It’s amazing how many variations there are out there on lasagne, both the vegetarian and the traditional meat varieties. When I was growing up in Canada I ate lasagne that had cottage or ricotta cheese in it but when I came to England I discovered that lasagne here relies much more on a white sauce (traditionally Béchamel sauce). As someone who loves tomatoes, this was a bit of a disappointment, as in most lasagnes made in the UK, tomato sauce takes a very definite back seat.
My vegetarian lasagne is unlike either of these. It does not rely very heavily on cheese (although it does contain a nice amount of mozzarella) and there is definitely no white sauce in it. It also incorporates a very non-traditional ingredient - beans. I had lasagne made with beans for the first time many years ago and they add a wonderful texture and depth of flavour - as well being wonderful nutritional powerhouses.
I use fresh lasagne sheets, partly because I am lazy when it comes to lasagne, and partly because I am impatient. If you would rather use dried pasta that you cook in advance that is absolutely fine. Just cook and drain the lasagne sheets before you start layering. If, however, you use the dried ‘no need to pre-cook’ sheets, bear in mind that the dish may take slightly longer to cook as you are also cooking and softening the pasta. The beauty of making it with fresh pasta is that it is incredibly easy to put together, particularly if you already have roast vegetables on hand in the fridge as I usually do.
This recipe serves three to four people but you can easily double it. When I do that I generally cook it in two pans so that it cooks more quickly. If you use a larger pan it will take longer to cook.
10 ounces of fresh lasagne sheets
2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil (I use olive)
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2½ cups of plain tomato sauce or passata (sieved tomatoes - organic if possible. If you are using dried ‘no need to pre-cook’ lasagne sheets you may find you need a bit more.)
⅓ cup basil pesto
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1-14 ounce can mixed beans (preferably organic), drained and rinsed
2 to 3 cups roast vegetables
(zucchini, peppers and onion - click on the link for the recipe)
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups grated vegetarian mozzarella cheese
Preheat the oven to 375℉ (190℃ or 170℃ for a fan oven).
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté the onion until it begins to soften. Stir in the tomato sauce and pesto and heat through. Add the oregano, roast vegetables and beans and simmer over low heat for ten minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper to taste if necessary.
In a large deep rectangular dish, layer the lasagne, starting with about a third of the pasta, followed by a third of the vegetable and bean sauce, followed by a third of the cheese. Repeat until the three quarters full, being sure to finish with a layer of cheese.
Place the dish on a baking sheet (in case it bubbles over a bit) and bake for 30 to 45 minutes until the cheesy top is golden brown and the lasagne feels tender when prodded with a fork. Remove from the oven and let it rest for about five minutes before cutting and serving with garlic bread and / or a salad.