We had been travelling around South America for months surviving mainly on rice, beans and fried eggs. So heading down to the Bolivian jungle we didn’t expect anything else. Our destination was the remote little town Rurrenabaque which is the base for exploring the surrounding rainforest and pampas. It’s a pleasant enough town with a few hotels, one or two even with a swimming pool, and some decent restaurants. One had specialized in Western food and had this fantastic lasagna on the menu. And not only did they serve lasagna, they served vegetarian lasagna! What a bliss and how tasty! I haven’t counted how often I ate it but I do remember us spending quite a few evenings on the restaurant’s small patio, me with my nose above a steaming plate and a chilled Pacena at hands reach.
What is great about making your own lasagna is that you can use what ever veggies you have lying around in the fridge. I usually use courgette, eggplant and carrots as a base and then fill up with I have (mushrooms, broccoli, celery and spinach maybe). So what is mentioned below is what I had at home at the time of cooking.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 courgette, quartered and sliced
1 eggplant, quartered and sliced
4 carrots, diced into cubes
100g fresh spinach
1000 ml passata di pomodoro (tomato sauce)
2 tsp of oregano
2 tsp sambal oelek (or red chili powder)
salt and pepper
40g all-purpose flour
500 ml milk
100 g cheese
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
1 package of lasagna sheets
50g of grated cheese
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Gently fry the onion and garlic for 3 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables, stir well and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the tomato sauce, oregano and sambal. Bring to a boil, lower heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
In a sauce pan, heat on medium heat the butter until melted. Add the flour and whisk until smooth and the mixture turns sandy in color. Slowly add the milk, whisk continuously. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until the sauce thickens, whisking occasionally. Remove from heat. Add the cheese and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
Smear an oven dish with a couple of tablespoons of the tomato sauce. Then create layers starting with one single layer of lasagna sheets, 1/3 of the vegetable sauce and 1/3 of the cheese sauce. Repeat the layers twice more, finishing with a layer of cheese sauce and the remaining grated cheese. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or until the lasagna is bubbling and golden, and the lasagna sheets are soft (check with an inserted skewer).
It’s lovely served with a fresh green salad.