Veggie Lasagne

While this probably isn't everyone's idea of a pie, cooking layers of lasagne in a tomato ragù enriched with lentils and vegetables (chopped small enough to resemble the texture of minced meat), coated with creamy béchamel sauce, then finished off with grated cheese before baking al forno (in an oven), makes a wonderful vegetarian dish for this time of the year that really could be thought of as a pie!

I cook it in a square (possibly 9-inch) Pyrex dish large enough to fit exactly two sheets of lasagne side-by-side in its base, but you could use anything: just break up the pasta sheets to fit. I tend to use 6 sheets of pasta for this recipe (which gives me two layers); if you use 8 (for three layers), you have to spread the sauces very thinly and they no longer ooze out when you serve it.

If you want to make an even richer ragù, add 100g or so of mushrooms (also very finely chopped or thinly sliced) to the sauce when the onion is beginning to soften (you may need a little more oil). It's still unlikely to break the bank; this is one of the cheapest, most delicious meals I make, and one which meat-eaters probably won't grumble too much about, especially if you serve it with garlic bread.

4 generous servings (or 6 far less generous ones) with a salad or some briefly cooked vegetables such as broccoli.


For the ragù:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, very finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, shredded

1 smallish medium carrot, very finely chopped

1 large stick of celery, very finely chopped

100g (a generous 1/2 cup) of dried lentilles vertes

1 tablespoon tomato puree (tomato paste)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 medium or 1 large bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon salt

a good pinch of ground black pepper

1 x 400g chopped tomatoes

1 1/3 cans of water

or 1 can of water plus a 1/3 can of red wine

For the béchamel sauce:

30g butter

4 heaped teaspoons plain flour

1 pint cold milk

freshly grated nutmeg

1/3 teaspoon salt

a shake of ground white pepper

To construct the lasagne:

6 - 8 sheets of dried lasagne (the sort that doesn't need pre-cooking)

Parmigiano Reggiano (or a vegetarian alternative) to grate

If you're unfamiliar with lentilles vertes, find out more about them here:



Start by prepping the onion. While you soften it oil over a low-ish heat, stirring occasionally, cut the celery and carrot into small, 6-inch long batons, then gather them in small bunches and cut into tiny cubes. There should be roughly the same amount of carrot as there is celery. Crush or shred the garlic.


Add the garlic to the onions and cook for a minute before adding the carrot and celery. Stir occasionally so they do not burn and cook for a further 5 - 10 minutes. Now add the lentils.


Stir in the tomato puree, the herbs, and the salt and pepper, then add the can of tomatoes and the water (or water and red wine). Stir well and bring to the boil.

Pop a lid on, turn down the heat, and simmer for 40 - 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and monitoring it in case the sauce becomes too thick. Add a splash of water if necessary.


Time to make the béchamel. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over a low-ish heat till it melts. Add the flour and stir it in with a wooden spoon. When the mixture starts bubbling, cook it for two to three minutes, stirring all the while.

Even if it looks lumpier than this, trust me, it will still work!

Don't let it burn!


Now pour in the cold milk all in one go. Turn up the heat and immediately take a whisk to it. When it seems there are no more lumps, return to using the wooden spoon. Stir constantly as the béchamel comes to a boil, scraping the base of the pan or else it will stick. Once it thickens, grate in the nutmeg and stir in the pepper and salt. After 5 minutes of gentle simmering, remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasonings.


When the lentils are tender but still whole - and still have the tiniest bit of a bite to them - your ragù is done.

Let it sit for 10 minutes, during which time it will thicken. It should now have a sauce-like consistency. If it's too thin, put it back on the heat and boil off some of the liquid. If it's too thick, add a little water to loosen it. Taste and adjust the seasonings, and remove the bay leaf.


Start to construct the lasagne. First preheat your oven to 180ºC.

Grease the base of your dish with a couple of tablespoons of the béchamel, then cover it with sheets of lasagne (two sheets in my case).


Now spread half of the lentil sauce over the sheets (or a third if you if you are making three layers) then drizzle it with just under a third of the remaining béchamel (or under a quarter for three layers). Be mean about this, or you won't have enough béchamel for the topping.

Top this off with more lasagne sheets.


Repeat step 8 for the final layer (or final two layers), then spread every last drop of the béchamel evenly over the top and down the sides of the dish.

Grate Parmigiano Reggiano (or a vegetarian alternative, often named "Italian hard cheese") generously over the béchamel, and pop the dish into your preheated oven.


Cook for 40 minutes at 180ºC until the top is golden and charred in places, turning the dish halfway through so it browns evenly.

It's currently the temperature of molten lava, so allow your lasagne to rest for 10 - 15 minutes before cutting and serving.


Any questions? You can use the comments form at the bottom of the page.

Did you know?

You'll find recipes at the back of all the books in the Send for Octavius Guy series:

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