food with sam mannering
This version of lasagne has an unlikely star, but it is just thing to warm the soul as the nights grow longer and chillier.
It almost feels like sacrilege to suggest a lasagne without any form of tomato, but in this case, as we move through autumn, I feel a hankering for those softer, gentler, caramelised flavours that seem to suit this time of year so well. You may want to sweat down some spinach to add as a layer in between – just make sure you drain it well first. Grilled broccolini would also be delicious.
Use fresh pasta for this. If you don’t have the time to make your own (which I will always recommend as the results are so gratifying), there are several pre-made varieties available which are pretty decent – look out for Il Piatto pasta in particular.
ROAST BEETROOT LASAGNE
Prep time: 20 mins / Cook time: approx 2 hours Serves: 6 1.2kg mix of beetroot, washed, chopped in thin wedges Olive oil Couple of sprigs of rosemary 2 large red onions, sliced 2 leeks, sliced, washed and drained Butter 3 tbsp dry white wine
FOR THE BECHAMEL
500ml milk 50g butter 50g plain flour 40g parmesan or pecorino, grated, plus extra to assemble 2 eggs, whisked together
About 500g fresh pasta sheets 1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted 100g chevre or soft white cheese Preheat the oven to 180C. Arrange beetroot on an oiled baking tray, season well and scatter over a little of the rosemary. Roast for about 40 minutes, until it is tender and nicely caramelised.
While they roast, in two separate pans over a moderate heat, gently fry the sliced red onion and the sliced leek with a little olive oil and butter with each, for 10-15 minutes, until both lots are soft, fragrant and nicely caramelised. Add white wine to the leeks and let it bubble up and reduce a bit. Season well and set aside.
To make the bechamel, bring the milk almost to the boil in a small saucepan. In another saucepan over a moderate-low heat, melt the butter and add the flour. Using a whisk, mix to a paste and cook for a further 3-4 minutes before gradually whisking in the hot milk, until you are left with a thick white sauce. Remove from the heat, mix in the grated parmesan or pecorino, then whisk in the beaten egg. Season generously.
Drizzle a little olive oil over a large ceramic baking dish, then spread a little of the bechamel over the base. Start with a layer of roasted beetroot, season well, follow with a layer of pasta, then spread over caramelised onion, scatter pine nuts, and follow with another layer of pasta and then the leeks. Make sure everything is well seasoned. Layer more pasta over the top, top with the remaining beetroot, dot over the chevre, add a final layer of pasta and then spread bechamel so it covers everything completely. Scatter remaining rosemary over the top with a final grating of parmesan, and then put into the oven to bake for 45-60 minutes, until the top is nicely golden brown and the pasta is tender.
Serve alongside a few simply dressed salad leaves.