I love the comfort of baked pasta dishes so I wanted to create a lasagne that was oozing with plant-based goodness but still made me feel all fuzzy inside. If you aren’t vegan, you can add shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan to each layer.
To make the sauce:
- Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté for around 10 minutes or until soft.
- Then add the tomatoes, tomato purée and bay leaves.
- Stir well, turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer, covered, for 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, pat the tofu with kitchen roll to remove excess moisture.
- Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and then crumble in the tofu.
- Cook for 5–7 minutes, until the excess water from the tofu has evaporated and the tofu and the pan appear dry.
- Stir in the cayenne pepper and remove from the heat.
- Once the tomato sauce has cooked and reduced, remove from the heat and stir in the tofu.
- Stir well to combine and leave the tofu to infuse in the tomato sauce while you prepare the courgettes.
- Cut each courgette lengthwise into 0.5cm slices.
- Heat a griddle pan over a medium heat, lightly brush the courgette slices with the oil and griddle them in batches so you achieve nice char marks and the courgettes are tender.
- As they cook, remove them to a large plate. Season lightly with salt and pepper and repeat to cook the remainder.
- If you are using fresh spinach, place half in a large colander, sit the colander in the sink and boil a kettle of water.
- Pour the boiling water over the spinach; this will cook the spinach so it wilts.
- Refresh with cold water, then squeeze out the excess water and place in a sieve while you repeat with the remaining spinach.
- Once all cooked, give it a final squeeze to extract any excess water still remaining, then place on a chopping board and chop well.
- Season with salt and nutmeg.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4.
- Remove the bay leaves from your tomato sauce and add the chopped basil and parsley.
- Season to taste.
To assemble the lasagne:
- Spread one ladle of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 23 x 33cm baking dish.
- Arrange a single layer of lasagne sheets on top, followed by a third of the wilted spinach and then a third of courgette, then sprinkle with cheese (if using).
- Then add another layer of sauce and repeat the process two more times so your lasagne has three layers of pasta sheets and finishes with a layer of sauce and (if using) is topped with cheese.
- Cover the lasagne with aluminium foil and bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes or until the pasta sheets are cooked.
- If you have added cheese to the top of your lasagne, remove the foil and cook for a further 10–15 minutes or until the cheese has begun to turn golden.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Extract from Keep it Real by Calgary Avansino (Yellow Kite, £17)
Main image by Kristin Perers