Tomato, lentil and spinach vegetarian lasagne
Much of my time leafing through cookbooks is about finding something to please vegetarians and meat eaters. With our family down to three (with elder teen at Uni) the cooking and eating dynamics have changed. Instead on the veggie vote being one quarter, it’s now up to a third and yes this makes a difference. I’m much less inclined to cook a separate vegetarian meal for one and a meat-focused for two.
Then there are all the individual food preferences to take into consideration. Is it difficult to find one meal that everyone really likes (not just will eat) in your house? Veggie teen has a blind-spot about tomatoes and likes her sauces smooth (I’ve given suggestions if you like a chunkier sauce).
This recipe was born out of trying to please everyone, eat at different times (I spent the whole evening watching younger teen play netball) and not spend a horrendously long time in the kitchen (masses of work on right now). My Vitamix took the strain at several points for speedier prep. There was more than enough for us for two nights – I LOVE leftovers.
I put a tray of sausages into the oven, alongside the lasagne, for 20 minutes, a good one if a crowd of carnivores and veggies are coming round for supper. Serving with a crisp green salad including some baby spinach leaves would make it perfect for me.
Tomato, lentil and spinach vegetarian lasagne
- 200g dried, red lentils (or a can of lentils)
- bay leaf
- olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- 1 400g tin of tomatoes
- a large handful of oven-dried tomatoes or fresh tomatoes chopped or a small tin (227g) tinned tomatoes
- 2 carrots, roughly chopped for Vitamix cooking or finely if conventional
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or to taste)
- 1/2 dried chilli
- dash of Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- 50g butter
- 50g plain flour
- 400g milk
- pinch nutmeg, fresh grated
- sea salt and black pepper
- 500g leaf spinach, washed and tough stalks removed
- 9 dried, green lasagne sheets, non-precook type (approx depending on the size and shape of your pan)
- 300g Parmesan, Grana Padano or vegetarian hard cheese (grated) plus extra
- Heat the oven to 220 C and get out large oblong or square baking dish or lasagne dish (minimum 20cm x 20 cm)
- Put the dried, red lentils in a medium-sized pan with the bay-leaf and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer until cooked (about 25 minutes). Drain, remove the bay-leaf. Skip this step if using canned lentils.
- Saute the onion until softened but not brown (about 5 minutes), add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Put into a Vitamix or power blender with the tinned tomatoes, carrots, oregano, chilli and Worcestershire sauce (if using). If you want a smooth sauce add the oven-dried and/or fresh tomatoes at this stage. For a chunkier sauce, stir them in at the end. Switch the Vitamix on, turn up to 10, then cook on full power for 7 minutes until the sauce is warm and smooth. Alternatively continue to simmer all the above ingredients in a pan with the onion and garlic until the carrots are tender (blend if desired). Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
- Pour sauce into a jug and rinse out the Vitamix. To make the Bechamel, melt the butter in a non-stick pan, stir in the flour and cook the paste for a few minutes. Add the milk and pour into the Vitamix adding a good sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg. Blend on high until warm, thick and silky (about minutes). Season to taste. If using a pan, add the milk a splash at a time stirring constantly until all incorporated and thickened (then add seasonings). You can also put the butter, flour and milk directly into the Vitamix and blend but I think you can still taste the uncooked flour this way.
- Wilt the spinach over a medium heat in the same pan you sautéed the onion. Remove and chop roughly.
- Stir the lentils into the tomato sauce. Spread a layer over the base of the baking dish. Place 3 lasagne sheets in a row. Spread a thin layer of Bechamel over the pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan and dot over half the chopped spinach. Repeat this using the other half of spinach. Repeat so that the last layer is Bechamel and a good sprinkling of cheese.
- Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until the lasagne is soft and the top is brown.
A note on making this strictly vegetarian. Animal rennet is always used in traditional Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano so find a cheese that specifically mentions it is without this. Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce is not vegetarian as it contains anchovies, but you can buy vegetarian alternatives or make your own.
What to drink?
I’m on a Rhone roll right now after my Grenache tasting plus a Rhone evening by Le Clos this week. Traditionally, the acicity of Italian reds is first choice (e.g. Chianti Classico) but the brightness of grenache blends would also work with the spiciness of the tomato.
STEAL: M. Chapoutier, Belleruche, 2013 Côtes-du-Rhône – luscious hedgerow fruits, herby, smokey and a touch of sweaty horse (this is a good thing). Great value Rhone.
SPLURGE: René Rostaing La Landonne, 2010 Côte-Rôtie – still dreaming of this wine from the Le Clos tasting. It smells like you’ve trodden through the countryside in your wellies on a damp Autumn day – green foliage, berries and smoke. Full bodied and intense.
Thanks to Laura for reminding me to use my Vitamix for white sauce with her roasted veg lasagne recipe. I found fresh garlic in Carrefour this week – it would be perfect for Elizabeth’s grilled veggie lasagne with wild garlic pesto. Katie has similar issues with her boys about smoothness so the Vitamix takes the strain for her veggie packed lasagne. Dannii uses ricotta for a lower cal, healthier version in her roasted veg lasagne. Kellie takes all the comforting qualities of a meaty, cheesy lasagne and makes it veggie/vegan friendly and super-healthy with butternut squash and spinach. Note to self: use more nuts in veg recipes.
Do you make an effort not to eat meat e.g. meat-free Mondays? What do you serve for a mixed crowd of veggies and meat-eaters? If you are vegetarian, would you ever cook meat for friends?