The first time I invited my friend Katherine over for dinner I made this lasagne and I don't think I've ever had a dish receive such praise and enthusiasm.
I’m a fan of vegetarian lasagnes but I find that they can need a bit more care and attention. Adding sliced vegetarian Lincolnshire or Cumberland sausages to the bolognese and topping the lasagne with fresh mozzarella is worth the extra effort as both ingredients make a huge difference to the end result.
I think most lasagnes are a labour of love and this one is no exception. I’ve got one in the oven right now and from start to finish it takes a good 2 hours to make, even with shortcuts like using a ready-made soffritto and creme fraiche in place of a bechamel sauce. Some of that time is taken up with simmering and baking so it’s not 2 hours of constant cooking but still, I only ever make this on weekends.
The quantities I’ve specified make a big lasagne and a reasonable person would cut it into 8 but we’re hearty eaters so I usually divide it by 6.
Wholemeal, white, dried or fresh lasagne sheets all work. My preference is fresh. If using dried, make sure that the bolognese is slightly more liquid than usual or the dried lasagne sheets may not soften all the way through.
I use a 32 x 24cm baking dish and add 3 layers of bolognese and 3 layers of pasta before topping the lasagne with white sauce.
I sometimes replace the onions, celery and carrots with a 400g bag of pre-chopped soffritto vegetable mix.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 2 sticks of celery, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 125ml red wine
- 3 tins of chopped tomatoes (1200g total)
- 1 tin of green lentils
- 150g mushrooms, sliced
- 6 vegetarian sausages (Cumberland or Lincolnshire)
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- Small handful of fresh basil, leaves and stalks sliced
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt and black pepper
- 300ml creme fraiche
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- 150g Cheddar cheese, grated
- black pepper
- lasagne sheets (my pack contained 18 small sheets but I used 12)
- 125g ball of mozzarella
- extra virgin olive oil
- Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- Bolognese: Add 2 large, diced onions, 2 diced sticks of celery and 1 diced carrot to the saucepan and fry for 5 minutes then add 4 chopped cloves of garlic. Fry for 10 minutes then add 125ml of red wine.
- Once the wine starts to bubble, add 3 tins of chopped tomatoes (1200g), 1 tin of drained, green lentils and 150g of sliced mushrooms. Simmer for around 20 minutes.
- While the tomato sauce is cooking, grill the vegetarian sausages for 10 minutes to give them some colour then let them cool slightly. The sausages don’t need to be fully cooked at this stage.
- Add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, 2 teaspoons of dried oregano, a small handful of sliced basil leaves and stalks, 1 teaspoon of sugar and some salt and pepper to the saucepan. Taste the bolognese to check the seasoning - I usually end up adding more sugar and salt.
- Slice the sausages into rounds and add them to the bolognese.
- White sauce: Place a small saucepan over a low heat and add 300ml of creme fraiche, ½ teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 150g of grated Cheddar cheese and some black pepper. Once the cheese has melted, turn off the heat and taste the sauce. I usually don’t add any salt to the white sauce.
- Lasagne: Preheat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan).
- Pour a third of the bolognese into the baking dish, smooth it out and add a layer of lasagne sheets on top. It doesn’t matter if the sheets overlap a little.
- Repeat the bolognese and pasta layers twice more (so you end up with 3 layers of bolognese and 3 layers of pasta in total) then pour the white sauce over the final layer of pasta, smoothing it to the corners of the dish. Tear over a 125g ball of mozzarella, drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil then transfer to the oven to bake for around 30-35 minutes. I rotate the lasagne after 20 minutes so that it browns evenly.
- Once the top of the lasagne has turned golden brown, remove it from the oven, leave to stand for 5 minutes then slice and serve immediately. Leftovers keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or they can be frozen. Defrost any frozen lasagne overnight in the fridge before reheating.