Roast Vegetable Lasagne with Pesto & Ricotta

Winter solstice and the shortest day are behind us, and I already notice the days ever-so-slightly lengthening. When I open the curtains in the morning it is just that little lighter in the sky each day. This means we are heading back toward the light and at the beginning of a new cycle of growth. A new year. Although the garden is mostly dormant while the days are still cold, planning for the summer harvest starts now. I have ordered flower bulbs and seed potatoes, and in the next month, I will lay out my tomato seed packets to plan what I will sow. This is the beginning of my summer garden planning.

In Aotearoa New Zealand we also coming up to the time of Matariki – Māori New Year. A time to give thanks for the year and harvest that has been. While acknowledging those who have left us, and preparing for the year ahead. It also signals the beginning, or at least planning, of the new growing season to come as I mentioned above. For some years now we have gathered with community and friends to honour this time of year. When it is cold outside sharing food and gathering with others feeds the soul in a special way.

If you are planning a gathering to celebrate Matariki or a mid-winter meal, today I share a favourite vegetable lasagna recipe. It is a little more involved than a week-night dinner so a good one to enjoy the process of cooking to then share with others.

 

More Mid-winter recipes on Homegrown Kitchen:

Roast Vegetable Lasagne with Pesto & Ricotta

In this recipe, preserved tomatoes (homemade or canned) are combined with roasted kūmara and pumpkin. The x-factor is the dollops of pesto and ricotta in the layers, a trick I learned from my sister who makes excellent lasagne. If you grow basil in summer I highly recommend making pesto with the excess to freeze into small portions to enjoy the flavour of summer in mid-winter. The key to a good vegetable-based lasagne is flavour. Here I roast the vegetables to sweeten and caramelise, cook down the tomato sauce, and check the seasoning of all the components. To save preparation time, and because the roasted vegetables bring some creaminess, I skip the white sauce and instead make a quick ricotta sauce.
Servings 8
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 6 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 large kūmara, about 300g
  • Wedge of crown pumpkin of buttercup squash, about 300g
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes or 800g jar of preserved tomatoes
  • 500 g ricotta or cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup (60ml) cream or milk
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, plus extra for sprinkling
  • About 150g basil pesto
  • About 200g fresh lasagne sheets* (I used half a packet and froze the rest)
  • 2 cups (200g) grated mozzarella or edam cheese
  • 2 tbsp toasted seeds

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 190C.
  • Peel the kūmara and pumpkin/squash and chop into 2-3cm pieces. Place on a roasting tray, drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil, add the smoked paprika, and season well with salt and pepper. Toss to evenly coat, then roast for 15 minutes. Flip the vegetable pieces and cook for a further 10 minutes until golden.
  • Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a frying pan, warm the remaining olive oil over a moderate heat. Add the onion and saute for 5 minutes to soften. Add the garlic, stirring over the heat for 1 minute until fragrant then add the tomatoes and cook for 15-20 minutes until thickened. Check the flavour and season to taste.
  • Combine the ricotta, cream/milk, and dried oregano in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Lightly grease a 25cmx30cm baking dish with olive oil. Spread a quarter of the tomato sauce into the base. Scatter over a third of the roasted vegetables, and dollop with a third of the ricotta sauce and pesto. Sprinkle over a quarter of the grated cheese and cover with lasagne sheets (cut to fit). Repeat this layer twice more, then finish with a final layer of tomato sauce and grated cheese. Sprinkle with toasted seeds.
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling around the edges. Remove from the oven and ideally rest for 15-20 minutes before cutting, for the layers to settle. Cut into squares and serve with sautéed broccoli or a green salad.

Notes

*I used fresh lasagne sheets, if using dried sheets I would suggest par-boiling for 5-6 minutes to soften them first so they cook evenly in the oven (particularly important if using gluten-free lasagne sheets). This vegetable lasagne is cooked for a shorter time than meat lasagne and undercooked pasta in lasagne is not a thing to rejoice over.

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