For 30 years I've been tinkering with my vegetarian lasagne. I must make it 10 times a year. So, after 300 goes, I think I've got it just right. I often serve it to guests when they visit and I am usually asked for the recipe. I explain that there isn't a recipe and that it's all in my head. Still, I'm asked to have a go at writing it down. So, here it goes.
An important note before we get started. You can switch in and out ingredients and make this your own. I am guessing at the quantities here (as I usually do). So if you feel it needs a little more of this or a little more of that, go ahead, have a go. That's about it.
Serves 6-8 ish
Preparation time - about an hour
Plus 45 mins cooking time
For the red sauce;
Tinned anchovies in olive oil
Half a clove of garlic
3 teaspoons of dried basil
3 teaspoons of dried oregano
2 veggie oxo cubes (dried ones that you can crumble)
3 mixed peppers
1 small box of chestnut mushrooms
A glass of red wine for the lasagne (optional)
A glass of red wine for the chef (optional)
A tin of chopped tomatoes
A box/jar of passata
A jar or tube of sundried tomato paste
A bag of quorn mince
A tin of brown lentils
For the cheese sauce
Butter, about 50g
Grated cheddar cheese, about 300g
Mozzarella cheese (optional)
Parmesan cheese, about 150g (the real stuff that you grate yourself)
For the crispy topping
1 veggie oxo cube
A slice of toast
Plus - a box of dried egg lasagne sheets, the best you can get.
We make the tomato-based sauce first. Then the cheese sauce. Then we put it all together.
- Chop all your base veggies. I like to chop them into small squares; Onions, Mushrooms, Peppers, Aubergine.
- Throw them into your largest saucepan (we'll use it as a big frying pan).
- Use a generous dose of olive oil and start to fry on a medium to high heat, keep stirring. Plus add in the chopped anchovies with the olive oil they came with.
- Add in the chopped garlic, basil and oregano, keep stirring for about 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes you can add a glass of red wine if you like. It's not essential but it does add a nice depth to the flavour.
- When all the veggies are nicely softened, add in the quorn mince. Stir for a couple of minutes.
- Next in add in the passata, chopped tomatoes and sun dried tomato sauce.
- Crumble in the two veggie oxo cubes
- Finally, drain, rinse and then add in the tin of lentils.
That should be the sauce done. It shouldn't be runny, but it shouldn't be too thick either. It'll need to settle between sheets of lasagne. If it's too thick add a little water. Or another glass of wine.
Put the sauce to one side on a low heat.
Next we make the cheese sauce. It's a bechamel sauce with cheese added.
- Prepare the grated cheese beforehand. I tend to use cheddar. A generous portion - say Heat a medium to large size pan. Grab a generous dollop of butter and melt it in a pan. About a fifth of a block.
- Add a few spoonfuls of flour to the butter and mix it in with a wooden spoon. All the flour should be soaked up by the flour. If it's too dry, put in another knob of butter.
- Keep stirring. Let the butter heat the flour for a minute or so.
- Next, add a little milk. Stir until the sauce has thickened and then add more milk. Keep repeating until you have a smooth sauce, not too runny, not too thick.
- Add the grated cheddar cheese. Stir in until it's melted.
- (Optional), add in a chopped up ball of mozzarella cheese. Stir in until it's melted.
- Stir in about 100g of grated parmesan cheese.
Now we assemble the lasagne.
Ideally use a large rectangular lasagne dish. When laying down the lasagne sheets, don't overlap and don't leave gaps. Break the sheets to fit, like a jigsaw.
I tend to layer as follows;
- Base: Red sauce
- Lasagne sheets
- Cheese sauce
- Lasagne sheets
- Red sauce
- Lasagne sheets
- Cheese sauce
- Crispy topping (see below)
- A sprinkle of grated cheddar cheese
For the crispy topping, in a blender create cheesy breadcrumbs. In the blender add; a slice of toast, a veggie oxo cube, small pieces of parmesan cheese (about 50g), some ground black pepper and a little oregano.
Layer it on the top, then spinkle grated cheddar on top (just a little) and you've prepped the lasagne.
You can bake it straight away or leave it in the fridge overnight. Or freeze it. I find that if you prepare it the day before, then when you bake it, the lasagne sheets soften really nicely.
To bake, I'd give it about 45 minutes at about 190 degrees in a fan oven. To check it, insert a knife in the middle: the lasagne sheets should be tender and soft.
Take it out, serve by using a knife to cut into square potions and use a large slice to remove and serve.
Serve with mixed leaves and garlic bread.