I love to cook something from a detailed and thorough recipe - you know the kind of thing, where you write a list, do the shopping, make the dish (following the instructions carefully) and then devour the dish. But I also love those food ideas that are flexible and give the opportunity to create something delicious with a bunch of things that are winking at me from the fridge to be used up and also have space in the method for variation. These are the recipes that are more of a guide and serve me as inspiration and a framework.
I've previously written about a Roasted Vegetable Lasagne which includes a recipe with precise ingredients, but over the years I've adapted it and it has become a dish that I'm more likely to freestyle. It's definitely one of my go-to's (alongside a Start of the Week Soup, a frittata, or some variation on tacos) for using up bits and bobs and transforming them into something delicious for dinner.
I know that some people are always more comfortable with a detailed recipe, so for this Roasted Vegetable and Lentil Lasagne, I'm going to give you both - a detailed recipe for exactly how I made this and a guide for how you might approach your own more relaxed, fridge-friendly version. This is not a rich, heavy lasagne - the roasted vegetables give a sweet smokiness and the lentils make it more substantial.
What are the main changes that I made from the original Roasted Vegetable Lasagne?
- I no longer get too hung up about precisely which vegetables I use - I focus on having roughly the right VOLUME of roasted vegetables once they are cooked (approximately 1 litre (2 pints) - I use a measuring jug to see if I have enough). Traditionally, there would be aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions and tomatoes but I may well substitute vegetables that I already have cooked or that need using up. This particular lasagne included -
- onions, red peppers, courgettes, carrots - all roasted specifically for this lasagne
- broccoli - already roasted for dinner the day before and leftover
- green beans - steamed for dinner the day before and leftover (I cut each bean in half)
- cherry tomatoes - I had slow roasted a big box of them to serve with pasta and these were leftover
- I add some cooked green lentils to the vegetables to bulk out the filling - Here I used a 400g tin of pre-cooked lentils, but you could also use a pouch of ready-cooked lentils or cook some from scratch.
- I'm flexible about what I add to the vegetables for extra flavouring/moisture - Here I used a half tin of chopped tomatoes (with basil and garlic already included) and a few chopped olives and capers to balance the sweetness of the roasted vegetables. I also sometimes use -
- leftover tomato pasta sauce
- red pesto, normally combined with some tinned chopped tomatoes
- fresh, chopped herbs
How about the construction of the lasagne?
I wonder if it's the construction of the lasagne that can make it feel more onerous than other pasta dishes. Here are some things that might make it feel a little more accessible -
- A white sauce is not difficult to make and I've written here about the easy method that I swear by (ie no need for a scary roux)
- As long as you finish with a white sauce, it doesn't really matter too much how you tackle the layers underneath. This is how I normally approach my layers -
- The number of layers in your lasagne is largely determined by the depth of your dish. I tend to estimate by eye and then I can work out how much I can use in each round. As long as you have enough white sauce to finish with a layer on top, the rest really doesn't matter.
- Breaking off the corners of the lasagne sheets helps them to fit more comfortably into the corners of most dishes.
How about the size of the lasagne?
The quantities detailed here make a lasagne in a classic lasagne dish (30cm x 20cm x 5cm (12 inches x 8 inches x 2 inches)). Your dish might be smaller but that doesn't really matter. With a smaller dish, you might then have some leftovers -
- leftover vegetable filling - great served with another pasta shape
- leftover white sauce - freezes nicely and/or use to make a small portion of cauliflower or broccoli cheese
- leftover lasagne sheets - stick them back in the cupboard for next time
- leftover grated mozzarella - stir through the pasta that you made with any leftover vegetable filling (above) or stick it in the freezer to use when you next make a pizza or similar
Sometimes I will make the lasagne in smaller tin foil dishes, cook one for dinner and freeze the others (uncooked) until I need them. Other times I will just make one large dish of lasagne and any that doesn't get eaten, I will allow to cool and then cut into portions, wrap in foil, label (probably the most CRITICAL part) and pop into the freezer. This then makes an easy midweek dinner served with a salad and/or a baked potato.
9 things I especially love about this Roasted Vegetable and Lentil Lasagne
- It's a great way to use up random vegetable leftovers
- It's a great way to use up random tomato-based sauces
- It's a fantastic make-ahead dinner
- It freezes beautifully, both cooked and uncooked
- It looks pretty with all the colours of the vegetables
- Its sweetness in flavour makes it popular with younger palates
- It is highly adaptable, in terms of vegetables that make the cut. There may be an element of trial and error here to establish which vegetables you and yours like in a lasagne. These things are personal.
- It is evidence that you don't always need a precise recipe to create fantastic family food
- It tastes delicious and the lentils make it also very satisfying.
If you like this Roasted Vegetable and Lentil Lasagne, you might also enjoy these other lentil dishes -
Roasted Vegetable and Lentil Lasagne
This is a very flexible recipe. I have included details for exactly how I made it but also a guide for how you might approach your own more relaxed, fridge-friendly version using your choice of roasted and/or leftover cooked vegetables.
- 350g (12oz) lasagne sheets
- 150g (6oz) mozzarella, grated
For the vegetable part of the filling -
EITHER - your own selection of roasted and leftover cooked vegetables measured up to the 1 litre (2 pint) level in a measuring jug
- 2 red peppers, cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) squares
- 1 onion, cut into wedges
- 1 carrot, cut in half lengthways and then into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks
- 1 large courgette, cut in half lengthways and then into 2.5cm (1 inch) chunks
- 6 small florets of broccoli
- a handful of green beans, steamed and cut in half
- salt and pepper
- a generous drizzle of olive oil
The extras to add to the filling -
- 1 heaped tablespoon olives, chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers, drained
- 250g (9oz) cooked green lentils - I used a 400g drained can of lentils but you could also cook 125g (4 ½ oz) of dried green lentils according to the package instructions to get roughly the same quantity
- ½ of a 400g (13oz) tin of chopped tomatoes with garlic and basil
For the sauce -
- 1 quantity of all-in-one white sauce
- Fresh nutmeg for flavouring (to taste)
For the topping -
- 40g (1 ½ oz) Parmesan, grated
You will also need -
- a solid baking sheet for roasting the vegetables (or 2 if you have lots to roast) covered with baking parchment (to prevent a washing up challenge)
- a lasagne dish, approx 30cm x 20cm x 5cm (12 inches x 8 inches x 2 inches)
- Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/425ºF (gas mark 7).
- If you are roasting vegetables for this recipe, lay the prepared vegetables out on your baking sheet(s). They will cook at different rates, so if you group them by type (rather than mixing them all together), it's easier to remove the faster cooking vegetables when they are ready. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Now place the sheet(s) in the oven. Check the vegetables after 15-20 minutes and remove those that are ready as you go, until they are all cooked and out of the oven.
- Add the lentils, olives, capers and chopped tomatoes to the roasted vegetables and gently combine.
- While the vegetables are cooking you can prepare the white sauce following these instructions.
- Turn the oven down to 180°C/160°C Fan/350ºF (gas mark 4).
- Now, into the lasagne dish pour a ladleful of the white sauce, followed by ¹/3 of the vegetable mixture. Then sprinkle in ¹/3 of the mozzarella and follow this with a single layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat this process, ending with a final layer of sauce and the grated Parmesan.
- Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the top is crusty and golden.