This marks the first recipe posted on my new site! With much love and many kusjes to Barth for designing such a beautiful space.
My most often requested dinner over the years is lasagna bolognaise. Each year, without fail, I would ask my mother to make it for dinner on my birthday, and then devour half the entire tray in one sitting. Mmmm, I am salivating at the memory of the rich bolognaise sauce with creamy bechamel (or “white sauce” as we called it as kids)…
When I lived in Amsterdam, there was no oven in my tiny kitchen, and so for many years I was deprived of the joy of making (and eating) lasagna. Until I met Barth, and he had an oven. A match made in heaven, this was also one of the dishes we regularly cooked together. As the classic version can be very heavy and filling, here is my healthier version of the classic, filled with lots of delicious vegetables and with a lighter “white sauce” based on a fresh, creamy and smooth ricotta. Make sure you don’t forget the capers in the tomato sauce, or the lemon in the ricotta, as they really help develop the flavour of this dish.
- Generous splash of olive oil
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 hot chili, chopped
- A couple of tablespoons of capers, roughly chopped
- 800g tin of tomatoes
- A couple of ripe fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
- A sprig of rosemary
- A teaspoon of thyme (dried)
- 500g smooth ricotta
- 1 large lemon, zested and juiced
- Salt and pepper
- Large bunch of basil, loosely chopped
Vegetables et al
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons of butter (the real stuff)
- Half a large bunch of kale
- 400g tin of cannellini/broad beans, rinsed
- Big paper bag of seasonal mushrooms, sliced
- 1 large eggplant, sliced into 1cm thick circles
- Bowl mixed with a spoon of each of balsamic vinegar, water and olive oil
- Half a lemon, juiced
- 500g fresh lasagna (approx 16 sheets)
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Brush eggplant slices with vinegar mix, put onto baking paper on tray and then into the oven. Roast the eggplant slices for 20 minutes until soft, turning once and checking regularly to make sure they do not burn.
- While the eggplant is roasting, heat olive oil in a heavy base saucepan. Add onion, garlic cloves and chilli. Let the onions brown and soften for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the capers and fresh tomatoes to the heavy base saucepan and cook for another minute on high heat, before adding the tin of tomatoes. Let the tomatoes bubble and then turn the heat down to a simmer while you prepare the vegetables and ricotta. Add the rosemary and thyme to the tomato sauce, and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat butter in a separate saucepan, add one of the garlic cloves and sizzle for about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook until soft.
- While the mushrooms are cooking, pour the ricotta into a separate bowl. Add the lemon zest and chopped basil to the bowl. Stir in lemon, and add salt and pepper to taste. The ricotta should be fairly smooth – you may wish to add a couple of tablespoons of water to loosen it if it is too thick to smear across the lasagna sheets.
- Once the mushrooms are cooked, remove them and their juices from the pan. Set aside. Add to the same pan another splash of olive oil and the second garlic clove, and fry gently. Add the white beans and stir them into the garlic and olive. Use the back of a fork to squash some (not all) of the beans into a paste. Then add the kale and stir for another 2 mins until it is wilted. Add the mushrooms and their juices back into the pan and the juice of half a lemon and stir. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
- Assemble lasagna – first spoon tomato sauce onto the base of a large tray, then add a layer of lasagna sheets. Follow with a layer of the roasted eggplant and smear a spoon of each of the tomato and ricotta mixture across the eggplant, and then layer another sheet of lasagna. Add a layer of the mushroom-kale sauce and a layer of ricotta. Alternate the tomato and mushroom-kale sauces with the ricotta and lasagna sheets until complete. Ensure that the sheets are covered with enough sauce and are moist as you layer them.
- Finish the top layer of the lasagna sheets with a smear of ricotta and a light sprinkling of parmesan cheese, and bake in the oven at 180C for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden. Leave the lasagna to stand for a couple of minutes out of the oven, and then slice and serve. Enjoy!