Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vegetarian Lasagne

 Recently watched "Diners, Drive in's and Dives" on the Food Network. I love this show! It pretty much has this bloke called Guy road tripping around the US and visiting (as the title says) diners, drive in's and dives. In other words anything that ISN'T a chain restaurant. People email him places with a fantastic reputation of service, food and flavour and uniqueness and he goes and visits them with a camera crew in tow. Of course don't expect the food he shows to be healthy in any way. Some are, some aren't.

Anyway, on the episode I saw, Guy visited a place called Cafe Nonna in  Nashville, TN an Italian place where the chef and/or owner makes food from his grandmas recipes (hence the Nonna part I suppose).
As what usually happens, I was watching the show when they started talking about vegetarian lasagne, and I quickly grabbed a pen and paper to write stuff down. I later found out the food network has the recipe HERE on their website.
As much as I was enjoying their thing my first thought was that their recipe looked too rich and creamy for me, but I liked the vegetable layers very much and decided to try and make a similar but more simpler bechamel version...

2  butternut squash
½ cup butter
½ cup flour
2x  370ml cans evaporated milk (whole not skim)
3x  garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
1  brown onion, diced
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1  Tbsp dried sage
1 tsp paprika  
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 box of dried lasagna sheets
1 bunch of baby spinach, chopped (stems picked off)
1 cup of grated mozzarella

Special equipment: 1 large lasagna pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (150 degrees C).

Cut the butternut squash in half and spoon out the seeds. Place on baking sheet cut-side down. Add some water and bake until a knife slides through the skin and squash easily. Cool and then spoon the flesh from the shell. Mash and set aside for later use.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

In a large sauce pan add 1 tbsp of butter and add the diced onion, mix well and allow to sweat. Frequently stir. After 2 mins add garlic and herbs and paprika. Keep stirring and allow to sweat for another minute before transferring onion mix to a bowl.

Melt the butter in same large saucepan, add the flour and mix with a whisk and allow to brown for 1 minute. Add contents of one can of evaporated milk and whisk the béchamel until all is combined and it begins to thicken. Open the second can and add contents a bit at a time, mixing constantly and allowing to thicken each time until contents are poured in

Spray the sides of the pan with vegetable oil spray. Take 1 cup of the crushed tomatoes and evenly coat bottom of the pan. Line the pan with the sheets of dried pasta overlapping each edge by a centimetre. Spread half of the béchamel equally over the sheets and top with the half of baby spinach.

Add another layer of pasta, then spread the butternut squash over each lasagna.

Then add another layer of pasta on each. Top with the remaining bechamel mixture and remaining chopped baby spinach. Add the last layer of pasta and pour the remaining cup of crushed tomatoes on top.
Finish with the mozzarella.

Bake for one hour.

Take pan out of oven and let it sit for a minute then slice up.

Nb – I precooked my pasta because that’s what I usually do when making my traditional meat based lasagna. As a result the lasagne was quite wet and fell apart easily when I dished it up. On a plus side it was incredibly tasty In this recipe I will presume that it is totally unnecessary to precook the pasta because the cooked squash, béchamel and spinach has so much natural liquid that it should soak through dried pasta sheets and cook it in the process, in that case after the first half hour I would lower the temp a bit lower and cook it and extra 15-20 past the hour. I suppose I should have figured that but now I know.

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