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Recipe for Sweet Potato and Spinach Lasagne
Why vegetarian lasagne
Every now and again I feel like this mouth watering lasagne, with it's sweet potato and spinach layers. It's just as nice as the beef and red wine lasagne that I cook, yet not as heavy or decadent.
Also, it's a great way to get kids eating spinach and ricotta and feta cheese, without having to explain that it's healthy.
So, read along, and in no time you too will be enjoying this amazing dish and calling it a family favourite.
Now this will be based on making two large trays, which would serve a family of six and still have plenty left over for you to freeze into portions.
3 x400 gm tins of diced/crushed tomatoes
4 x large brown onions- diced
8x cloves of fresh garlic , or 3 teaspoons
3 dessert spoons of brown sugar
1 large bunch of fresh crisp spinach
400gms of ricotta cheese
400gms of danish feta cheese
400gms of mixed tasty and mozerella cheeses- shredded
3 x large onions- diced
4 x cloves of garlic- crushed or 1-2 teaspoons. depending on your personal tastes
1 x 400gm packet of Fresh Lasagne Sheets
3 x large golden sweet potatoes- peeled and sliced
1 x large eggplant- thinly sliced
600 mls of milk
125gms of margarine
1/2 cup of plain/all purpose flour
This looks tricky but it's not
Now when you look at all these ingredients and all these different layers, it starts to look a little daunting but trust me, once you have made this dish, it really is one of the EASIEST dishes to make.. It does take a little time to do but as a good friend once said, after she had made it in a rush, it wasn't cooked with love.. and you could tell. It was dry and 'flat'.. So, set yourself at least 1-2 hours to do this.. but believe me the taste and compliments you will get back are well worth it!
So let's start with the tomato sauce, which is the base of the dish.
In a heavy based pan, add some good quality Olive oil and fry your diced onions and garlic on a low heat. If you put your garlic into a cold pan and bring it up to temperature with the olive oil, it is less likely to burn and go bitter.
Make sure you stir this around and let them sweat til they are nice and soft and translucent. Add your chopped tomatoes and stir well. Bring the temperature up a notch to medium and let them simmer for a good 10 mins. Always stirring off the bottom of your dish.
Add the brown sugar to cut down the acidity of the tomatoes and stir well. Taste test at this point and see if you are happy with the sauce.
Let it cool and now you're ready to start on your sweet potatoes.
Peel and chop them into thinish type discs. Place into a microwave proof bowl and cover 1/3 of the way up with water and cook for 25 minutes on high, or until tender.
Once done, drain and set aside with the lid on to keep warm.
Wash and drain your spinach leaves. Now, cut out the white stem from each leaf and discard. Roll the spinach leaf into a cigar shape and cut across the middle section while holding it tightly together and then cut across ways, almost like shredding the leaf.
Peel and dice the onions and garlic for the spinach mix. Place into a pan with a little olive oil and bring the heat to low. Once your onions are soft, add the spinach and let it soften and cook down. This should only take around 5 minutes but keep and eye on it, so that it doesn't stick to your pan.
In a separate bowl, while your spinach mix is cooking crumble your danish feta and mix in the smooth ricotta cheese. Add your spinach to this and mix well.
Set this aside and let it cool.
Wash and slice your eggplant into rather thin slices and place in a deep dish and pour over a little olive oil, or if you prefer, brush each slice with oil using a pastry brush. Now place your eggplant under a medium grill and let them soften and toast. Remove from the heat and let cool.
The Bachmel Sauce:
Like a basic white sauce, you can't walk away from this or stop stirring.
Melt the margarine in a heavy based saucepan on a medium heat. Once all melted, remove from heat and add the flour, stir in well and add more flour if you feel it's still too wet. Return to the heat and slowly add a small amount of the milk, to get the mix looking like custard, then when you're happy with it's consistency add the rest of the milk and turn the heat up to high and start stirring. It may take 5 or 10 minutes, depending on your stove.. but it will eventually thicken. Keep stirring all the time and particularly off the bottom of the saucepan.
Once done, set aside to also cool down.
Now you are ready to start putting it all together.
Building up the layers
Grab your nice deep dishes and start with a layer of the tomato sauce.
Next add the eggplant, til your have formed a layer, now add some of the white sauce and then a large handful of the grated tasty cheese mix.
Now a layer of the fresh lasagne sheets and then a layer of the sweet potatoes. Add some more of the spinach mix and then another layer of fresh lasagne. Keep building up your layers alternating with the white sauce, tasty cheese and tomato sauce. It's really up to you how deep you want it but I have to say don't skimp on the bachmel sauce as it really does add to it's flavour.
Finish with a layer of bachmel sauce and then some of the tasty cheese mix, now cover your lasagne with foil, wrapping it tightly around the edges and place in a hot over 180* C or 350*F.
Cook for 30 minutes and then allow it to stand for around 10 minutes before serving. It really is best if you can let it stand for a few hours to allow it to 'set' almost like a cake, then you can simply re-heat in the microwave, but if you are anything like my husband and you can't wait, it tastes delicious but may resemble a soupish looking lasagne.
Either way, the taste is amazing and all the flavours combined are just magnificent.
It freezes very well and re-heats fabulously, great for kids that have left home or single friends.