Vegan Lentil & Vegetable Lasagne
There are few meals that are more comforting and satisfying than a really good lasagne, especially in the colder months. Whilst cooking a lasagne from scratch may seem like a daunting task for some, this one is definitely worth the time and effort. The creamy, indulgent bechamel sauce, combined with the flavour packed filling (filled with tons of healthy veg and lentils) makes for an irresistible package that is so good, even the most stubborn of meat-eaters will love it.
This is a great meal to put together for a dinner party, or on a cosy weekend evening when you have a little more time to spend in the kitchen. Serve alongside a green garden salad and some fresh, crusty bread, and ask yourself: "Who needs to go out to restaurants when the food at home is this good?".
Ingredients (serves 4-8)
For the Bechamel sauce
1 medium white onion
75g vegan butter
75g plain white flour
1L unsweetened soy milk
2 bay leaves
5 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
Ground black pepper
For the Filling
1 large white onion
2 medium carrots, grated
500g button mushrooms
2 medium courgettes
1 large red pepper
4 garlic cloves
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
20g fresh basil (plus extra for garnish)
4 tbsp tomato puree
400g tin of green lentils
2x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
400ml vegetable stock
Lasagne sheets (replace with chickpea or lentil pasta sheets for a healthier choice)
10g vegan butter (optional)
Begin by preparing the Bechamel sauce. To do this, chop the onion into quarters and add it to a medium sauce pan. Pour over the soy milk, and add in the bay leaves, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, before reducing the heat and leaving for 15 to 20 minutes to infuse.
In a separate saucepan melt the butter. Then, whisk in the flour to form a thick paste, and heat for about 5 minutes.
Gradually ladle in the milk mixture to the flour paste, whisking continuously. Once completely combined, remove from the heat and cover with a lid. Set the sauce to one side.
Meanwhile begin preparing the filling. Finely chop the onion, garlic and red pepper and fry in a deep saucepan on a medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes.
Wash and slice the mushrooms and add them to the saucepan, along with the courgette (cubed) and the grated carrots. Fry for a further 5 to 10 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked and all of the vegetables have softened, but retain a little bite.
Add the lentils, tomato puree, vegetable stock, tinned tomato and the herbs to the pot. Mix everything together and simmer for 5 minutes.
Next, begin assembling the lasagne. Start by placing pasta sheets on the base of a large, deep baking dish. Try to ensure that the base is completely covered, snapping the sheets to size if necessary. Then, top the pasta sheets with a layer of the filling, followed by a layer of the bechamel sauce. Repeat this process a further two to three times, depending on the dimensions of your dish (Important: ensure that you leave enough bechamel sauce for the next step!).
For the top layer, cover the top of the lasagne with a final layer of pasta sheets, followed by the remaining bechamel sauce. Crack over a little black pepper, and (optional) place over a few knobs of vegan butter.
Place the dish into the oven and bake for 20 - 30 minutes, until the top of the lasagne turns a golden brown and begins to crisp lightly along the edges, and the pasta sheets are soft.
Remove from the oven, and leave to cool slightly before serving.
Sprinkle over some fresh basil as garnish, and enjoy!
Q: How many layers should my lasagne have?
A: The exact answer to this will depend on the dimensions of the baking dish that you are using. A dish that is deeper but narrower will likely fit an extra layer compared to a dish that is wider but shorter. Generally, I would recommend that you make as many layers as your dish allows for, ensuring that you keep enough space and bechamel sauce for the top.
Q: Can I prepare it ahead of time?
A: Absolutely. I would recommend preparing the sauce and filling ahead of time, and then assembling the layers and cooking it fresh shortly before you want to eat, but if time doesn't allow for this, then you can totally cook it all ahead of time as well. Just drizzle over a little olive oil, cover the dish with some foil and place it in the oven (note that it may take some time to heat through thoroughly). Bare in mind though that the second option will likely result in a slightly dryer end product, as the sauce will have been absorbed slightly.
Q: I have some leftover filling. What should I do with it?
A: As mentioned above, wherever possible I would recommend adding as many layers as you can to your lasagne, but if your dish isn't quite big enough, you could end up with some leftover filling. Not to worry though - there is no need for this to go to waste! Simply place the leftover filling in a container, store it in the fridge, and use it for another meal. It works great as a Bolognese-style sauce with some spaghetti, or as a filling for a baked potato.