Tuesday, August 15, 2006


There are thousands of vegetarian lasagnes out there - try googling and you’ll see what I mean. My ratatouille-style version is sloppy and undeniably rich, but it is impossible not to love the big flavours here - tomato, eggplant and red peppers. Though none of these things are in season during a cold Melbourne winter, every once in a while it’s good to eat something that reminds you of the warmer weather just around the corner. Many of these ingredients are members of the viscously named Deadly Nightshade family and are robbers of calcium in the body, so here they are paired with dairy to protect bones. Arthritis sufferers beware - potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers wreck havoc with your symptoms, so limit your intake.

Make on a day when you have time to cook each part calmly. A layered dish such as this can make you frantic and destroy what is, essentially, an unfussy meal. Everything else can be prepared earlier, but the béchamel should be made just before assembling.

If you want to replace the dairy in the béchamel with olive oil and soy milk please do so. Leave out the cheese, stir through a tablespoon of miso off the heat and sprinkle the top of the lasagne with breadcrumbs and no one will know!

Roasted vegetable lasagne Serves 6

1 packet of fresh lasagne sheets

OR parboiled sheets of dried, drained and left in a bowl of water

For the Veggies:

2 red onions, peeled and sliced into wedges

3 red peppers, cut into 3cm squares

3 zucchini, chopped into 3cm chunks

1 fennel bulb, cut into eight pieces and fronds kept on

2 eggplants, cut into 3cm chunks

½ cup of olive oil, more if you like

Sea salt and pepper

Tomato sauce:

2 x 400g tins of organic tomatoes with their juice

3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped

1 heaped teaspoon of brown sugar

A small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn roughly

Béchamel Sauce:

40g of butter

40g of plain flour

300ml of organic, unhomogenised full fat milk

200ml of water

1 egg yolk

50g of mature cheddar cheese, grated

Small handful of freshly grated parmesan

Freshly grated nutmeg

Sea salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 190 C.

Throw all of the vegetables into a large roasting tin or two if yours isn’t quite as enormous as mine, and pour over the olive oil. Toss to combine well, add salt and pepper and toss again. Roast for about 1 ¼ hours (it sometimes takes longer), tossing the vegetables every once in a while. They should be deeply browned and be absolutely tender, but still hold some shape.

Next, make the tomato sauce. Put the tomatoes, garlic and sugar in a sauce pan and slowly bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for anywhere between 20 minutes and 40 minutes or until the sauce is thick and sweet, stirring often to prevent it sticking to the base of the pan. Add the basil leaves during the last few minutes of cooking, and set aside.

Meanwhile, make the béchamel. Warm the milk and water together in a saucepan and keep warm. Then melt the butter in another saucepan without letting it colour. Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to make a roux. Stir it like this for about 30 seconds, enough to give it a slight nuttiness. Take a whisk, and slowly pour the warmed milk into the roux, whisking madly the whole time. When all of the milk has been incorporated, lower the heat right down and stir gently with a wooden spoon until there isn’t the slightest trace of flour when you taste it. Remove from the heat and stir in the egg yolk, the grated cheddar, a little grated nutmeg and some salt and pepper.

When the vegetables are ready remove from the oven and keep the oven going. Add the tomato sauce to the roasted vegetables and stir well to combine. Spoon one third of this mixture into a large gratin or lasagne dish to completely cover the base. Follow with 3 (although I often find that 2 ½ will be enough) sheets of pasta, then another third of the vegetables and half of the béchamel sauce. Cover with a final layer of pasta and the last of the vegetables, finishing with the remaining béchamel. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top of the dish. Bake for 30 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving with a salad.


Cynthia said...

The recipe is tempting.

Lucy, thanks very much for the info on the Deadly Nightshade... my mom suffers from arthritis and while she has cut tomatoes, and peppers from her diet, she still uses eggplants and potatoes, I will tell her to moderate her intake of these ingredients and I too will do the same. Thank you very much.

Lucy said...

Cynthia - it is incredibly sloppy, anything but elegant, but it's wonderful.

I'm still trying to convince my dad that it's so much easier to manage arthritis by limiting them! He's pretty much obsessed with mashed potato. Don't you love that they are called 'Deadly Nightshades'?!!