Lasagne is officially Kolya’s favourite food. Each week, we get out the pasta roller and embark on the painstaking process of rolling out the dough. The handle of the pasta maker doesn’t lock into place particularly firmly, though, so more often than not, I spend a lot of time trying to prise the dislocated handle out of Kolya’s hands, while he tells me “Mama, I roll the dough! I roll the dough!”
Since I lapsed from my longtime vegetarianism, it’s usually a meat lasagne – layers of egg pasta, rich tomato-ey mince sauce, and a relatively pared-down Bechamel sauce. (I can’t go as far as using loads of eggs and cream in it, though, as some Bechamel recipes do – the whole dish is already so rich, and we eat it so regularly, that turning the white sauce into a cholesterol-fest just seems like overkill to me.)
Anyway, lately I’ve been having an urge to get back to my vegetarian roots. (Maybe it’s all the insistent winter coughs and colds around that make me want to bring out the oranges and ginger and lemons and potatoes and winter greens.)
So here is what turned out to be the most wonderful and straightforward lasagne ever! The fillings all get roasted in the oven without needing much attention. What my friend Lara calls ‘abandonment cooking’. Don’t you like the phrase?
Roasted tomato, butternut and goat cheese lasagne
What you need:
1 ball of pasta dough, rolled out into lasagne sheets – or a bag of fresh lasagne
1 small butternut, peeled and sliced thinly (you might not need all of it)
about 80g goat cheese (e.g. goat cheese pecorino or even chevin)
6 or 8 roma tomatoes, halved or a few punnets of cherry or rosa tomatoes
1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
olive oil, salt, pepper, sugar
white sauce (butter, flour, milk, a bay leaf)
a whole lot of grated cheese – I like to use a combination of cheddar and parmesan
What to do
1. Put the tomatoes, onion and garlic in an ovenproof dish. Douse liberally with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and some sugar. Stick them in the oven to roast at about 200 degrees Celsius. Every 20 minutes or so, give them a shake around so the top doesn’t get too dry or burned.
2. Lay the slices of butternut on a separate foil-lined tray well oiled with olive oil, and also seasoned with salt and pepper. Roast them at the same time. (Roasting tomatoes and butternut should take 45-60 minutes – keep an eye on them.)
3. When the tomatoes are convincingly collapsing into a sea of oily juice, take them out of the oven, transfer to a suitable jug or bowl and blitz them with a stick blender. Ta-dah – best ever tomato pasta sauce. You can use it as is or augment it with some strained tomatoes (passata).
4. When the butternut is just roasted, get that out too.
5. Make the white sauce. I’m hopeless at white sauce, so I’m not going to give you instructions. Google them if you need them, or buy it readymade. Just make sure you add a few big handfuls of grated cheddar or mozzarella to it when it’s done.
6. Cook the lasagne in loads of boiling water.
7. Layer it like this in an oven dish: tomato, lasagne, tomato and a little bit of white sauce, lasagne, butternut and goat cheese, lasagne, tomato, lasagne and white sauce. More grated cheddar and parmesan on top.
8. Bake for about 25 to 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Happiness will be yours!!