As an Italian, I obviously have my set idea of what a lasagne should look like, taste like, smell like. But now and then it is worth jumping a bit over your own shadow and let great chefs like Diana Henry inspire you to something new, different and just sooooo tasty.
As the lasagne is a bit more laborious than your average pasta dish, it is definitely worth making a larger portion, which you can easily keep in the fridge for a couple of days or even freeze.
Pumpkin, broccoli and Taleggio lasagne
For the lasagne
- 1 kg pumpkin I used butternut pumpkin because I like the texture of the skin, but you can use any pumpkin or squash you like
- 1 ½ table spoons olive oil
- 500 g spinach make sure you use fresh spinach and not baby spinach
- 10 g butter I like to cook with salty butter, which often means that I can reduce the salt used for seasoning
- 250 g broccoli cut into small roses, while using the stems and also cutting them into small cubes
- 10 lasagne sheets if you are using fresh ones, then there is no need to pre-cook them. Mine were not fresh and I did not pre-cook them, which lead to the top layer being a bit more crunchy, which added a special touch to the dish. I would probably quickly pre-cook them next time around.
- 50 g Parmesan grated - also here, feel free to use Pecorino or any other hard cheese you feel appropriate
- 200 g Taleggio finely sliced - I was a bit sceptical at the beginning, but it turned out that Taleggio is far more suitable for a lasagne than mozzarella, which will not melt as nicely as Taleggio
For the tomato sauce
- 1 medium sized onion finely chopped
- 1 table spoon olive oil
- 100 g flat parsley chopped - you could also use coriander or any other herb you prefer
- 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 400 g tinned and chopped tomatoes
- 10 springs of thyme leaves only
- 1 table spoon brown sugar
For the béchamel sauce
- 0.75 l full fat milk
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1 very small onion peeled, halved or quartered, depending on the size of your onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 75 g butter again, I used salted butter and reduced the salt for the seasoning of the béchamel sauce
- 75 g white flour
For the pumpkin
- Preheat your oven to 200°C. Wash your pumpkin (peel it if you don't want to leave the skin on), halve and finally deseed it. Then cut the pumpkin into 2cm-thick slices. Toss them in a roasting tin and in the olive oil, season, then roast for up to 40 minutes until tender.
For the tomato sauce
- Add the finely chopped onion and the olive oil into a medium sized pot and cook on medium-high heat until the onion is soft. This will take about 10 minutes. Then add the chopped parsley and the garlic. Bring this to a boil and let it cook for 4 minutes. Thereafter add the tomatos, the thyme leaves, the sugar as well as some salt and pepper for seasoning and 75ml of water. Let the sauce simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you have a thick purée.
For the spinach
- Generously wash your spinach and remove any hard stems. Then place the spinach in a large pan and let it wilt over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, turning it over with tongs from time to time. When the spinach has completely wilted, remove it from the heat and leave until it has cooled down before squeezing the water out with your hands. Thereafter chop the spinach and in the same pan, heat the butter. Once the butter is melted, add the chopped spinach and gently toss to coat it evently. Finally season the spinach with salt and pepper as well as a very generous grating of nutmeg.
For the broccoli
- Wash and trim the broccoli by cutting both the flowers as well as the stems into 2cm pieces. Gently place the broccoli into salted boiling water and cook until only just tender. Drain really well and set aside.
For the béchamel
- Bring the milk to a boil in a pan with the peppercorns, onion and bay leaf. Thereafter take it away from the heat and set aside for 30-40 minutes to infuse. Then strain into a jug. In the same pot, melt the butter and slowly add the flour portionwise while stirring over a low heat. Aim is to get a homogeneous cream, which does not burn. This will take about 2 minutes. Next gradually add the milk, whisking the mixture well and only adding more when you have a smooth texture without any clumps. Finally bring the béchamel to boil while constantly and rapidly stirring until it has thickened. Reduce the heat and cook for 4 minutes, then season well with a generous amount of salt and pepper as well as ground nutmeg.
To assemble and bake
- Assemble all prepared ingredients in a gratin tin, which is high enough to hold a double layer lasagne. This means that per layer you will need to use half of what you have prepared (pumpkin, broccoli, spinach, cheeses, etc). Start with a layer of pumpkin combined with the broccoli followed by a layer of tomato sauce. Then lay the lasagne sheets on top and add a layer of béchamel sauce, followed by a scattering of the spinach and half of both cheeses. Top with the remaining pumpkin, broccoli, tomato sauce; more lasagne, the rest of the Taleggio and a final layer of béchamel sauce. Sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until golden and bubbling.