vegan lasagne, spinach lasagne, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson, vegan Italian food

My mom used to make lasagne with a veggie tomato sauce when I was little – this recipe is inspired by my memories of coming home to the smell of this quintessential comfort food baking in the oven. Of course her’s was doused in cheese. Mine is packed full of spinach with a garlicy picada crumble on top. It was my daughter, Rebekah, who both reminded me of that childhood favourite, and helped me come up with this new version. Those powerful food memories must run thick in the blood!

Tomato Vegetable Sauce

4 tbsps olive oil

2 onions, chopped finely

6 medium carrots, grated

6 celery stalks, grated

3 medium zucchini, grated

large handful enoki mushrooms

6 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup red wine

6 cups stewed tomatoes

1/4 cup tomato paste

basil, thyme, parsley, chopped

1 tbsp organic cane sugar

sea salt and pepper

Béchamel sauce

8 tsps olive oil

4 tbsps flour

2 cups rice or soy cream

pinch nutmeg

sea salt and pepper

Picada

1/2 cup almonds, toasted

2 slices white country-style bread

4 cloves garlic

sea salt

Plus

1 bunch of spinach, cleaned

1 package lasagne sheets

vegan lasagne, spinach lasagne, vegetable tomato sauce, picada, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

To make the sauce, heat olive oil in a heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven. Add the onions and sauté until they start to turn translucent. Add grated carrots, celery, zucchini, and mushrooms. Sauté until beginning to get soft, 3 – 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until aromatic, about another 2 minutes.

Add the red wine and let simmer until reduced by about half. Add stewed tomatoes and the tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Add chopped herbs, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Turn down the heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Set aside for the flavours to meld.

Meanwhile, to make the béchamel sauce, heat the olive oil in a small pot on medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir until well blended. Let the mixture bubble away for a few minutes, stirring often so that it doesn’t burn. After 2 or 3 minutes, slowly add the rice or soy cream. It will immediately thicken as you add the first drops of cream. Add slowly and stir constantly until the sauce is smooth and well-blended. Turn down the heat and let simmer until thickened. Add a few pinches of nutmeg, sea salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the picada, toast the almonds in an oven at 350F until they’re pale gold, 8 – 10 minutes. Remove and set aside. Meanwhile, slowly fry slices of white country-style bread in 2 tbsps olive oil until golden on both sides, or toast well in a toaster. Place the grilled bread or toast, almonds, 4 large garlic cloves and pinch of salt in a food processor to make a crumbly paste. Set aside.

Wash the spinach. Cook the lasagne sheets in boiling water, about 3 or 4 sheets at a time making sure they don’t stick to one another. Do not cook al dente, you want them to be a little underdone (4 – 5 minutes should do the trick). As they cook, set them on a clean tea towel until you’re ready to use them.

Once all the components are ready, start to build your lasagne. In a large baking dish, start with a layer of tomato sauce, add a layer of spinach, then a layer of pasta. Next add a layer of béchamel sauce, a layer of spinach, then a layer of pasta. Repeat until all the ingredients are done ending with a layer of béchamel sauce at the top.

Bake in an oven at 400F for 30 minutes. Broil under high heat for another 3 minutes or so until top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a generous amount of picada. Serve piping hot next to a crispy green salad.

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