Tag Archives: Italian

Vegetarian lasagna with lentil and zucchini

An often-heard complaint among vegetarians is that restaurants offer very little originality in their vegetarian fare, a meatless lasagna being among one of the more trite options. I don’t mind so much, as lasagna is usually quite enjoyable. I realize that there is already a vegetarian lasagna on this blog (over here) and for a more wintry version I will direct you to Jonge Sla’s scrumptious pumpkin lasagna (in Dutch), but this is a rather ‘quick and easy’ version, made with what happened to be available in my fridge, compared to the one where I have you skin bell peppers. It resembles meat lasagna quite well, thanks to the tomato and bechamel sauce. Suited for freezing as well!

veggie lasagna

Ingredients (makes 4-5 servings):

one big or two medium-sized onions, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped1 zucchini, chopped in small pieces
5 tablespoons of small orange lentils (the kind you can put in soup as well)
white wine, for cooking
500 grams of diced tomatoes (canned or in brig)
olive oil
Provencal herbs mix, salt and pepper
45 grams of butter
45 grams of flour
0,8 liters of milk
nutmeg
block of Parmesan cheese and grate (or grated cheese)
8-10 lasagna sheets

How to:

Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan on medium fire. Add the onion and fry for a few minutes, until tender. Add the garlic, fry for another minute. Add the zucchini and season with Provencal herbs (don’t be frugal here), salt and pepper. Stir regularly. When the zucchini starts to get tender, add lentils and cover with a lid for a few minutes. Add a good swig of white wine, cover again for a few minutes (check regularly so it doesn’t burn). Add diced tomatoes, another swig of white wine and some herbs/salt/pepper, turn the fire down, cover with lid, and stir every now and then. The zucchini and lentils should slowly become completely tender. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Veggie lasagna

In another saucepan, make the bechamel sauce: melt the butter on medium fire and add the flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon and let it ‘bake’ for a few minutes, until it starts to smell a bit like cookies. Be careful that it doesn’t burn, this will ruin the taste of your sauce (better start again if this happens). Add milk and use a whisk to stir vigorously, until the butter-flour mixture is completely dissolved. Let it heat on medium fire, whisking regularly, until the sauce starts to thicken and bubble. Season with nutmeg and salt, then turn off the fire. Make sure you keep whisking for a while so it doesn’t burn.

Scoop 1/4 of the tomato sauce into a baking dish (mine is 25 x 25 cm), ladle over 1/4 of the bechamel sauce. Sprinkle with a thin layer of Parmesan. Cover with lasagne sheets and repeat 3 more times. Add a thick layer of Parmesan and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Let the dish rest for 10 minutes, then enjoy!

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Veggie lasagna  Veggie Lasagna

Veggie lasagna

Italian-style dinner

The sun is shining! Finally! As usual, my mood turns completely must-have-some-Italian-style-sun-ripened-food at the sight of the first shiny rays of sun. As one of  my classes was moved, I had some time to cook a more elaborate dinner tonight, which I did! Healthy (veggies!), Italian (eggplant!), vegetarian… All you need is a lovely glass of wine to enjoy it with!

It was my first time making artichokes that didn’t come out of a can. I love artichokes, but frankly, I’ve always been a bit intimidated by them. They appear so… rugged. So today, as I got off the bus and towards the grocer’s, I overcame my fear and bought some, remembering I had a step-by-step recipe from delicious. magazine. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger, right? They require a little work but it’s really worth it, and not that hard at all!

The second dish is a classic eggplant-tomato-pasta. I’m a big eggplant fan and so I tried this recipe, which came out of ‘Una Bella Spaghettata’ – a book about Neapolitan pasta I’ve had for quite some time but haven’t really used so far. I changed some things (you’re supposed to add in a lot of mozzarella but I left that out) and it came out exactly as it shoud – a tasty, light Italian pasta dish. Give it a try!

Stuffed artichokes

Ingredients:

4-5 artichokes (depending on size)
half a lemon
50 grams of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs, some ground dry old white bread will work too)
50 grams of parmezan cheese, (freshly) grated
2 eggs
handful of basil, torn into small pieces
1 big tablespoon of capers

