I nearly misspelt the title of this recipe. Lasagne or Lasagna? Then, I had to look up whether I nearly 'misspelt', or 'mispelled' it. By then, I'd started to question my capacity to spell words.
Anyway, it turns out the word lasagne actually refers to the pasta sheets themselves, rather than the dish as a whole, and lasagna is just one of those sheets. Learn something with every mistake, hey?
The idea to do a lasagne for this week's recipe came about in reverse. I thought of the ingredient first, and the whole dish evolved around that ingredient; usually the opposite happens. I was eating celeriac (aka celery root), simply steamed, and realised it actually tasted quite creamy. Hence celeriac mash, purée and gratin, I suppose. I toyed with the idea of making vegan double cream with it, but thought it has too much of an earthy, vegetal flavour. When blitzed with enough olive oil, though, it could make a perfect substitute for the béchamel in traditional lasagne.
I wanted to avoid using cashews for the béchamel sauce, as many other vegan lasagna recipes do, as it can be a faff to remember to soak them overnight. However, I felt the topping needed something richer, so I've included them, but just for the topping. They only need to be soaked for around 3 hours and can be omitted entirely if you don't have the time – I recommend a more generous grating of vegan cheese on top, if that's the case.
When the lasagne came out the oven, I expected it to taste nice, but was astonished by how much it reminded me of traditional lasagne. It was so delicious that I wouldn't recommend using those alternative lasagne sheets made of butternut squash or sweet potato that have been cropping up in supermarkets of late; that really would be vegetable overkill and take away any hint of the lasagne your Mum used to make.
60 mins + 3 hrs for cashews to soak (if using)
|for the tomato-lentil sauce|
|3 tbsp||extra virgin olive oil|
|1||red onion, finely chopped|
|1||white onion, finely chopped|
|4 large||cloves garlic, finely chopped|
|1 medium||red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced|
|1||red pepper (aka capsicum), deseeded and chopped|
|2 tsp||dried thyme|
|1 tbsp||dried oregano|
|1 tsp||fine salt|
|170g/1 cup||dried red lentils, rinsed|
|2 x 400ml/14oz cans||chopped tomatoes|
|for the pasta sheets|
|for the celeriac bechamel|
|1 medium (roughly 600g/20oz)||celeriac (aka celery root), peeled and chopped|
|100ml/scant ½ cup||extra virgin olive oil|
|½ tsp||fine salt|
|for the spinach|
|180g/6oz||spinach, finely chopped|
|for the cashew cream (optional)|
|140g/1 cup||cashews, soaked in water for min 3 hours|
|6 tbsp||unsweetened plant milk e.g. almond|
|2 tbsp||nutritional yeast|
|⅛ tsp||fine salt|
|40g/⅓ cup||meltable vegan cheese, grated|
|alternative topping if not using cashew cream|
|120g/1 cup||meltable vegan cheese, grated|
- In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and chilli to the pan and cook for 5 more minutes.
- Add the pepper (capsicum) and cook for 5 more minutes.
- Stir in the thyme, oregano, salt and sugar.
- Add the lentils, followed by the chopped tomatoes. Fill one of the empty cans with water and add that, too.
- Leave to simmer for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, move on to make the celeriac sauce (see below).
- Add a good grind of black pepper, then set the sauce aside.
for the celeriac bechamel:
- Steam the celeriac for 15 minutes.
- Cool the celeriac down by rinsing with cold water. Place in a food processor or large blender and blitz.
- While the celeriac is blending, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, so it is well incorporated.
- Add the salt and pulse one more time. Set aside.
for the assembly:
- Preheat the oven to 175C/350F.
- Boil 500ml/2 cups of water. Lay the lasagne sheets out in a single layer on 2 baking trays. Pour the boiling water over the lasagne sheets and soak for 2-3 minutes, then drain the water.
- Oil a large (3½ litre/3 quart) ovenproof baking dish (mine measured 27cm x 22cm (11" x 9") at the top). Pour a third of the tomato-lentil sauce into the dish.
- Cover the sauce with a layer of lasagne sheets.
- Spread half the celeriac bechamel onto the lasagne sheets.
- Sprinkle half of the spinach on top, followed by another third of tomato-lentil sauce and then more lasagne sheets.
- Repeat the previous 2 steps once.
- Cover the dish with foil and bake for 35 minutes. While it's baking, make the cashew cream (see below).
for the cashew cream (optional):
- If you've forgotten to soak the cashews or decided to skip this step, just grate lots of vegan cheese on top of the lasagne when the 35 minutes are up and return to the oven, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- Drain and rinse the cashews well.
- Blitz the cashews with the plant milk, nutritional yeast and salt.
- After the lasagne has been in the oven for 35 minutes, take it out and uncover it. Spread the cashew cream over the top. Evenly sprinkle the vegan cheese on top of the cream. Return to the oven for 15 minutes. Turn the oven setting to 'grill' or 'broil' if the top isn't crispy enough.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.