“Built from John’s love of his wife’s lasagne, enjoy a twist on the traditional veg-packed family favourite, with a hit of smoky aubergine for a turbo boost of flavour, plus a super-fresh pesto topping. Delicious! ”
For the base of your white sauce, just cover the dried porcini with boiling kettle water and leave to rehydrate.
Halve the squash, scoop out, wash and reserve the seeds. Drain and pat dry, then place onto a tray, drizzle with oil, scatter with the fennel seeds, a good pinch of chilli flakes (if using), and sea salt and black pepper.
Roughly chop each squash into 8 chunky wedges, then toss on a large tray with a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a good pinch of chilli flakes. Roast for 1 hour, or until golden, adding the tray of seeds for the last 30 minutes.
For the ragù, peel the onion and carrots, trim the celery, then chop it all into 1cm dice and place in a large casserole pan with 2 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook on a medium heat for 20 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally.
Tie the herb sprigs together with string to make a bouquet garni, add to the pan for a few minutes, then pour in the wine and leave to bubble and cook away.
Tip in the tomatoes, breaking them up with the back of a wooden spoon, then pour in 2 tins’ worth of water. Leave to tick away for 30 minutes, then drain and add the beans. Cook for a further 30 minutes, or until thickened and reduced, stirring and mashing occasionally with a potato masher, and adding splashes of water to loosen, if needed. Season to perfection.
Meanwhile, place the aubergine directly over a flame on the hob, turning regularly with tongs until softened and blackened all over. Place in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave for 5 minutes. When the time’s up, remove the clingfilm, pour the juices into the pan, then halve the aubergine and scrape out all the flesh, discarding the seeds, then stir into the pan.
For the white sauce, peel and finely slice the garlic, and clean and finely slice the mushrooms. Pick and finely chop the herbs.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, add the garlic for 1 minute, then add the herbs, mushrooms and a pinch of salt and pepper, then cook until just starting to colour, stirring regularly.
Add the porcini and soaking liquor (leaving any gritty bits behind), leave to bubble and cook away, then turn the heat down to low, stir in the crème fraîche and cook gently for a few minutes. Remove from the heat, finely grate and stir in the veggie friendly Parmesan.
To assemble the lasagne, grate the Cheddar and the Parmesan. Remove the bouquet garni from the ragù, stir in the Parmesan, then generously spoon 2 ladlefuls into the bottom of a 25cm x 30cm lasagne dish. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of white sauce, tear over a quarter of the squash, scatter over a handful of spinach, and top with a layer of pasta. Repeat 3 further times, finishing with the remaining creamy sauce.
Using a spatula, loosen the edges (this will push some of the sauce down the sides for bonus flavour!), then top with the grated Cheddar.
Slice up the tomatoes, quickly toss in olive oil, dot over the top, then bake in the oven for 45 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.
For the pesto, rip the top leafy half of the herbs into a food processor. Break in the Parmesan, finely slice and add the garlic and tip in the pine nuts and/or nuts, season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Whiz until very finely chopped, then stir through 8 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and the lemon juice. Taste and tweak to your liking (this makes more than you need, so freeze any leftovers for another day).
Once cooked, remove the lasagne from the oven and leave to stand for 30 minutes. Serve with the pesto on the side for drizzling on top, crispy seeds for scattering over, and a fresh, seasonal salad.