Nicholas is a big meat eater (not surprising if you know his parents!). He usually happily shares his food when asked, but if it happens to be some meat he’s particularly enjoying, then he’s more likely to shovel everything into his mouth as quickly as possible then gesture with his hands it’s all gone (what a shame!).
During our holidays it was easy to feed him meat, but less easy to get him to eat a good amount of vegetables. And with the nice weather at the weekend, we had two days of barbecues at friends’ with Nicholas happily devouring hamburgers and chorizo sausages. Vegetables? Not interested mummy, more MEAT.
So my objective for this week was to get as many vegies in him as possible!
My vegetarian lasagne is just a simplified lasagne that’s not too time-consuming to prepare or cook. Looking for a dish small enough to fit just one sheet of lasagna, I had the brainwave of using a loaf tin and mine was the perfect size. Any ovenproof dish would be fine though.
I used spinach, yellow pepper (capsicum), mushrooms and onion in my vegetable layer to pack in lots of nutrients (and don’t you just love the bright yellow and green colours?). You can use pretty much whatever vegetables you like or have on hand.
I remember my first attempts as a uni student making lasagne… not great. I didn’t understand the concept of the dry pasta sheets needing moisture to soften and cook. I thought the edges I didn’t cover with sauce would get nice and crunchy. Well they did, but they were also raw! It’s not rocket science, just make sure when you’re spooning the sauce over the pasta that the sheet is completely covered.
1/2 onion, diced
100g mushrooms, chopped
1 small yellow pepper (capsicum), diced
75g fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp plain flour
2 cups milk
A pinch of salt (optional)
A pinch of nutmeg
3 uncooked lasagna sheets
100g mozzarella di bufala (or any fresh mozzarella)
A handful of grated parmesan
Heat your oven to 220C.
In a medium frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 mins.
Add the mushrooms and pepper. Cover the pan and turn the heat down a little to med-low. Cook until the onion is transparent and the vegetables are soft, stirring occasionally.
Add the spinach and stir until it just starts to wilt. Take the pan off the heat.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a med-low heat. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon for 1 minute (this cooks the flour to avoid having a raw flour taste in your sauce).
Add about 1/4 cup of the milk to the flour paste and use a whisk to stir to get rid of any lumps immediately. Turn the heat up to medium and gradually whisk in the rest of the milk. Keep whisking until the sauce thickens to a runny custard consistency (not too thick), making sure it doesn’t boil.
Take the white sauce off the heat and add a pinch of salt (if using) and a good pinch of nutmeg. Mix and taste, adding more salt and/or nutmeg if necessary.
In a loaf tin, big enough to hold one lasagna sheet, spoon a few tablespoons of sauce into the bottom (just enough to cover it). Place a sheet of lasagna on top. Cover with half of the vegetable ‘sauce’ and then about one third of the remaining white sauce (making sure the pasta sheet is completely covered). Pull apart one third of the mozzarella into chunks with your fingers and sprinkle it over.
Add another layer of pasta, vegetables, white sauce and mozzarella.
Finish with the third sheet of pasta, top with the last of the white sauce, the remaining mozzarella and sprinkle over the parmesan.
Cook for 20-25 mins until the top is lovely and golden and the pasta is cooked (a knife or skewer will easily pierce through from the top to the bottom). If the top is getting too golden, cover with foil and continue cooking.
- use any combination of vegetables in the vegetable sauce
- add long slices of lightly fried courgette (zucchini) or aubergine (egg plant) under your vegetable sauce
- use dollops of ricotta instead of the mozzarella