Courgette Pesto Lasagna

My mum makes a mean vegetarian lasagna. And, as I discovered over the past few days, it’s the simplicity of homemade Italian dishes which I probably miss the most. And, weirdly enough, it wasn’t until now that I realised this, probably inspired by the small trip back home I embarked on to attend the wedding of a very good friend. It always amazes me how tasty Italian produce can be if compared to the one found in the UK (not to mention the size), so much so it needs very little manipulation to create a very interesting and effective dish.

This is a very creamy and tangy lasagna, full of flavour and very easy to assemble. I used mushrooms for extra meatiness and flavour, but mostly because after our weekly shopping trip today I realised my partner had slipped them in the trolley by pure accident. The recipe is so easy and immediate adding them felt like the right thing, but please feel free to use other vegetables to suit your taste and preference.

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Ingredients

  • 600g courgettes (3 big ones)
  • 1l whole milk + 150ml
  • 200g smoked cheese, coarsely grated
  • 200g fresh lasagna sheets
  • 200g rindless smoked bacon, cut into strips
  • 70g cornflour
  • 60g shelled pistachios
  • 30g grated Parmesan
  • 200g mushrooms, sliced
  • 5-6 mint leaves, freshly picked
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Method

  1. First of all, get the courgettes ready. Wash them, then cut the ends off and slice lengthways. Arrange them cut side up on a lined baking tray, then drizzle with some olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Finely chop the mint leaves and scatter on top, then roast at 180C for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the courgettes from the oven, then put them aside to cool. Once cool, cut them into small cubes and blend them in a food processor together with the pistachios, lemon juice, 60ml water, 30ml olive oil and some salt. This will be your pesto. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a frying pan, then tumble in the bacon strips and fry until crispy. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside on kitchen paper. Tumble in the mushrooms and leave to cook in the bacon fat for about 7 minutes or until just softened. Remove from the heat.
  4. Pour the litre of milk into a saucepan, season with some salt and pepper and bring to the boil. In the meantime, mix the cornflour and the remaining 150ml milk in a jug. When the milk comes to the boil, pour the milky mixture in and let it come back to the boil, then tip in the grated Parmesan, stir that in and remove from the heat. This will be your white sauce.
  5. Spread some butter in a high-sided roasting dish (I used my Le Creuset cast iron pan), then spoon about 1 ladleful of the white sauce and spread it around. Top with enough lasagna sheets to create a nice and even layer, then top with more white sauce (about 1 ladleful again), scatter some of the bacon strips on top, then dollop about a third of the courgette pesto on it, scatter about a third of the grated smoked cheese and top with about half of the mushroom slices. Cover with some more lasagna sheets and repeat until you run out of all the ingredients.
  6. Bake in a preheat oven to 180C for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, let it stand for about 10 minutes, then dive in!

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