Tender pasta sandwiched between layers of tasty béchamel sauce, cheese, spinach and herbed tomato sauce, topped with more cheese and baked until firm—whenever we serve Vegetarian Lasagna at Gopal’s Restaurant our clientele become practically ecstatic. “Could you possibly give us the recipe?” they ask. So here it is.
[From Kurma’s book Great Vegetarian Dishes.]
This recipe calls for good quality imported Italian lasagna noodles. I like to use “Verde Ondine” instant lasagna. Otherwise, if you choose to use the non-instant variety, precook it according to the directions on the packet.
Preparation and Cooking Time: 1 1/2 hours
Baking Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 1 tray of lasagna, 30 cm x 20 cm x 8 cm (12 inches x 8 inches x 3 inches)
This lasagna has five distinct ingredients: pasta, tomato sauce, béchamel sauce, spinach and cheese.
about fifteen 17 cm x 17 cm (7-inch x 7-inch) sheets of instant lasagna (400 g, or about 14 ounces)
1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon (2ml) yellow asafetida powder
1 cup (250 ml) chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried oregano
1 teaspoon (5 ml) dried marjoram
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon (5 ml) freshly ground black pepper
1 medium eggplant, diced into 0.5 (1/4-inch) cubes
3 medium peppers diced into 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) squares
24 medium tomatoes, blanched, peeled, and chopped or six 250 g (9 ounce) tins Italian tomatoes cut into 2.5 cm (1-inch) cubes (keep the juice)
1/2 cup (125 ml) black olives, chopped
2 tablespoons (40 ml) tomato paste
1 teaspoon (5ml) salt
1 teaspoon (5ml) brown sugar
2 tablespoons (40 ml) chopped parsley
1/2 cup (125 ml) melted butter
1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (125 ml) sifted plain flour
4 cups (1 litre) warm milk
1 large bunch of spinach leaves, separated, stalks removed, washed, blanched in boiling water, and drained
375 g (13 ounces) grated cheddar cheese
250 g (9 ounces) grated mozzarella cheese
60 g (2 ounces) grated parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon (20 ml) grated parmesan cheese, reserved for garnish
To cook the tomato sauce
1. Heat the olive oil over moderate heat in a large, heavy-based saucepan. When hot, add the asafetida. Sauté momentarily: then add the fresh basil, oregano, marjoram, bay leaves, and black pepper and sauté for another few seconds.
2. Add the eggplant cubes and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the peppers and stirring occasionally, cook them along with the eggplant pieces until both are softened (about 3 or 4 minutes).
3. Add the tomatoes and olives and stir well. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat slightly, and cook uncovered, stirring often, for about 1/2 hour or until it reduces and thickens. Add tomato paste, salt, sugar and parsley, mix well and remove from the heat.
To cook the Béchamel Sauce
1. Place the melted butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat and stir in the nutmeg, black pepper and flour and sauté until the mixture darkens slightly (about 1/2 minute). Remove from the heat.
2. Gradually pour in the warm milk, stirring with a whisk until the sauce is smooth. Return to moderate heat and stir until it boils. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens to a thick-custard consistency (about 5 minutes).
To assemble the lasagna
1. Combine all 3 cheeses (except the reserved parmesan) in a bowl. Divide the tomato sauce and béchamel sauce into 3. Divide the cheese and spinach into 2. Divide the pasta into 5.
2. Spread one-third of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking tray. Place one-fifth of the pasta sheets on top. Spread on one-third of the béchamel sauce then another one-fifth of the pasta. Spread one-half of the spinach leaves; then sprinkle half the grated cheese on top.
3. Repeat this process twice more and you should end up with the béchamel sauce on top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Place the lasagna in the top of a pre-heated 200 C/390 F oven and cook for 30-45 minutes or until the top is slightly golden and the pasta “gives” when you stick a knife in it. It’s best to let the lasagna set for at least another hour before serving, as this “plumps” the pasta. Cut into squares and serve.
This recipe is from Kurma Dasa’s book “Great Vegetarian Dishes”.
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