Preparation time: approx 1.5 hrs + 45 minutes oven time
The list of ingredients is extensive, but most of them are optional, depending how you like your lasagne. Time-saving tips and ideas for seasonal variation are given at the end of the recipe below.
Serves 6 – 10, depending on hunger and what else is on the menu (see below for details).
1/2 cup dried pulses or 1 can, drained
1 vegetable stock cube (double-check to make sure it doesn’t contain animal products)
oil for frying
1 large white onion, cubed
1 small red onion, cubed
4 cloves of garlic, well chopped
1 leek, sliced
2 carrots, quarted lengthwise and sliced
1 aubergine, quarted lengthwise and sliced
1 250 g packet of firm tofu, drained, squeezed dry and chopped in bite-size pieces
1 courgette, shredded
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 packet of brown mushrooms (ca. 8 medium-sized), chopped
150 g tomato puree
1 bottle tomato passata (680 g) or 2 cans chopped tomatoes (800 g)
1 tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp Fairtrade cane sugar
2 tsp dried basil
4 tsp mixed herbs
salt + pepper to taste
4 tbsp vegan margarine or vegetable oil
10 tbsp white flour
500 ml soy milk
500 ml water or vegetable water
1 tsp nutmeg
salt + pepper to taste
50 g breadcrumbs or stuffing
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
drizzle of olive oil
1 packet whole wheat lasagne (250 g)
If using dried pulses (preferred), rinse, soak and pre-cook them with the vegetable stock cube according to the package instructions. Any can be used, though red lentils are not great. I prefer red kidney beans, green lentils (easy because they require no soaking), or chickpeas. Take them off the heat and pour off and save the cooking water when they’ve still got a bit of ‘bite’ left.
Prepare most of the vegetables beforehand to make putting the red sauce together easier.
Start by heating up a large saucepan (about 3 litres) with a few tbsp of vegetable oil. Fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes till they’re soft. Don’t be afraid to turn the heat up pretty high if you’re happy stirring very often. Add each of the vegetables and tofu in turn, giving them each a minute or so before adding the next, in approximately the order given above. Keep stirring happily. If needed, add a little more oil to avoid sticking, but don’t worry if it looks like it’s starting to burn. Just keep stirring and adding vegetables.
When all the vegetables have been added, pour in the tomato passata (like chopped tomatoes, just more blitzed). If you prefer chopped tomatoes, that’s fine too. Add tomato pureee, basil and herbs, peanut butter (optional), sugar (not optional. The sugar balances the acidity of the tomatoes and is key to a good red sauce), salt and pepper, and if canned pulses are used, a vegetable stock cube. You will probably need to add another 100-200 ml of water as well. The consistency should be like that of thick soup. Turn the heat down and let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally, while you make the white sauce. Add the pulses at this point too.
Melt the margarine in a small saucepan or heat up the oil gently. It should not get hot to the point of excessive sizzling or boiling of the margarine. When all is melted, add the flour a few tbsp at a time, stirring well with a wooden spoon. It should sizzle a bit. When all the flour has been added, you should have a ball of doughlike consistency in the saucepan, about the size of a small fist. If it’s too dry, add more margarine, or add flour if it still seems ‘wet’. Start adding the liquid, alternating between soy milk and water. If there is pulse-water leftover from earlier, you can use this instead of the water, or if you’ve steamed or cooked any other vegetable, use the water from that. If you want a creamier sauce, just stick with soy milk, though I find it too heavy. Add only about 150 ml at a time and stir really well to get out all the lumps before adding the next lot. It’s time-consuming but worth it in the end. If it starts to boil, turn the heat down a bit. When all the liquid has been added, add salt, pepper and nutmeg and let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, while stirring. If there are lumps, you can use a whisk, but there shouldn’t really be any. The sauce will be thin at the top and thick at the bottom, so make sure you’re stirring all the way to the bottom of the sauce pan.
Putting the lasagne together:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Use a large oven-proof dish of at least 5 cm depth. Mine is ceramic and about 25 by 30 cm and works a charm. Give the red sauce a good stir, and pour half of it into the bottom of the dish. Add half the lasagne, then half the white sauce. Follow on with the rest of the red sauce, lasagne and finish with the white. Sprinkle breadcrumbs or stuffing (I like sage and onion) and sunflower seeds on top and drizzle some olive oil on top. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes. Stick a knife through the layers to test when it’s cooked. If the top looks like it’s starting to burn before the lasagne is done, cover it with tin foil.
Serves 8 when mixed with generous helpings of a nice fresh salad (lettuce, tomato, cucumber, pepper, shredded carrot, avocado etc) in a balsamic vinaigrette. If your guests are really hungry or you want to stretch the lasagne to 10 servings, add in a bread basket with vegan ciabatta or other italian style bread.
Tips + variations:
The vegetables above are for a summer lasagne, when all these vegetables can be locally sourced. In autumn and winter, finely chopped cabbage, spinach, and shredded root vegetables such as parsnip, swede, and beetroot, can be used instead. Pre-steamed cabbage and spinach can even be used in betweeen layers as a nice change of pace. Spread them out on top of the first white layer.
If all this sounds too time-consuming, it’s possible to substiute the entire vat of red sauce for a good-quality vegan pasta sauce, but it won’t be nearly as good! Alternatively, use more tofu and pulses as filler (or even soy crumbles!) and leave out many of the vegetables. Onion, garlic, chopped carrot and zucchini are all quick and easy to prepare and will still give variety in colour, taste and consistency and give you some of your 5 a day.
The whole recipe can also be scaled down, though it’s not really worth it to make it for less than 4 helpings.