Place a pan of salted water on the fire. First, you have to ‘clean’ the artichokes. This is not as hard as it seems, but you need a good sharp knife (preferably a bigger chef knife). Start by cutting off the upper side of the artichoke, more or less at the widest part, cutting off a good part of the upper artichoke. Then, cut off the stem, including the base and cutting off the outer hard leaves. Now, take a spoon with sharp edges and remove the inner parts of the top, you will notice that this is a bit ‘hay’-ish. Keep trimming the leaves and taking out the dry inner part until you have a shape that’s somewhat like a ‘finger bowl’ with all smooth sides, then quickly brush the sides with a half lemon to prevent it from oxidizing. Repeat this with all the artichokes (you will notice, it gets easier as you get more practice) and then but them into the (by now boiling) water. Cook them for about 15 minutes, until they’re al dente but not completely soft (they will continue in the oven later).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare the stuffing by mixing all the other ingredients. When the artichokes are out of the water, let them cool down slightly, place them on a baking tin with parchment paper and then fill them up with the stuffing, mimicking the ‘artichoke/pyramid shape’. Now, place them in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until the tops turn golden brown (I turned the temperature up a bit at the end and turned the grill on to reach this effect). Before serving, you may need to remove some extra outer leaves that have become hard in the oven. Enjoy!

Eggplant tomato pasta

Ingredients for 4 servings:

2 eggplants
salt
olive oil
4-6 tasty tomatoes, depending on size, chopped (I used a mixture of more fleshy tomatoes and yummy cherry tomatoes)
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
400 grams of good quality pasta, rigatoni or penne or another shape that will soak up the tomato sauce well
80 grams of Parmezan cheese, freshly grated
a handful of fresh basil
Cut the eggplant into thick slices (about 1,5 cm), sprinkle with salt on both sides and let them sit in a colander for at least 30 minutes. (Note: I love eggplant, but it took me a long time to figure out how to make it the best way. You really need to do the salting beforehand, because the eggplant will lose some water in the process and soak up less oil later. I also find that it becomes rubbery if you don’t do this. You can then either let it fry quickly in hot oil until the sides are becoming brown, or let it simmer quietly – my preferred style, when it starts falling apart and mixing itself into the sauce… yum! Anyway, back to the recipe.) Then, squeeze as much liquid out of the slices as possible, and pat with paper towels. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large heavy-bottom skillet, let it get really hot and then add the eggplant. Fry, turning until its sides are golden brown. Take the slices out of the skillet and put on paper towels to drain.Leave a few tablespoons in the skillet and reduce the heat.

In the meantime, cook the pasta as directed in salted water. When done, drain and then put the pasta back into the pan. Now, add the garlic to the skillet and let it fry a bit. Then, add the tomatoes to the skillet (I tend to add a little white wine here for the sauce, but this is optional of course). Let the tomatoes heat and simmer, when they’re starting to fall apart add the eggplant back into the sauce and let it simmer on a low fire for a while, until the eggplant starts to fall apart and you have a consistent sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the fire really low and add in the pasta and parmezan cheese, turning over and under until all the pasta is sufficiently mixed with the sauce. Sprinkle with basil leaves and serve!

 

Vegetable lasagna

Spring has come around, so I’m getting excited for delicious sun-ripened vegetables! Seems like the perfect moment to post this vegetable lasagna, which I found as an external post on Jamie Oliver’s website and then tweaked it a bit. Basically, this is a really rich (but healthy!) lasagna using 4 different vegetables. It takes a while to make this lasagna (about two hours), but it’s really worth the wait. It’s a vegetarian-safe dish but I’ve served it to several carnivores and they all agreed, it doesn’t need meat at all!

This amount is good for 5-6 servings.

Ingredients:

2 large eggplants, cut into 1 cm-thick slices
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1 cm-thick slices
3 red or yellow peppers
9 sheets of lasagna (depending on the size of your baking pan, you need 3 layers of lasagna)
250-300 grams of ricotta cheese
400 grams of fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes or slices
150 grams of grated parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks
a handful of basil, leaves torn
a handful of chopped parsley leaves
500 ml of good tomato sauce or your own fresh tomato sauce (fry some oil with garlic, add tomatoes, perhaps a bit of white wine or extra passata and let it simmer for a while, season to taste with Italian herbs and salt and pepper)

Get cooking:

Heat the grill/broiler function on the oven. Lay the eggplant slices in a colander and sprinkle on both sides with salt, let them stand for about half an hour and  then squeeze as much liquid out of them as possible, then pat dry with paper towels. Lay them on a wire rack, brush both sides slightly with oil, sprinkle with pepper and salt and grill them on both sides until tinted (not brown) and soft. If your oven is small, you may need to repeat this a few times.

While the oven is hot and you’re waiting for the eggplant, you can start with the peppers. Cut the peppers into large flat pieces (two or three parts per pepper) and remove the seeds and inner parts. Lay them on a wire rack and grill until they have black ‘boils’, then put them in a plastic freezer bag and let them steam so the skin will come off more easily. Peel off the skin when cooled (watch out, they’re hot). If you have a really thin peeler, you can try peeling the skin off this way.

