:: Winter is well and truly here. This week the skies have barely cleared, remaining grey and dark from dawn until early dusk. Time spent outside is kept as minimal as possible to avoid the chill wind & heavy downpours. I’ve been yearning for hot soup and other hearty meals, so I set aside a big portion of the weekend to cook up a good store for the freezer.
Lasagna is a great comfort food but it’s often so heavy with the meat, cheese and creamy sauce. In this version, the roasted vegetables are the heroes and even the bolognaise filling is bulked up with field mushrooms and spinach. It does take quite a bit of preparation time to get this into the oven, but the result is completely worth it.
12 ready made lasagna sheets
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 large aubergines, sliced into 2.5cm disks
2 red capsicums
1/2 butternut pumpkin, seeds removed and cut into 2.5cm slices
4 large field mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
500g lean beef mince
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
Couple of handfuls of baby spinach
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
5 sprigs fresh thyme, leave removed
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Sea salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Garlic Bechamel Sauce
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup plain flour
1 1/4 cups full cream milk
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Place the capsicums in the oven for 30-40 minutes until blackened and charred. Once they’re done, place in a plastic bag to cool and sweat. Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin and seeds from each capsicum and tear into large pieces.
Place aubergine disks on an oiled baking tray, brush generously with olive oil and roast until browned. Flip slices and roast for another 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Repeat the process with the pumpkin slices, until the corners start to blacken and the flesh is completely soft. Remove and set aside.
For the bolognaise sauce, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Fry onions until soft and golden. Add mushrooms and garlic and fry until sweated down. Add the mince and cook, stirring regularly until the meat is browned and the majority of the moisture has evaporated. Finally, add the tinned tomatoes, balsamic, tomato paste and sugar.
Season generously, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes until reduced. Add the fresh herbs and spinach, stirring through until the spinach has wilted.
To make the bechamel sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over very low heat. Add the garlic and cook for a minute, stirring constantly. You don’t want the garlic or butter to brown but to gently infuse with flavour. Add the flour, a quarter of a cup at a time, whisking to evenly combine the butter and flour until you have a crumbly consistency. Now you need to add the milk, little by little, whisking constantly to maintain a smooth, even consistency. Once evenly whisked, add the parmesan and continue whisking until the sauce is free of any lumps.
Reduce your oven heat to 160°C. To assemble the lasagna, place four pasta sheets in the bottom of a large baking dish. Add half the bolognaise sauce and top with the roasted aubergine. Layer another four pasta sheets over the top, add the remaining bolognaise and top with roasted pumpkin slices and capsicum pieces. Place the final four pasta sheets on top, pour over the bechamel sauce in an even layer and sprinkle over the cheese.
Place in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the top is melted and brown, and the pasta layers are cooked through. Serve with a simple green salad and fresh basil. Belissimo!