Lasagna Challenge Part 2: Béchamel Mucho

I’ve been craving veggie lasagne again. A while ago I had some nice lasagna at Sandro’s for lunch. They put aubergine and spinach in it. I thought, this time, I’d go for classic béchamel sauce, as well. IMG_4217

So this is basically a Vegetable Lasagna. I’ve consulted several different recipes to come up with this one.

  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 courgette
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • baby spinach leaves
  • pasta
  • some grated cheese (I used mozzarella style cheese)
  • 2 balls of mozzarella
  • See below for what you need for your béchamel and your tomato sauces.

You have three basic elements as well as your pasta:

1) Roasted Veg Grill the veg, except the spinach (duh), in the oven. IMG_4219

  • aubergine, sliced vertically
  • courgette, sliced vertically
  • bell peppers, in bits & peel-side up (remember to peel after roasting)

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2) Béchamel sauce à la Mario Batali (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/bechamel-sauce-recipe.html) I didn’t need a big amount for my lasagna, since I was doing a tomato sauce as well, so I halved the recipe:

  • 2,5 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 4,5 dl milk
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of nutmeg

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3) Tomato sauce à la little old me

  • 1 tin of organic whole plum tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 big clove of garlic crushed
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • small bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • black pepper

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Sauté the diced onion in some olive oil, add the crushed garlic and then the tinned tomatoes. Season with the rest of the ingredients and leave to simmer and thicken.

The assembly Assemble your lasagna so that you start with some sauce, i.e. moisture, on the bottom so the pasta will cook. I put a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom, followed by pasta. Then I put a layer of aubergine topped with rinsed baby spinach leaves in a loose layer.

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I then poured half the béchamel and some tomato sauce on top and sprinkled some grated cheese, setting another layer of pasta on top of those (perpendicularly to help the lasagna to keep its form once cooked and cut into portions).

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I decided to give each layer a personality of its own. So the next layer contained grilled courgette and bell pepper, topped again with some spinach. I then put only the béchamel sauce and sprinkled cheese on top, since I wanted to save some tomato sauce for the final top layer.

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So on went more pasta, and then the rest of the tomato sauce and the last of the aubergine. I topped it all of with sliced mozzarella and some grated cheese. I even drizzled some olive oil and sprinkled a bit of black pepper on top.

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I’d allowed the heat in the oven to go down a bit from the grilling. Around 180 degrees Celsius is a nice mild temperature for the lasagna to cook in. I popped it in to bake for about 40 minutes. IMG_4246

I let it rest for about 20 minutes before “getting in there”.

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As an end note, a few (or several) words on how to get the flavour balance right in your veggie lasagna, especially if you’re winging it and mixing recipes like me. A good lasagna, you see, hangs on two things: the layering and the flavour and texture balance of each component. In hindsight, the only thing I might do differently with this one is put even more baby spinach in. It really does shrink so much. But that’s a minor niggle, the lasagna was lovely, nevertheless.

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If you’re using béchamel sauce, keep in mind that it’s milky and a little sweet unless you’re adding grated parmesan or the like into it. Originally, béchamel sauce belongs in a meaty lasagna. Its sweetness and softness balances out the punch of the tomato and meat sauce. To make sure you’re veggie lasagna doesn’t end up tasting bland or too milky, you should make sure you’ve salted and probably roasted your veg, and a tasty tomato sauce, like I’ve done here, won’t go amiss. Just to counter the sweetness of the béchamel. In my previous veggie lasagna experiment, the recipe had ricotta mixed with lemon zest and herbs in stead of béchamel sauce. That’s pretty good, too. It will give you similar creaminess with a hint of sourness, and you can add anything you want to season it, so it’s more flexible than a classic béchamel. I think the next step for me would be to experiment with a fully vegan pasta bake. What to do when you can’t have cheese or milk in it, or egg… and what’s lasagna pasta like when there’s no egg in the dough. I feel another googling bonanza coming on…

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