Lasagna hasn’t always been a favourite dish of mine, but the more I play around with the way I make it, the more it is growing on me and now I can say that it is something that I look forward to eating…sorry Dad 🙂
Before Elise was born, I made a big dish of lasagna and froze it for quick dinners once she arrived. That batch had a pretty basic red meat sauce with layers of pasta, grilled vegetables and a béchamel sauce. Then, recently, I made a lasagna for good friends of ours, who are vegetarian, so I made a vegetable based red sauce and added in a spinach and ricotta layer. I received excellent feedback from that, and then this lasagna was born.
This lasagna has a dozen layers, including red meat sauce, packed with veggies, pasta layers, grilled vegetables, béchamel sauce and layers of the spinach and ricotta mix. The result being a delicious and very nutritious lasagna that is probably heavier on the protein than the carbs, as there are only 3 layers of pasta. With all the veggies in here, this lasagna can be eaten on its own, as a meal or if you want more veggies you can serve it with a salad.
If you are concerned about the creamy sauces in this lasagna, the béchamel and the spinach and ricotta mix, don’t be. Béchamel is simply a small amount of butter and flour and the rest is milk, which I would recommend using low fat milk to keep the overall fat content down, and similarly with the ricotta, use a reduced fat variety to lower overall saturated fat.
The best part about this lasagna, and any lasagna, is that the kids absolutely love it! They are also fans of salad at the moment, with a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing, so I try to basic lettuce, tomato, cucumber, etc salads quite often to keep them interested in them. Claire especially likes it when she can add her own dressing!
Lasagna does take a little bit of time to make, but I suggest that you make a full baking dish worth whenever you make it and have leftovers in the coming days or freeze into portions for a later date as it freezes exceptionally well.
- 500g lean beef mince
- 1 tbs EVO oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 small eggplant, diced
- 1 medium zucchini, diced
- 2 swiss brown mushrooms, diced
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 2 x 400g tinned diced tomato
- 1 tbs basil, finely chopped
- 1 tbs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tbs sage, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 375g lasagna sheets
- 1 medium eggplant, sliced into 0.5cm slices
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced into 0.5cm slices
- 300g pumpkin, sliced into 0.5cm slices
- 20g grated parmesan cheese
- 30g butter
- 30g plain flour
- 2 cups milk
Spinach and Ricotta
- 250g fresh or frozen spinach
- 375g reduced fat ricotta cheese
- 30g grated parmesan cheese
- Heat the oven to 200°C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
- Start by making the meat sauce. Heat a large pot, with a lid, over medium heat and add olive oil, along with the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook for ~5 minutes. Add diced zucchini and eggplant and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
- Add the beef mince and cook, stirring to break up any lumps. Add the mushrooms and chopped herbs and cook for a further 3 minutes.
- Add the red wine and tomato paste and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, along with about 1/2 a tin of water. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir well to combine.
- Increase the heat to bring to the boil. Once boiling, place the lid on the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Allow to simmer for about an hour, checking every 20 minutes or so and stirring if needed.
- Meanwhile, place the sliced pumpkin, eggplant and zucchini into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Stir to coat. Arrange on baking tray and cook for about 30 minutes or until tender. Once cooked, remove from oven and set aside.
- After an hour, the meat sauce should be relatively thick with little excess liquid remaining. Remove from heat and set aside.
- To make the béchamel, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and allow to melt, add the flour and stir continuously for 2 minutes to cook the flour. Add the milk, about 1/2 a cup at a time, whisking vigorously to prevent the formation of lumps. Once this milk has been absorbed, add another 1/2 a cup and repeat until 2 cups of milk have been added. Season to taste and set aside.
- The final element to make is the spinach and ricotta. If you are using fresh spinach, roughly chop the spinach and cover in boiling water to cook. Drain. If using frozen spinach, cover in boiling water to defrost, then drain.
- Place the spinach into a medium sized bowl, add the ricotta and parmesan cheese. Stir well to combine.
- To assemble the lasagna, place a layer of lasagna sheets on the bottom of the dish. Top with 1/2 of the meat sauce, followed by 1/3 of the béchamel, then a layer of roast pumpkin. Top with 1/2 the spinach and ricotta mix and then another layer of pasta. Repeat with meat sauce, béchamel, zucchini and eggplant and spinach and ricotta mix and another layer of pasta.
- By this point, there should only be meat sauce and béchamel left, so top pasta with remaining meat sauce and béchamel then sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
- Cover the dish with foil and place into the oven for about 40 minutes, removing the foil after 20 minutes.
- Eat once cooked or refrigerate or freeze for a later date.