Vegetarian ‘comfort food’

In Recipes on May 17, 2011 at 5:05 am

With the cold weather we have been experiencing lately the people in our house were craving something warm and comforting.  No-one wanted meat so a bouef bourguignon was out of the question.  Soup was a possibility but we couldn’t agree on a particular recipe as we all have our own favourites.  I suggested Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne (a recipe I have been making for more years than I care to remember) and finally a consensus was reached.  Lasagne is great for cold days as it is very satisfying, it is also good when you want to feed a lot of people with a minimum of effort as it can be made ahead of time and shoved in the oven when needed.  I prefer to make my own lasagne sheets but it is acceptable to use the commercial variety if you are pressed for time.

Pasta sheets drying on clothes rack

Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne


For the pasta:

3 cups ‘oo’ flour

3 large eggs

2 tbs olive oil

pinch salt

For the filling:

300 g spinach leaves (picked and washed)

300 g ricotta cheese

1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 large onion (finely chopped)

1-2 cloves garlic

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 a nutmeg (freshly grated)

1/2 tsp ground all spice

1 egg

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

1 tin diced Italian tomatoes

For the bechamel sauce:

75 g butter

1/2 cup flour

2 cups milk

bay leaf, freshly grated nutmeg and seasoning (to taste)

Washed and picked spinach leaves


For the pasta:  Mound flour on a clean work surface.  Add salt.  Make a well in the center.  In the well place the three eggs and the oil.  Bring the flour into the middle with your hands and work the mixture until you have a firm dough.  Knead for 5-10 mins. or until smooth.  Wrap in cling film and rest at room temperature for 20 mins.  Divide dough into thirds.  Roll each piece out to a large sheet about 2-3 mm thick.  Hang sheets over a clean towel rail or clothing rack for 15-20 mins to dry.  Cut to required size.  For the filling:  Fry onion and garlic in a little olive oil until translucent, add dried herbs and cook for a further 30 seconds.  Set aside.  Shred spinach leaves and place in a bowl with the ricotta, Parmesan, all spice, nutmeg, egg and seasoning.  Add cooked onion and garlic and mix thoroughly.  Set aside.  For the bechamel sauce:  Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add flour and cook for a couple of mins. to get rid of the floury taste.  Gradually add the milk, stirring all the time, until all the milk is used up and you have a smooth sauce.  Add bay leaf, nutmeg and seasoning.  Set aside.

Put a little of the diced tomatoes and 2 tbs water in the bottom of a lasagne dish.  Cover with a layer of pasta.  Spread about 1/4 of the ricotta mixture on top, sprinkle with some more of the diced tomatoes and a little of the bechamel sauce making sure you keep about 1/2 to cover the top.  Repeat with the remaining layers finishing with a layer of pasta.  Cover with bechamel sauce and extra freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Cover with foil and place in a pre-heated 180 c oven for 30 mins.  Remove foil and bake for another 30 mins. or until golden brown.

Golden brown and bubbly

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