan and Cheddar or Mozzarella. At this point you can now bake the Lasagne in a hot oven (about 200c) for between 30-45 minutes or cover and refrigerate until you are ready to cook.
Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to stand to set up for about 10 minutes or so. This makes removal from the baking dish much easier.
Serve with a salad and some crusty bread.


Lydia said...

It's hard to make a lasagna that I wouldn't love -- but this recipe sounds nice and light, which is perfect for summer cooking. Will definitely give it a try!

wheresmymind said...

Cottage cheese...nay! B-sauce and Ricotta for my monay :)

Deborah said...

Do you have any leftovers to send my way??

Cheryl said...

I never ever ever ever get tired of a good lasagna. Sign me up for this one.

Deborah said...

Freya - I've tagged you for a meme!! Check out my blog for more info.

katiez said...

For some lasagnes I use bechamel; for some I use ricotta (cottage cheese in Wisconsin - couldn't get ricotta....didn't know what it was)
So, there's your conflict resolved... and you can send that lasagne my way.... but I double it there is any left - there wouldn't be at my house!

T.W. Barritt said...

I love vegetable Lasagna -- too often I'm put off by the chopping, but with so many things pre-cut now, it's a lot easier.

candy said...

i'm tagging you (but don't worry, i won't be the least bit hurt if you don't do it). check out "8 things you didn't know about me" at eatheregetgas.bravejournal.com

KJ said...

Your lasagne looks delicious. I love the 'vegetarian layer'. It's the sort of thing I would come up with.

tigerfish said...

"TiGarfield" (pronounced TiGerFish) here again....I don't mind being vegetarian for this lasagna.

Kelly-Jane said...

I love veggie lasagne, and yours looks yummy. Mmmm.

Nora B. said...

Freya, I like your "vegetarian layer" ;-)

Anonymous said...


How does one become a "Daring Baker"? I would love to particpate and not miss out on the monthly dare.

Kind regards,


Chris said...

Yum! I don't think I have ever had lasagne with bechamel sauce - only ricotta. hmmmmm. I actually just bgan making it because I was always so terrible at it. Thank goodness for Barilla's Noodles that don't need precooking! :)

Claude-Olivier said...

why with vegetables, it is so good with beef ;-) No, they look great !! cheers

toni said...

This sounds spectacular! I adore the idea of lasagne with veggies. I've never found the patience to make it, though, so how bout if I just join you for some leftovers? ;-)

Kristen said...

One thing I love about lasagna is how versatile it is. This looks fantastic!