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I did not like lasagna until I was 23 years old. It always looked horrible at school lunches, laden with cheese I could not eat, and when it came to making it myself the béchamel sauce always seemed like so much effort. Well, that was until two Septembers ago when Lottie + Doof blogged ‘A Nice Lasagna’ from one of my favourite cookbooks I cooked from in 2017, Julia Turshen’s Small Victories. This lasagna contained just two cheeses (mozzarella I can eat, parmesan I do eat as long as I regulate the quantities), and a neat trick to replace the béchamel. I’ve made it so many times since, because did I mention it is so easy to make I have it memorised?
As I mentioned when I reviewed Small Victories last year, every recipe in the book as a small hint or trick in it, ‘small victories’ in your kitchen if you will. This recipe contains two: skipping the mess of making a béchamel sauce by simply stirring creme fraiche into the tomato sauce, and making the fresh pasta for the lasagna sheets in the food processor (I’ll never make fresh pasta dough another way again!) Here, I’ve used fresh lasagna sheets from the supermarket (better for weeknight eats, it makes this lasagna take just 1 hour 20 minutes start to finish, with a green salad) but if you have the time or the inclination, I do recommend you get a copy of the book and make the pasta from scratch, the results are just amazing.
Aside from switching out half the tinned tomatoes for tinned cherry tomatoes as I’m slightly obsessed with them (find them in Sainsbury’s) and I find they add a sweeter flavour (but feel free to just just two tins of regular chopped tomatoes if you can’t find them), and adding more mozzarella, I’ve not messed with the recipe. I’ve not put measurements for the freshly grated parmesan because obviously I run scant with it, but use however much you want, more is more here. The lasagna should serve 4-6 people, and reheats beautifully. I always serve it with a green salad and truffle vinaigrette.
This foolproof recipe for a vegetarian lasagna is the perfect make-ahead dish for busy weeknights.
3 Large Garlic Cloves, thinly sliced
Large Glug Light Olive Oil
1 x 400g Tin Chopped Tomatoes
1 x 400g Tin Cherry Tomatoes
1 tsp Dried Oregano
150g Light Creme Fraiche
1 x Pack Fresh Lasagna Sheets
2 x Mozzarella Balls, torn
Freshly Grated Parmesan
Large Handful Fresh Basil, torn
Heat the oil and the garlic in a large saucepan over a medium heat until the garlic is sizzling, not browned. Add the tomatoes (use a little water to swill any residual juices from the cans), a large pinch of salt and the dried oregano. Stir well, and turn the heat down to low.
Allow the sauce to simmer for half an hour until it is slightly reduced, occasionally stirring and breaking down the cherry tomatoes with the back of your spoon. Remove the sauce from the heat, and prepare the cheese and basil while it cools a little.
Stir in the creme fraiche, then it is time to assemble your lasagna.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees (390 Fahrenheit).
Smooth a little sauce across the bottom of your dish, then layer two sheets of pasta. Top with a little more sauce, some mozzarella, basil and parmesan. Keep layering in this order, turning the lasagna sheets at 90 degree angles each time (so you’re lasagna does not have just one big split down the middle) until you’re out of lasagna sheets. Save enough sauce to cover all the pasta on top of the lasagna (dry, exposed pasta will burn in the oven), and enough parmesan to sprinkle on top to make a brown, cheesy topping.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until the top is golden, and allow the lasagna to rest for 10 minutes (like a steak!) before slicking and serving.
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