“Carrot and celery and onion are the fundamental ingredients for all good sauces and stocks”, stated the chief-in-charge at the agriturismo in Lazio, Italy, where I learned to make a traditional ragu a few years back. She was right! This trio is pretty much the holy trinity of sauce recipes. Much has changed since then, I no longer eat meat or cheese for one, but I still apply the same techniques to my sauces and stocks and this lentil ragu is no different. I’ve combined the ragu with a cheesy bechamel to create a hearty, flavour-packed lasagne. This is the perfect meal for a dull, rainy Monday like today but it’s also a summer treat with a fresh salad.
I want to tell you a little about my photographs here. For every dish I make, I plan out and prepare a recipe based on trial and error and each photograph is the same. I’ll consider the colour of food I’m preparing and try to match it with a dish that I think will compliment it. I’ll arrange my “set” with all of the dishes and any props I might use e.g. ingredients used in the dish, fabrics for texture contrasts or cutlery, then I’ll start shooting. I’ll play around with the composition, moving dishes and props until I get a shot that I think works. Then I’ll prepare the food and add it to the set. I hope that gives you some insight into how I style my recipes. Preparation is the key!
What you’ll need for the Ragu: (serves 8 in a lasagne)
- 1 large white onion, finely diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
- 1 stick of celery, finely diced
- 400g brown or green lentils
- 2 tablespoons of soy or tamari
- a couple of sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stem and finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, very finely chopped
- 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
- 1 litre of water or veg stock
- salt and pepper for seasoning
- oil for frying
Method: For the Ragu
- Heat some oil in a large pan and gently cook the onion, celery and carrot until the onion has softened and is translucent. Add the lentils and give a good stir to coat them in the mix. Add the tomatoes, herbs and the water/stock and bring to the boil. When the liquid has reduced by 1/3 lower the heat and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes, until the lentils have cooked. Add a splash of soy sauce or tamari to taste and remove the bay leaf before using the ragu.
What you’ll need for the Béchamel: (makes a thick and creamy sauce)
- 80g of vegan butter
- 80g of flour
- 700ml of unsweetened almond milk
- 4 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- 3/4 of a whole nutmeg, ground
- salt and pepper for seasoning
- Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat. Slowly whisk in the flour until you get a thick paste. This is called a roux and can be used to thicken any sauce or gravy.
- Heat the milk in a separate pan. Once it has started to bubble slowly add it to the roux, whisking all the time. You may feel like it will never reach the correct consistency but hold on in there, it will come together.
- Once all of the milk has been added to the roux and you have your thick sauce it’s time to add the flavouring. Grate in the nutmeg and stir in the nutritional yeast. The nutritional yeast is optional but it gives and extra cheesy element to the sauce. Season well with salt and pepper.
What you’ll need: For the Lasagne
- 100g grated violife cheese
- 100g grated parmesan
- lasagne sheets
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cover the base of a large oven dish with a layer of lentil ragu. Top it with lasagne sheets followed by the same amount of béchamel sauce. Sprinkle some grated cheese over the béchamel and start the process again. Continue this until you reach the last layer of pasta. The top layer should be Béchamel sauce smothered with grated cheese.
- Put the lasagne dish onto an over tray in case of bubbling over and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Share and enjoy!