Steam the zucchini slices for a few minutes until tender but with enough bite left. The way I do this is by putting a ‘pasta colander pan’ into a fitting pan with a little bit of boiling water on the bottom. You can also use a steamer if you have one, or just add a little bit of boiling water in a regular pan and blanch the zucchini shortly.

Cook the lasagna sheets shortly in salted water if this is indicated on the package and let it drain (the best quality Italian lasagna has to be cooked beforehand).

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsuis (about 350 Fahrenheit). Mix the ricotta, mozzarella and half of the parmezan with the fresh herbs, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Brush the sides of a 25 x 25 cm baking pan (or one about the same size, around 625 square cm) with olive oil and add about 1/4 of the tomato sauce. Arrange the eggplant slices on top of this layer.

Now add 1/3 of the cheese mixture and top with lasagna sheets.

Add another layer of tomato sauce.

Now top with the zucchini slices.

Repeat with the cheese and the pasta. Add another layer of tomato sauce.

Now top with the peppers.

Repeat the process again, using up all the cheese mixture. Top the last lasagna with the remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Top the baking pan with tin foil to prevent burning. Put the dish into the oven and let it bake for 55 minutes, then remove the tin foil and let it bake for 5 more minutes. Take it out of the oven, let it cool for a little bit and enjoy!

Ravioli with ricotta and tomato sauce

We all love Italian pasta, right? It’s so light, full of flavor, simple, addictive, and to me it’s still one of the cuisines that pulls off vegetarian food most effortlessly and naturally. This recipe from delicious. magazine has become one of my personal favorites. It’s not difficult to make, but filling the ravioli will take some time (it’s very much worth it though!). I started out with my ravioli stamp but soon switched to making cut-outs by hand, because this is faster. There’s only one piece of equipment you really need and that’s a pasta machine. It’s possible to roll out the pasta by hand, but it will never be as fine as the machine-made.

Ingredients for 4 people:

for the pasta:
400 grams of ‘tipo 00′ flour (gran duro: it’s also possible to use regular flour but this kind is better for pasta, you can find it at Italian supermarkets)
4 eggs

for the filling:

250 grams of ricotta
the grated zest of one organic lemon (or at least a non-chemically-treated lemon)
a pinch of sugar
a pinch of salt
freshly ground pepper

for the sauce:

olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
garlic clove, chopped
one can of whole peeled tomatoes (or canned cherry tomatoes)
a dash of white wine
small can of tomato passata
note: I made this in February, and I try not to use fresh tomatoes in Winter since they’re just not tasty. If you’re making this in Summer, please use real sun-ripened ones!

topping:

chopped flatleaf parsley
grated parmesan cheese

How to:

Start with the pasta. Put the flour in a bowl, make a cup and add the eggs. Mix with a fork and then with your hands until you have a coarse dough. Take it out of the bowl and knead the dough for at least 10 minutes, until it becomes smooth and elastic (when I get tired I try to see this as a good work out). Wrap it in plastic foil and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.

Make the filling by mixing all the ingredients.

Make the sauce at least 20 minutes before serving, to give it time to simmer. Heat the olive oil in a sturdy saucepan and fry the onion and garlic until soft. Add the canned or fresh tomatoes. Heat the tomatoes and add some white wine. Let this simmer for a while and add the passata. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let it simmer on a low fire until you have a tasty sauce. At this point, I ‘cheated’ and added a bit of leftover Barilla pasta sauce that I had in the fridge. Of course, you’re free to use your own preferred tomato sauce recipe, but simplicity is key.

Assemble the ravioli while the sauce is simmering. Fill a large saucepan with water, add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil while making the ravioli (one of those pans with an extra ‘colander’ piece is ideal, because you can make several batches of pasta without refreshing the water each time, but a slotted spoon or pasta spoon works fine too). Roll out the pasta with a machine (or by hand), start with a third of the pasta dough. Position the machine at its widest and turn the dough through, fold double and repeat. Keep making the sizes smaller and rolling the dough through twice until you’re at the finest position. Make equal squares or rectangles of the rolled-out dough. I made 5×7 cm, but smaller will work as well. Put a teaspoon of filling on half of the rectangles, then cover with a second rectangle and press carefully, excluding as much air as possible. Finish the edges by impressing them with a fork. Repeat for all of the dough. Boil the ravioli in batches for 3-5 minutes (until they come floating on top) and take them out of the water. Add the pasta to the tomato sauce and mix carefully. Arrange on a plate and top with parsley and parmesan. Enjoy!