Recipe saturday: Lasagna… nature’s perfect food!

Hi guys! It’s officially november and after some articles and recipes, there was one recipe, one of my favorite ones and the one that I love cooking for other people, that was missing from tofucado’s collection of recipes, food tips & food experiences. It was no other than: lasagna!

The recipe below is a bit long, but I assure you (And I do this throughout the entire recipe) that the end result is worth it (At least it is for my friends, family and my tummy as well). The difficulty on this recipe is set at 4, not because it requires a lot of special ingredients nor specific techniques, but because it requires “more organization and coordinated steps” than most of the recipes in tofucad’s collection.

Difficulty: 4/5Prep time: 10 minutes
Type: Lunch&dinner, bakeCooking time: 1h 30 minutes (no multi-tasking)
– Veggie filling: ~30 minutes
– Spinach filling: ~20 minutes
– Bechamel sauce: ~15 minutes
– Ensembling: ~10 minutes
-Oven time: ~20 minutes

Ingredients

Lasagna layers (2 different types: Spinach & Ricotta and veggies with tomato sauce):

  • 1 medium onion (diced)
  • 1/2 eggplant (diced)
  • 1 carrot (large dices)
  • 4 cups of spinach (I used frozen)
  • 3 tablespoons of ricotta
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of tomato sauce (and 2 tablespoons of water)
  • 1 cup of grated cheese of your choice (or more, depending on how cheesy you are!)
  • Lasagna layers (of your choice)

Seasoning:

  • 2 tablespoons of herbs de provence
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Bechamel sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cup of hot milk
  • 1 tablespoon of nutmeg
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Method

Since we are doing two different fillings, this recipe calls for a bit of organization in the kitchen. I like cooking but I hate doing the dishes so I usually use max 2 pots for cooking and try to optimize the use of each pot for every step of the cooking process. For this recipe, I used 2 pots: one pan for the veggies and a large pot for the spinach & ricotta and the bechamel sauce. I obviously then used a baking tray for the actual ensembling of the lasagna. I will divide this recipe in four sections: Veggie filling, Spinach & Ricotta filling, Bechamel sauce and ensembling the lasagna to make it easier to read & follow.

Veggie filling
  1. Pre-heat a bit of olive oil in a pan. Once the pan and the olive oil are starting to be hot, add the onions.
  2. Cook the onions for 2 minutes until they start to get brown (medium heat)
  3. Add the eggplants and cook for 3-4 minutes until they also start to get brown (medium heat).
  4. Add the carrots and then add all the seasoning (herbes de provence, garlic powder, a bit of salt and pepper according to your preference). Cook for 10 minutes at medium-low heat.
  5. Add the cup and a half of tomato sauce and the 2 tablespoons of water.
  6. Cover with a lid and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Spinach & Ricotta filling
  1. If you are using frozen spinach (as I am), boil some water & salt and once it’s boiling add all the package (I used a 400g spinach package) and boil it for 6 minutes, drain the spinach and then follow step 3.
  2. If you use fresh spinach, cook them in olive oil at low heat and once they are cooked follow step 3.
  3. In the same pot you used for the spinach, add the tablespoons of ricotta (I added three generous tablespoons, but you can add more if you want it creamier!)
  4. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Bechamel sauce
  1. In a pot, add the butter and melt it at medium-low heat.
  2. Stir in the flour and continue to do so until the paste that butter&flour have created is fully cooked and starts to bubble. Make sure you don’t burn it!! This step usually takes around 2 minutes.
  3. Add the milk (reminder: it has to be hot!) and stir as the bechamels thickens.
  4. Bring the bechamel to a boil and then add the salt & pepper and the nutmeg! (don’t forget the nutmeg, it changes all the flavor)
  5. Lower the heat to the min and continue stirring for 2 minutes.
  6. The sauce can have different consistencies, I like mine to be more on the “Thick” side while remaining a bit liquid.

I forgot to take pictures of this process but I love bechamel sauce so I can add the step-by-step pictures later if you want!

Making it all come together

Before you start ensembling your lasagna, this is where you start pre-heating the oven! Follow package instructions (lasagna pasta) and then continue with the recipe:

  1. Add a tiny bit of tomato sauce (a tablespoon) on the tray you are going to use to avoid the lasagna layers from sticking to the pan and then add 2 sheets of lasagna pasta (depending on the size you are using, you might only need one layer).
  2. Add a layer of spinach filling.
  3. Add 2 sheets of pasta.
  4. Add a layer of veggie filling.
  5. Add 2 sheets of pasta.
  6. Add a layer of spinach filling.
  7. Add 2 sheets of pasta.
  8. Add a layer of veggie filling.
  9. Add 2 sheets of pasta.
  10. Cover the entire thing with the bechamel sauce then cover with as much grated cheese as you want!

Once all of this is done (and yes, it does take some time but the end result is so flavor intense, delicious, an experience that you will enjoy from the smell of the first moments of cooking till the last bite you’ll take that it makes the time you are spending making it super worth it), put the lasagna tray in the oven and cook following package instructions. I cooked my lasagna for a total of 18 minutes in the oven at 200ºC to achieve a perfect grilled cheese sensation.

The result

Every time I make this dish it quickly becomes a crowd pleaser. It combines a lot of flavors and textures, from the creaminess of the spinach&ricotta filling to the crunchiness and tomato-intense feeling of the veggies to the cheesy and nutmeg-y smells of the bechamel and grilled cheese covering the entire lasagna.

I love savory baked stuff: one of my favorite dishes is the lost brother of lasagna: cannellonis. Cannellonis remind me of home, comfort, warmness and family times. They remind me of sunday lunches and having lunches with my best friend (we always eat like 300g of canelones when we are together), so cannellonis really hit close to the heart and I have a special recipe prepared for them. This dish will make an appearance soon, but I am preparing a special recipe for that one, since it has always been my favorite dish and it still is in the top 5 of things I would always want to eat, no matter the where or the what. Lasagna is still a great way to solve my canelonis cravings, especially because it is much easier to do that, which is why I started by doing this one.

What is your favorite food? What food reminds you of home? I’d love to hear all about it, so tell me in the comments!

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