Lasagne with Ratatouille

Uncooked lasagna pasta isolated on white background

 

Serves 4

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of an empty stomach must be in want of a lasagne.

(That’s what you get when you cross a love of Jane Austen with a love of Italian food.)

So, being that man, I made a lasagne using left over ratatouille. And it was fantastic! Creamy tomato sauce with vegetables, cheddar cheese, parmesan and sheets of pasta cooked until part crispy, part chewy, all excellent. As our American cousins would say, “Oh my God, it was awesome!” (That’s why I prefer Jane Austen.)

This dish is vegetarian.

Oh, and you first of all better check out my ratatouille recipe because you’ll need a portion of that before you start.

For the béchamel…
75g butter
50g plain flour
800ml whole milk
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the finished dish…
Ratatouille – enough to make three layers in your lasagne dish
10 to 12 sheets (200g to 250g) lasagne
150g strong mature cheddar, grated
60g grated parmesan

You will need a 30cm x 20cm lasagne dish or glass/ceramic baking dish, buttered.

To make the béchamel put the butter, flour and milk in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring continuously with a balloon whisk. Leave to simmer on a very low heat for 8 minutes, stirring it with the balloon whisk a couple of times. Take it off the heat and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the dish, spread a layer of ratatouille onto the bottom of the dish, then add a layer of lasagne sheets. Add another layer of ratatouille, a layer of one third of the béchamel and sprinkle with half of the cheddar. Repeat by adding another layer of lasagne, another layer of ratatouille, another third of the béchamel and sprinkle with the remaining cheddar. Add a final layer of lasagne and the last third of the béchamel. Sprinkle the surface with the grated parmesan.

The dish can now be covered in cling film and stored in the fridge until needed.

To cook the dish, heat the oven to 180°c and bake the lasagne for 30 to 45 minutes until brown and bubbling.

Pasta Bake

Mezze Penne Rigate lr

Serves 4

I love baked pasta. The outside bits go chewy and charred, there is usually a crispy cheese crust and the baking intensifies the flavours.

This recipe is also handy because it is a make-ahead one pot dish. It’s important that you make it the day ahead and let it rest in the fridge for 24 hours as this gives time for the flavours to mingle.

As for the pasta, I like to use mezze penne rigate, which roughly translates to half-length, ridged penne. But regular penne or any similar sized tube-shaped pasta will do.

3 to 4 medium courgettes, chopped into bite sized pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil
300g pasta
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1kg passata
10 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
A generous pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 ½ tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
180g mascarpone cheese
3 to 4 tablespoons coarsely grated strong cheddar cheese

Place the courgettes in a large roasting tin (large enough to hold them all in one layer) and mix with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes or so until tender and slightly browned. (The cooking time will vary according to your oven and the size of the courgette pieces.)

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according the instructions on the packet. Be careful not to let it go too soft as it will get a second cooking when it is baked.

Meanwhile, sauté the onions in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until softened and starting to colour at the edges, approx. 10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir fry for 1 minute. Add all of the other ingredients, except for the cheeses.

Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and cook part-covered for 20 to 30 minutes. The sauce should be rich and slightly thickened. If it goes too thick, add a splash of the pasta cooking liquid.

Add the courgettes and mascarpone cheese and stir well to make sure everything is evenly mixed. Stir in the drained pasta then pour the mixture into a large, flat oven proof dish. I use a large glass lasagne dish, as I like the pasta to be fairly shallow – that way you get more crispy outside bits when you bake it! Once it has cooled, cover in cling film and store in the fridge until you are ready to bake it.

To finish the dish, remove the cling film and sprinkle the surface of the pasta with a generous covering of grated cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. It should be browned and crisp on the outside and bubbling hot on the inside.

Spaghetti Arrabiata

Spaghetti lr

Serves 2

Sometimes the simplest food can be the tastiest. If you don’t like this dish, there’s something wrong with you!

For the arrabiata sauce…
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes (as you’ll know by now, I use Mutti tomato pulp)
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp ground black pepper
A very generous pinch of dried chilli flakes – don’t skimp here, this dish is meant to be spicy hot
Salt to taste

Place all of the ingredients in a small saucepan, give them a good stir and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 45 minutes. Keep an eye on it and add a splash of water if it starts to dry out.

This sauce can be made ahead and stored in the fridge or freezer until needed.

