Vegetarian lasagne – the ultimate winter comfort dinner

I always know when winter is here, not by the state of the trees or the chill in the air but by the fact that Antonia tells me she’s batch cooked a spag bol. While for Dan and myself spaghetti bolognese and other saucy pasta goodness is at least a monthly occurrence, for Antonia, it is a true signifier that winter has set in. There is something so homely, inviting and safe about tomato sauced pasta and in my books at least, it is truly the ultimate comfort food. Slightly more effort in the kitchen but possibly, dare I say it, more delicious is the humble lasagne. Gooey béchamel, rich tomato sauce and layers of pasta (in particular the crispy edges) is up there with one of my absolute favourite meals. While traditionally this is made with meat mince, we’ve made this version with a meat free substitute. Having tried many faux mince brands, I have to say that this Beyond Vegan Mince (TM) is some of the most realistic and has a meat depth of flavour, for me, only rivalled by the real thing. This recipe is entirely Dan’s and it is absolutely delicious. We struggled not to polish off the whole thing in one sitting it was the good. This recipe makes a solid four portions (serve with a side salad), but if you make this in a freezable tray, it’s also a good one to freeze for a later date. Why not make double and eat one for dinner and store one for when you need a night off.

Serves: 4

Prep time: 20-30 min

Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

For the mince:

2 tbs olive oil
2 carrots – finely diced
1 brown onion – finely diced and salted
3 cloves garlic
1/2 red or orange bell pepper – finely diced
2 packs of Beyond (TM) vegan mince
2 cans chopped tomatoes
Leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme (approx 1/2 tsp)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Pasta:

Lasagne sheets (we used Tesco’s own, the number of sheets you need will depend on the size of your dish and number of layers)

For the béchamel:

60g unsalted butter
60g flour
1 pint / 600ml of milk
1 tbsp dijon mustard
150g grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

To Finish:
150g grated cheese

Method:

Add oil to pan over a medium heat and allow to heat up for a minute.
Add onions, cover and sweat down for 5 mins, stirring occasionally.
Add garlic, peppers and carrots and continue to sweat for a further 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn up heat, add the mince and thyme to the pan, and cook for 5-7 mins, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
Reduce heat and add in chopped tomatoes, black pepper and soy sauce, simmering for 7-10 mins and stirring occasionally, until the sauce darkens and the mince becomes springy.
Remove the sauce from the heat and set aside.

Soften lasagna sheets in boiling water whilst making béchamel. Do this by getting out a shallow but large dish and fill with boiling water. Carefully place the lasagne sheets in, being careful to not overlap them (as they will stick together). This process can take some time if you only have a small dish. Your pasta sheets need to soften but they do not need to be cooked.

Pre-heat your oven to 220 C (200C fan)

Now make the bechamel sauce:

Make a roux by melting the butter in a pan and slowly adding the flour and stirring, it will create an almost paste like consistency.

Next slowly add the milk while stirring (Dan used a whisk) to get any lumps out of the sauce, it should thicken as it comes together.

Then add the mustard and salt and pepper, keep stirring.

Lastly add 150g of grated cheese, again doing so slowly and constantly serving.

Now it’s time to layer up your lasagne.

In a large baking dish layer mince, pasta, bechamel, then repeat again mince, pasta, bechamel etc until you have created the desired number of layers (two – three is enough)

Top with final 150g of cheddar cheese and bake on 220 C (200 C fan) for 20 mins or until the cheese has melted and is golden brown.

Serve and enjoy