A Village Life

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tutorial: Vegetarian Lasagne

So this recipe satisfies even the most carniverous of palates.  My husband who was born and raised on a farm and thinks (or used to think) that no meal is complete without a serious blob of flesh reckons that this dish is my greatest all time vegetarian invention.  It isn't an exact recipe, more of an Elizabeth David style talk through.....
Start with a few onions, a few carrots and some celery sticks.  Chop them into a small dice 'mirepoix'.  In a large pot drizzle a good amount of olive oil, I'm talking like a third of a cup or so.  Chuck in your mirepoix and saute on medium heat.  Add in a bay leaf, a clove of chopped garlic, a large pinch of dried oregano and as much dried chili flakes as you think you can handle.  If my kids weren't in the equation this would be 1 or 2 tablespoons.  You could also add in some fresh herbs if you have them; a handful of basil, a sprig of rosemary or thyme, what ever you fancy.  Saute these ingredients until the veggies start to soften and get a bit of color on them.  Now add in your lentils.  For a large rectangular dish of lasagne this will be about 2 cups of 500grams approximately.  Use only either French puy lentils (if you are feeling a bit extravagant) or plain brown lentils.  Any other kind will break down into a mush.  You must use a lentil that keeps its structure.  Saute the lentils until they are coated in oil and well combined with the vegetables.  Add in a generous amount of salt (1 tablespoon or so to taste), I prefer maldon sea salt or NZ sea salt flakes.  Now pour in either water or stock to cover about an inch above the lentils.  The lentils must cook with water first before you add your tomatoes or else they won't soften due to the acid in the tomato.  Let this mixture bubble away until most of the water gets absorbed and the lentils are almost soft.  Now add in a 500 gram tin of tomatoes and a small tin of tomato paste.  Exact quantities don't really matter, it depends on your taste.  If you like a really tomatoey sauce the put in more tomato paste.  Now let this simmer on the stove for a good 20 minutes.  It needs to be quite liquidy so top it up with water if it gets too thick.  Think chunky soup consistency.  It is important that your sauce is a bit on the watery side because the pasta will absorb that liquid. If your sauce is too thick, the lasagne will be dry  So you see here we are making a lentil 'bolognaise' sauce.  Adjust your seasonings to taste, add salt and pepper if you like.  Once you are happy with your sauce take out any fresh herb stems and we can start to assemble.  I have used both fresh and dried lasagne sheets in this dish and both are equally as nice.  Fresh pasta gives a toothier thicker pasta feel to it. Start with covering the bottom of your dish with a bit of the sauce then cover with a layer of lasagne.  Break the sheets to fit into your dish.  Now layer away putting a good amount of lentil sauce in between each layer.  So maybe like 3 layers total of sauce, 4 layers of pasta.  Finish the top with your final pasta layer.  Set this aside and begin your white sauce.  In a large saucepan melt 3 tablespoons of butter with 1/4 cup of flour.  Stir and cook over medium heat for 2 or 3 minutes.  Whisk in 3 cups of milk and cook stirring continuously with a wooden spoon.  You want this mixture to thicken to a heavy cream consistency.  This will take about 5 to 10 minutes.  Taste and season.  Now top your lasagne with this white sauce and put in a preheated oven 180/350 and bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until the whole thing is bubbly and golden on top.   
We serve it with shavings of pecorino or parmesan, more dried chili flakes and some good fresh young olive oil drizzled on top.  Yummy with some mixed dark greens lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar, fruity olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.  And of course lots of good red wine, friends and family.


  1. The lentil bolognaise is a great idea. I've seen vegetarIan lasagnas, but none that use lentils. What a great way to 'bulk' it up. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Mmmm, this sounds so good. Love the addition of the lentils. So hearty. I'll have to tuck this away to try this winter.

  3. This looks incredible. I can't wait to try it this fall, but I somehow can't see mine looking quite as perfect on the plate!

  4. yum.........enough said.


  5. It's been many many years since I've tasted your cooking, so I decided I had to make this asap when I saw ypur recipe. I finally made it tonight and it was f*((*& fantastic.
    I was worried that the noodles wouldn't cook into the sauce but it turned out really well.
    I took a photo of it and linked your tutorial to my blog.