I found about this recipe from my friend Richard. We used to work together some years ago and, both keen cooks, got into the habit of discussing what we had cooked the night before over our morning coffee. The habit has survived, even though our conversations are now less regular and mostly by phone and email.
Last time I rang Richard, he said he was cooking a roast vegetable lasagne. Lasagne al forno con le verdure was a variant of a recipe by Anna del Conte for Pennoni con le verdure arrostite in her 1976 cookbook Portrait of Pasta (link is to the updated edition). As he reported it a success, I asked for the recipe and have cooked it three times since: twice as lasagne and once with penne (Waitrose not running to pennoni just at the moment – sometimes, indeed, not to any pasta at all). It has everything to recommend it – simplicity, flexibility and excellent flavour from the combination of ricotta with the roasted vegetables.
These quantities serve four, but I have tended to roast the quantities of vegetables that I have to hand – generally fewer red onions and more aubergine – and have used either large tomatoes or an equivalent quantity of cherry tomatoes. You could probably use tinned tomatoes at a pinch. Anna del Conte suggests that you can do a version using roast root veg (such as celeriac and turnips) or squash instead of the mediterranean vegetables here, making this an ideal recipe for lockdown cooking – it is really adaptable. Richard didn’t have ricotta for the topping and used a combination of Philadelphia cream cheese and mascarpone, and we’ve used a combination of cream cheese and fromage frais, all of which worked fine. So, experiment with impunity. It’s also easy to scale up or down. If you’re feeding fewer people, you could roast the full quantity of vegetables, have half the quantity with pasta, and eat the rest warm with lentils, as a salad with couscous and goat’s cheese or use them as a filling for a tart (like this one by Ottolenghi).
- 4 ripe tomatoes peeled
- 150g aubergine (½ a large or a whole small one)
- 1 courgette
- 1 red or yellow pepper
- 2 red onions
- 3 tbsps olive oil
- 1 bulb of garlic
- Salt and pepper
- 6-10 sheets lasagne
- 250g ricotta
- 250g mozzarella
- Grating of nutmeg (optional)
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
For roast vegetables with penne
- Handful of fresh basil
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 350g penne or pennoni
- Parmesan cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan. To peel the tomatoes put them in a heat-proof bowl, cut a small cross over the stem, cover them in boiling water and leave for 2-3 minutes. Run quickly under cold water so you can handle them and you should be able to pull the peel away easily using a small sharp knife. I have to confess to not always peeling the tomatoes, so feel free to do likewise if you don’t mind a bit of tomato skin.
Thickly slice the tomatoes, aubergine, courgette and red onions. Seed, core and quarter the pepper, then cut the pieces in half again. Put all the vegetables except the garlic into a roasting tin and pour 3 tbsps oil over them then add the peeled but whole garlic cloves. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. Bake for 40 mins until soft and slightly browned.
Roast vegetables with penne
If you are having the roasted vegetables with penne/pennoni, beat the remaining 3 tbsp of oil in a small bowl with the torn up basil. Boil the pasta in a large pan of well-salted water for the time stated on the packet (mine took 10 minutes), drain it, then add the basil oil and spoon the roasted vegetables over the top. Serve with parmesan. Apparently this can also be eaten cold – if you try this, let me know what you think.
Roast vegetable lasagne
Lower the oven temperature to 180°C/160°C fan. Lightly oil a square or rectangular baking dish. Put in alternate layers of the roasted vegetables and sheets of lasagne, ending with a layer of vegetables. I had three layers of veg and used six sheets of lasagne in two layers. You can add some of the ricotta (say, about 40%) to the second layer of vegetables if you like (I do). Dot the ricotta over the top layer of vegetables and finally grate or crumble the mozzarella over it. I grated nutmeg over the ricotta, but don’t feel obliged to do the same – I just love nutmeg, especially with ricotta. Anna del Conte doesn’t include parmesan but Richard added some, and I think it is a good idea, giving the lasagne a pleasing browned top.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes and leave for 5 mins before serving with a green salad.