vegetarian lasagnes can be shameful affairs – a final resting home for non-descript vegetables, no clear flavours and the provoker of a slightly mournful sigh if ever they are the only vegetarian option on a menu.
having said that, they can also be fabulous and are well worth making yourself (see here and here for a couple more vegetarian lasagne options). one of the secrets, i think, is to think about the vegetables you want to use and how you are going to ensure that their individual flavours shine through. making sure that everything works together is also important.
this leek and mushroom lasagne was truly fabulous. it is based on nigel slater’s recipe for mushroom lasagne with pesto but with addition of a layer if slow-cooked creamy leeks in the middle. you do need to be a bit of a mushroom fan though as their flavour is at the fore.
creamy mushroom and leek lasagne* (serves 6-8)
for the pesto:
60g pine nuts
2 big bunches basil, giving about 4 handfuls of leaves
4 tablespoons grated parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
for the mushrooms:
a thick slice of butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
500g mushrooms, sliced
1 handful chopped parsley
10g porcini mushrooms (a small handful)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan
for the leeks:
a thick slice of butter
3-4 large leeks, cleaned and cut into small pieces
50ml double cream or crème fraiche
for the topping:**
500g crème fraiche
50g grated parmesan plus extra to finish
100g grated cheddar
lasagne sheets, preferably the type that doesn’t need precooking to make your life easier
preheat the oven to 180°c.
start with the mushrooms. sauté the onions and garlic in the butter over a medium heat for around 20 minutes until definitely soft and transparent. meanwhile cover the porcini in around 100ml of boiling water. after the onions have softened, add the mushrooms, porcini with their cooking water, parsley and a couple of tablespoons grated parmesan. cook with the lid half on, allowing quite a lot of moisture to escape, for around 20 minutes, until the mushrooms are coloured and nice and soft. season to taste and set aside.
for the leeks, melt the butter, add the leeks and turn the heat down low. cut the leeks until they are soft, making they don’t brown as this will make them taste bitter. when they are ready, stir in the cream and season to taste. set aside
during this sauté time, you can make the pesto by putting all the ingredients in a food processor, and processing it until it forms a paste. don’t worry too much about the consistency (too dry, too wet).
mix together all the topping ingredients except the cheddar.
use an ovenproof dish around 20×25cm and assemble your lasagne – i started with half the mushrooms, topped this with lasagne sheets, added all the leeks, topped this with more pasta, finished the mushrooms and added a final layer of lasagne before finishing with the pesto and crème fraiche mix. you could make your vegetable layers thinner if you’d like more pasta.
sprinkle over the cheddar plus a good grating of parmesan and bake for around 30-40 minutes until there are browned bits on top.
* based on a nigel slater recipe
** you could make a béchamel sauce but this is much easier. i also like the slightly tangy flavour which balances well with the rest of the lasagne.