Roasted vegetable lasagne

My friends will tell you that I’ve been throwing together big vegetable lasagnes for quite a few years now, but this weekend I think I’ve gone and set a new personal best. Deep tomato sauce, rich caramelised vegetables and strong, smooth cheese sauce on top. I really wish that there were still leftovers to tuck into as I write this, but it didn’t survive past Monday lunchtime. It’ll definitely be back on our menu soon, and I’d love to hear any ideas for what you like in your veggie lasagne.

Aubergines

Ingredients

  • dry lasagne sheets
  • parmesan (or another hard cheese like grana padano)
  • panko breadcrumbs
  • 4 aubergines
  • 4 courgettes
  • 4 red and yellow peppers
  • a handful of chestnut mushrooms
  • 3 tins of plum tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp minced garlic
  • dried thyme
  • dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 pint whole milk
  • parmesan rind (the riper the better!)
  • a handful of cheddar cheese
  • a few black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp plain flour

Instructions

Roast your vegetables

  • Preheat your oven to 180°C and add enough light olive oil to a roasting try to cover the bottom
  • Chop the aubergines, courgettes, peppers and mushrooms into pieces—not too small, and add to the roasting tray
  • Turn the vegetables over to cover with oil (add more if needed) and sprinkle over a little salt
  • Roast until everything looks delicious and sticky, about an hour, turning things every 20 minutes, then turn the oven off

Make the tomato sauce

  • Put a large pan onto a medium heat and add the tinned tomatoes; break the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon and bring up to a simmer
  • Add the minced garlic (I used the paste and it worked perfectly well), thyme, oregano, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar; turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes, covered loosely with foil
  • Add salt and pepper (under-season since we’re not done reducing the sauce yet) and simmer for another 40 minutes, stirring regularly to make sure that it doesn’t reduce too much or start to stick to the pan
  • The sauce should end up beomg lovely and thick with a deep tomato flavour; add a glug of olive oil and stir through, add some salt and pepper if required, then take off the heat and set to one side

Make the cheese sauce

  • Add the whole milk to a small saucepan, add the cheese rind and black peppercorns and bring the milk to a gentle simmer; turn the heat off and leave to infuse for 15 minutes, then strain into a jug
  • Wash and dry your saucepan and put over a low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the plain flour, then cook the roux over a low heat for a few minutes until it starts to smell nutty; gradually whisk in the milk to make a bechamel
  • Add the cheddar and whisk the sauce until it thickens up enough to coat the back of a spoon, then take off the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste

Construction

  • Add layers of tomato sauce, roasted vegetables and pasta to an ovenproof dish in whichever configuration you like best, ending up with a layer of pasta on the top (just two layers of pasta for me—this is all about those roasted vegetables)
  • Pour the cheese sauce over to cover the lasagne and then set it aside for half an hour so that it starts to set up slightly
  • Grate over some parmesan and sprinkle a few panko breadcrumbs for texture, then cook at 220°C until the top has gone golden and crispy, which should be about 25 minutes
  • Take the lasagne out of the oven and give it 10 minutes to rest (this will make portioning it up a little easier) and serve with a mound of yummy garlic bread

Is there anything better than roasted aubergine in a nice tomato sauce? I love a good beefy lasagne as much as the next red-blooded individual, but I think that my preference may finally have swung the way of the vegetable when it comes to this dish.

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