When I informed my family I was making a lasagne out of lentils, kale and ricotta, you could only imagine their reaction. One of pure horror at the thought of their favourite Italian classic minus the meat. I waited with baited breath as they took their first mouthful, knowing full well that their reaction would be one of shock, then delight, then praise. They loved it. I am quite certain that if I offered them a choice they would go back to the classic as they are conditioned to believing that for a meal to be complete, it must include meat. However, this scrumptious vegetarian alternative is proof that a meal really just needs a good balance of flavours and textures to satisfy even the harshest critics.
Prep time: 35 Minutes Cooking time: 1 Hour 15 Minutes $$ Medium Budget
Serves 6-8 (depending on serving size)
For the Lentils:
Olive oil for frying
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 large brown onion, diced
1 tsp of chilli flakes
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped, stalks discarded
8 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and finely chopped, stalks discarded
2 fresh bay leaves
2 x 400gm tins of brown lentils, drained
1 cup of dry red wine
2 x 400gm tins of diced tomatoes
1 bag of chopped kale or 1/2 a bunch of kale, shredded
4 tbs of tomato paste
1 tsp of sugar
Sea salt and cracked pepper
1 packet of Latina fresh lasagne sheets
1/2 cup of grated parmesan for sprinkling
1/2 cup of grated mozzarella for sprinkling
For the Ricotta:
500gm of ricotta
1 cup of milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup of grated parmesan
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Sea salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C
Heat a large fry pan and add a little olive oil. Fry the onion for a couple of minutes until soft and then add the garlic, chilli flakes, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. Add the lentils to the pan with the red wine, stir to combine and allow to simmer until the wine has reduced by half before pouring in the tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar. Stir until the tomato paste is mixed in, season well with salt and pepper and simmer for approximately 15 minutes until the sauce is nice and thick. Once nice and thick, stir the kale through the mixture and allow to wilt but not too much as it will continue to cook in the oven. Remove the bay leaves before assembling the lasagne. This can be made ahead and assembled later if you wish.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, milk, egg yolks, lemon rind, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Use a whisk to make sure there are no large lumps of ricotta and the mixture is thick and smooth.
To assemble the lasagne, lightly oil the base of a medium sized lasagne dish. Place a layer of lasagne sheets on the bottom (you may need to cut them to size) and cover with one third of the lentil mixture. Top with more lasagne and spread over one third of the ricotta mixture before topping with another layer of lasagne sheets. You should end up with 3 layers of lentils and 3 layers of ricotta with the final layer being the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle the parmesan and mozzarella over the top of the final ricotta layer and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling. After removing from the oven, cover lightly with foil and allow to rest for about 10 minutes, this will make it easier to serve. Serve with as crisp green salad or steamed greens of your preference.
Leftover rosemary and thyme? You might like to cook this…….