For the finished dish…
200g spaghetti (Rustichella is the best if you can get it)
2 tablespoons olive oil
60g coarsely grated parmesan cheese

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to the instructions on the packet or until it is cooked to your liking (I always cook pasta for longer than it says on the packet as I don’t like it too al dente). Once it’s cooked, drain it and return it to the hot cooking pan. Stir in the olive oil then stir in the hot arrabiata sauce. Serve immediately and sprinkle with the parmesan.

Lasagne with Puy Lentils

Puy lentil lasagne lr

Serves 4

This is a delicious alternative to the common lasagne al forno, and easier and quicker to prepare too. I think it is lighter than the meat version. It’s packed full of protein and tastes fresh and cheesy.

If you want to make a vegetarian version, simply leave out the streaky bacon. If you do that though, add ½ a teaspoon of smoked paprika instead to keep a smoky hint to the dish.

People sometimes ask me what they should serve with lasagne. I always say, a knife and fork! Lasagne with Puy lentils is the ultimate one-pot dish. It has carbohydrates, protein, milk, dairy, vegetables and (mostly) healthy fats. And fibre, vitamins and minerals to boot. And, unlike shop-bought lasagnes, no added sugar.

For the lentils…
250g Puy lentils, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
80g (4 rashers) rindless smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 large celery stick, finely diced
400g tin chopped tomatoes (preferable Mutti tomato pulp)
½ tsp dried thyme
Pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the béchamel…
75g butter
50g plain flour
800ml whole milk
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the finished dish…
10 to 12 sheets (200g to 250g) lasagne (the no pre-cook variety)
150g strong mature cheddar, grated
60g grated parmesan

You will also need a 30cm x 20cm lasagne dish or glass/ceramic baking dish, buttered.

Bring a large saucepan of unsalted water to a boil and add the lentils. Cover and simmer until just cooked, approx. 35 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile make the sauce to go with the lentils. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add the bacon and stir-fry until cooked and starting to crisp. Remove to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Add the onions to the pan and sauté gently until starting to soften, approx. 5 minutes. Stir in the carrot and celery, cover, turn the heat down low and allow the vegetables to sweat and soften for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, thyme, chilli, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Cook part covered for about 30 minutes until the vegetables have softened and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the lentils and check the seasoning.

Next make the béchamel. Put the butter, flour and milk in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring continuously with a balloon whisk. Leave to simmer on a very low heat for 8 minutes, stirring it with the balloon whisk a couple of times. Take off the heat and season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the dish, spread one quarter of the lentils onto the bottom of the dish, then add a layer of lasagne sheets. Add another quarter of the lentils, a layer of one third of the béchamel and sprinkle with half of the cheddar. Repeat by adding another layer of lasagne, another quarter of the lentils, another third of the béchamel and sprinkle with the remaining cheddar. Add a final layer of lasagne, the last quarter of the lentils and the last third of the béchamel. Sprinkle the surface with the grated parmesan.

The dish can now be covered in cling film and stored in the fridge until needed.

To cook the dish, heat the oven to 180°c and bake the lasagne for 30 to 45 minutes until brown and bubbling.

Spaghetti Siciliana

Spaghetti low res

Serves 1

This recipe shows that delicious food needn’t be complicated. You will need to have already prepared some real tomato sauce though, but don’t despair, I have already posted the recipe for that. This recipe is for one portion; to serve two just double it, to serve four quadruple it, you’re smart (or you wouldn’t be reading this), so you get the picture.

This dish is vegetarian and also vegan if you skip the parmesan.

1 medium to large courgette, cut into bite size pieces
2 sweet peppers, one yellow and one orange, stems removed, deseeded and cut into bite size pieces
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
A drizzle of olive oil
1 portion, approx. 225ml, of home-made real tomato sauce
100g spaghetti
To serve, grated parmesan, optional

Put the courgette and peppers in an oven proof dish. Season with sea salt, black pepper and a pinch of chilli flakes. Drizzle with the olive oil and stir. Bake in the oven at 180° for 15 minutes, then give them a good stir and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes. After this time the vegetables should be slightly softened and just starting to colour at the edges. Mix with the tomato sauce and set aside. This can all be done ahead. Just store the vegetable mixture in the fridge until you are ready to finish off the dish.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water according to the instructions on the packet. Meanwhile, reheat the vegetables in a large frying pan. As soon as the spaghetti is cooked, drain it and add it to the frying pan. Toss or stir the mixture to make sure the spaghetti is evenly coated.

Serve immediately sprinkled with the grated parmesan.

Sit back with a warm belly and a big smile on your face and think, “Boy, that Kev.i.n really knows what he’s on about!”