Friday, 26 April 2013

Lasagne with Spinach, Ricotta and Pumpkin

As I have probably mentioned before, my mum raised all of us 5 kids to be pretty self sufficient, especially in the kitchen. This unfortunately meant (in my experiences anyway) that aside from a select few of my friends, the only men I knew who did the cooking in their households were my brothers.
This in turn meant that I could count on one hand the number of times a man, that wasn’t related to me, had cooked a meal for me.

That was until I met my whiz in the kitchen boyfriend. It was a big adjustment for me to relinquish not just half of the cooking duties to someone else (that part I didn’t mind so much hehe) but also half of my kitchen. But I must admit that it has come with some damn delicious results, this twist on lasagne being one of my favourites.

It is a little bit involved and unlike many of my recipes it is a little bit time consuming so you may way to save this one for a weekend but trust me it is well worth the effort.
To help you out BF has given me some helpful tips to share:

·        Make sure you buy extra lean beef mince. BF also suggests straining the mince once it’s cooked to drain any fat and oil.
·        The amount of spinach is usually just done by sight and colour of the mixture, so add more or less as desired.
·        This dish, like most lasagnes, requires the sauce to be thinner than most bolognaise sauces. This is because the liquid from the sauce cooks the lasagne sheets.
·        You can easily turn this into a completely vegetarian dish by replacing the meat in the sauce with more veggies or even lentils.

3 cloves garlic – crushed
1 brown onion – finely diced
1 can diced Italian tomatoes
2 tbl spoons red wine
700gm jar passata
1 tbl spoon dried Italian herbs
500gm extra lean beef mince
1 carrot – diced
1 red capsicum – diced
100gm mushrooms – diced
250gm pkt lasagne sheets
Half a butternut pumpkin – thinly sliced
500gm fresh ricotta
Handful baby spinach – roughly chopped

Bechamel Sauce:
40gm butter
¼ cup plain flour
410ml milk
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan


1. Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat. Pour in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and onion. Sauté until the onion softens.Pour in the tin of tomatoes, along with the red wine, passata and the Italian herbs. Season generously with ground black pepper and a little salt. Once mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for at LEAST an hour. The longer you cook this, the better. 

2. Heat a frying pan over medium high heat, cook the beef mince until browned, ensuring you break up any large lumps with a wooden spoon. Add the meat to the tomato sauce with the carrot, capsicum and mushroom. If the sauce seems too thick at this stage then add a little water. Simmer for at LEAST another hour. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta and the spinach.Set aside in the fridge.

3. Pre heat the oven to 180. Take a large lasagne dish; spread a thin layer of meat sauce over the bottom. Now build your lasagne in layers as follows:
  • Layer of lasagne sheets
  • Thin layer of meat sauce
  • Layer of thinly sliced butternut pumpkin
  • Thin layer of meat sauce
  • Layer of lasagne sheets
  • Thin layer of meat sauce
  • Layer of the ricotta and spinach
  • Layer of lasagne sheets
  • Layer of meat sauce
Cover the lasagne dish with foil and place in the oven to cook for an hour or until the pasta and pumpkin are soft.

4. Meanwhile make the béchamel sauce; Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add the flour and cook, stirring,until the mixture bubbles and comes away from the sides of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the milk until the mixture is smooth. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the parmesan.

5. Remove lasagne from the oven and discard the foil. Pour the béchamel sauce over the top. Place back in the oven and cook until golden on top. Remove from the oven and set aside for 10-15 minutes. Cut into pieces and serve with garlic bread or a garden salad.

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