What do we want? A pepper-free vegetarian lasagne! When do we want it? Twice already this week APPARENTLY.
Okay, I’m not going to say that this is the best vegetarian lasagne you’ll ever eat, but I want you to at least be open to the idea that it could be. At the very least it could be in your top 5 if you, like me, consider cheese to be its own food group*. Isla has now eaten this lasagne three days in a row (today being ‘Hattie graciously allowed me the remaining portion of leftovers’ day), and she’s still humming appreciatively with every bite. I’ve got to be doing something right.
So what makes this lasagne so good? I mean, I think I’ve really answered that question already. Cheese plays a huge roll in this meal (hence Easy Cheesy Lentil Lasagne), and as we all know by now, that’s the main reason to remain in possession of a physical form; I’m hurting a lot after trudging a 10k this weekend, but having functioning teeth and a jaw means I get to consume dairy products so it ain’t all bad.
Look at my tomato face. Look at it! We definitely deserved our huge pub lunch, no question about it.
The best thing about this lasagne – other than the cheese – is the fact that you don’t need to make a béchamel sauce! It’s an easy enough sauce to make, but isn’t it so much better not to have to make one at all? Yes. Yes, it is.
Oh, this recipe also sees the return of me being really awful at food photography, so… you have been warned. This tastes a lot better than it looks, I swear to you.
Easy Cheesy Lentil Lasagne (Vegetarian)
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
Large, lidded saucepan; deep oven-safe dish roughly 30x15cm (12x6in); a variety of spoons – don’t argue, just do as I say; stirring and cutting implements, like wooden spoons and knives (is it weird that I have a favourite knife? Because I kind of have a favourite knife).
- 1 medium red onion
- 1 large white onion
- 1 leek
- 1 large carrot
- 2 cloves garlic
- 400g tin green lentils
- 520g passata with onion and garlic (still using Frito, still pretty goddamn happy with it)
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 100-200ml water
- 9 lasagne sheets (may require more or less depending on your pan dimensions)
- 200g low fat cream cheese
- 100g finely grated cheddar** (low fat or not, do as you please)
- Salt & pepper
- Cooking spray/splash of oil
- Pan on medium, oven on 200°C, kettle set to boil happily in the background. Now we can begin, friends. Add cooking spray or oil to your pan to heat up and start on the vegetables. Peel and finely dice your onions and garlic, keeping the garlic separate from its allium brethren. Top and tail your leek, remove the outer leaves and slice down the length so you can rinse out any dirt and grit before chopping. Peel the carrot and very finely dice it. Add all the vegetables (minus the garlic) to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, then add your garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Open your trusty tin of lentils and empty the whole tin into the pan, water and all. Stir to combine then add your stock cube, passata, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir again and add 100-200ml of water to thin out the sauce very slightly, as it will thicken as it bubbles away. Pop the lid on the lentil “ragu” and leave to cook for a further 10 minutes.
- Grate your cheddar then mill about for a bit, maybe drinking wine, maybe not – whatever floats your proverbial boat. Or your real one! Maybe you have a boat; I do not claim to know the barest of details of your life. Anyway, once the ragu is looking thick and tasty, turn the heat off and give everything a final stir. Time to start layering your lasagne, which I’ll put in a separate step to avoid any confusion. This wasn’t really an instruction and I don’t think it warrants its own number but here we find ourselves.
- Dollop half of your cream cheese onto the bottom of your dish and spread with the back of a spoon (told you you’d need a spoon or two) to get an even layer. Sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese evenly over the top then layer enough pasta sheets to cover the bottom of the dish – this should be about three, but you can break up the sheets if they don’t quite fit right. I did this and got a piece in my eye, so please be careful… Spoon over half of your lentil ragu and spread evenly, then dollop half of the remaining cream cheese randomly over the top. Sprinkle over the same amount of cheese as before, then do another layer of pasta sheets. Reserve a couple of generous spoonfuls of the ragu, and spread the rest over the pasta sheets. Dollop over the remaining cream cheese, but save the rest of the cheddar for your final layer. Top with pasta sheets, spoon over the ragu and spread thinly, then cover thoroughly with cheese. Put in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling. (TOP TIP: if your dish is quite full, pop it inside a larger baking tray or baking sheet, to catch any drips).
- When ready, leave to cool for 5-10 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve with salad and garlic bread.
I actually managed to make one small and one medium lasagne out of this, so don’t let your lack of properly sized dishes stop you from making vast quantities of lasagne. For one thing, lasagne is delicious, and for another, you should never let crockery mishaps stop you from living your dreams.
I’m going to get that on a shirt.
* Food groups: cheese, caffeine, carbohydrates, additional carbohydrates, almost unbearably tart salt ‘n’ vinegar crisps, and Quorn chicken nuggets. DISCLAIMER: I’m not a nutritionist but I think this is right???
** The finer you grate it, the more you can eke it out across the whole lasagne. Also, you are more likely to have some tiny scraps left, which you can then stuff directly into your mouth as you wait for your dinner to finish cooking.