It’s August, a wonderful month to cook summer lasagne with all sorts of seasonal vegetables. There are so many vegetables that can be added to a lasagne including zucchini (courgettes), summer squash, eggplants (aubergines) and mushrooms. As spinach and ricotta is such a winning combination, why not put a twist on the classic lasagne and create my vegetarian version with alternating layers of a creamy spinach and ricotta filling, a bold tomato sauce and lots of grated mozzarella for that extra deliciousness.
Whenever I serve lasagne, I make sure to serve fresh bread alongside to mop up any sauce and most of the times I also prepare a mixed green salad alongside or a variety of herb and citrus marinated olives and caper berries. And just before serving, I always add freshly picked basil leaves from the garden on top of the warm lasagne - love the way that smells when I bring the lasagne to the table. And when I have fresh arugula (rocket), I make sure to fry a bunch in olive oil, drain them well and season them lightly with sea salt - the pretty green curled-up leaves will add brightness, delightful bitterness and crunch to the dish.
Spinach & Ricotta Lasagne
- 800g spinach (I recommend fresh baby or young spinach leaves), washed well, stems removed
- 4 spring onions, washed, dried, sliced thinly (you can substitute 2 diced onions here)
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed (you can omit the garlic if you prefer)
- freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, a few peperoncini flakes
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 x 400g cans of quality Italian plum tomatoes
- ½ a bunch of fresh basil (or more to taste)
- 2 x 250g ricotta cheese (you can also use homemade ricotta if you prefer)
- 200ml cooking cream
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 50 g)
- grated zest of 1 organic lemon
- fresh lasagne sheets (use fresh homemade pasta sheets or good-quality storebought ones)
- 2 x 200g grated mozzarella (you can use low ft mozzarella if you prefer)
- Place the spinach in a large pot of boling water and blanch very briefly (about 1 minute) until the spinach has just wilted. Drain into a colander and set aside to cool a little while you prepare the tomato sauce.
- For the tomato sauce heat a drizzle of olive oil and gently sweat two thinly sliced spring onions (or 1 diced onion), 2 cloves of crushed garlic (if using) and peperoncini until soft (this will take just a few minutes).
- Cut the tomatoes in their cans before adding them to the onion mixture, add a few basil leaves with their stems (make sure to remove the stems after cooking and before assembling the lasagne) and then let it gently simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Now squeeze the moisture out of the spinach, place the spinach on a board so you can chop it up.
- Heat a drizzle of olive oil and gently sweat the remaining two sliced spring onions (or 1 diced onion) and 2 cloves of crushed garlic (if using) until soft. Turn off the heat then stir the ricotta, cooking cream, grated Parmesan and the grated lemon zest into the spinach. Season to taste.
- In the meantime preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F).
- Now spoon some tomato sauce over the base of a large baking dish (mine measures 24cm x 30cm/9.5in x 12in) then cover with slightly overlapping lasagne sheets. Pour over a third of the ricotta-spinach mixture, then dot with some tomato sauce and sprinkle over some of the grated mozzarella. Cover with another layer of lasagne sheets and repeat. Finish with a layer of lasagne sheets topped with tomato sauce and some more mozzarella, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and season with freshly ground black pepper.
- Place in the oven and cook for 30 to 35 minutes or till the top is golden and the pasta tender (if the top browns too fast, cover the dish with foil).
- Remove from the oven and let stand for a few minutes (I recommend about 15 minutes) before serving with the remaining basil leaves or olive oil-fried arugula (rocket).
If you like to plan ahead or prepare your lunch/dinner ahead of time, the lasagne can be assembled up to a day ahead. Cool, cover and keep chilled. Or you can freeze it, well wrapped, for up to 3 months and you can then cook from frozen until the lasagne is golden on top and piping hot throughout (a large dish will take around one hour).
Also, if you prefer to use fresh summer tomatoes instead of canned, feel free to do so - make an X on the bottom of your tomatoes, place them into a pot of boiling water for no more than a minute. Carefully take them out using a slotted spoon, plunge them into a bowl of cold water (or an ice bath), lift them out and peel back the skin with a knife and chop.
Actually, you can also make the lasagne sheets from scratch and the ricotta that you use can also be homemade if you prefer but if time is of the essence or the kitchen is rather warm during the summer months, this lasagne will taste just as wonderful if you chose to use lovingly selected, good-quality ingredients and not make everything from scratch.
Enjoy August cooking as much as possible with the best vegetables the season has to offer. If you can, serve your lasagne for an alfresco lunch in the garden.
For more inspiration with respect to your summertime cooking, you can also visit my instagram account or my facebook page and take a look around there. There are quite a few culinary delights that can be discovered there, such as my Sweet Potato Hummus with spicy Chickpeas, grilled Carrots and baked Tortilla Chips or my Cherry Tomato and Goat's Cheese Tart, to name but a few.
Unfortunately, I do not always find the time to post the entire recipes for all those dishes that I make during the week but I do make a point of posting lots of pics and tips on my insta and fb sites. If you happen to have a question with respect to any recipe, I encourage you to contact me and I will get back to you asap.