Squash and fennel lasagne
There are endless versions of veg lasagne and many of them are disappointing, being over-reliant on pulses and tomato sauce. We think this unusual recipe is really special, proper comfort food and just what you need on a chilly autumn night: lots of earthy flavours, plenty of creamy béchamel sauce and a good dose of melting cheese.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. For the béchamel, heat the milk with the bay leaf, onion, celery and peppercorns until just below simmering. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse.
Peel and deseed the squash and cut into 2cm cubes. Toss with
4 tablespoons oil in a roasting dish, season well with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the oven, toss immediately with the garlic and thyme, and set aside.
Trim the fennel, removing the tough outer layer, then cut into roughly 5mm slices. Heat another 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the fennel and sauté for 10–15 minutes, or until tender. Set aside.
Gently reheat the infused milk, then strain. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the flour to form a smooth roux and cook gently for a minute or two. Take off the heat. Add about a quarter of the hot milk and beat well until smooth. Repeat with the remaining milk, adding it in 2 or 3 lots, until you have a smooth sauce. Return to the heat and cook, stirring often and allowing it to bubble gently for a few minutes, until thickened. Stir in the mustard and season with salt and pepper.
Spread a third of the béchamel sauce over the bottom of a 28 x 22cm (or thereabouts) ovenproof dish. Layer half the lasagne sheets in the dish, then scatter the roasted squash evenly over it. Trickle over another third of the sauce. Add another layer of lasagne, then the fennel. Scatter the crumbled cheese over the fennel, then spoon on the remaining béchamel.
Sprinkle with the grated cheese and add a trickle of oil. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden. Serve at once, with peas or a green salad.
- 1kg squash
- 6 tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil, plus extra to trickle
- 1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
- A few sprigs of thyme, leaves only, finely chopped
- 750g fennel (3 large bulbs)
- 150g blue cheese or goat’s cheese, crumbled
- 125g lasagne sheets (fresh is best, but dried is fine)
- 20g Parmesan, Cheddar or other well-flavoured hard cheese, grated
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
FOR THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE
- 1 litre whole milk
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
- A few black peppercorns
- 50g unsalted butter
- 50g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
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Who needs meat? Learn to turn local, seasonal produce into delicious veggie dishes at the River Cottage Cookery School