Updated: Nov 14, 2020
I’m always keen to create meals packed with veges for my kids and this one packs a punch with or without meat. It’s a beautiful base sauce for lasagne or cannelloni and only requires the slightest garnish of greens, given that it contains so many vegetables, including a LOT of spinach. Vegan mince and lentils work beautifully for extra protein and is a great way to replace a much-loved meaty meal with a plant-based one without compromising on flavour or mouthfeel. The recipe will be up tonight, including the cheese sauce for my herby lasagne (not vegan..).
Serves 8-10 - definitely a freezer filler
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
2 large carrots, grated
1 large (or 2 small) courgettes, grated
1 eggplant, diced and sprinkled with salt
300g mushrooms, sliced
400g beef mince + 400g pork mince OR 400g vegan mince + 400g cooked, drained brown/green lentils
150g tomato purée (UK)/paste (NZ)
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
½ cup red wine
2 Tbsp plain flour
2 x 400g tins of chopped/whole tomatoes in juice
2 tsp honey or sugar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar or pomegranate molasses
400mL stock (beef, vegetable or porcini)
sea salt and pepper
250g fresh spinach leaves, washed
Heat the oil over a low-medium heat in a large sautée pan or stockpot. Add the onion, garlic, celery and grated carrot and cook gently until the veges are soft. Turn up the heat and add the mince/lentils and cook until the meat is browned. Add the grated courgette and mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are releasing liquid, then stir in the tomato paste/purée, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Cook for about a minute, then sprinkle over the flour and cook until the flour froths a little. Splash in the wine, cooking for another minute, then add the tinned tomatoes, stock, vinegar/pomegranate molasses, honey/sugar and bay leaves. Stir well and bring everything to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes at least, after which time, taste it and add plenty of salt and pepper to taste. It is always better the day after, so if you're planning a lasagne, make it the day before!
You need a lasagne dish, cake pan or roasting dish, about 32 x 23cm (I use this one)
½ quantity of 'tutte le verdure' bolognese sauce above
1-2 packs of dried lasagne sheets
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage leaves
grated cheese for sprinkling on the top
6 Tbsp/90g butter
6 Tbsp/60g plain flour
1½ cups grated cheese
salt and pepper to taste
For the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook until it froths up. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly with a whisk (but making sure to catch the edges which may require a wooden spatula from time-to-time). Stir over a medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese, salt and pepper.
To assemble the lasagne, spoon the bolognese sauce in to the bottom of the dish. Spoon on dollops of the cheese sauce and gently spread with a spatula until it covers the bolognese layer. Cover with a layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat this, leaving a little cheese sauce in the saucepan, and finish with another layer of lasagne sheets. Spread the remaining cheese sauce on this final layer of pasta, sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs and extra grated cheese - and a little parmesan. Bake on a low shelf in the oven at about 180°C (fan) for 35-45 mins.
The fresh herbs on top of the lasagne make all the difference, I reckon, so try not to leave them out! But you can substitute, thyme, fresh oregano and parsley with any of them. Or add more!
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