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.

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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

TO AS­SEM­BLE

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.

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