In just the same way that a vegie, is a veggie, is a vege – you can get chard, silverbeet and the true English spinach and they can generally be interchangeable in most recipes. All are in season during the winter months and contain huge amounts of vitamins C, K, iron and nearly every mineral known to man.
So which spinach to use? Generally any of them can be used in recipes (except for salads, where the light English or baby spinach leaves are best), they’ll just need different preparations.
Frozen spinach just needs to be thawed (the microwave works ok for this) and the excess moisture squeezed out. The thick leaves of fresh chard and silverbeet need to be dunked in boiling water for a minute or two then drained and chopped. English spinach can just be chopped and chucked in.
For this recipe, I like to buy a bunch of fresh silverbeet and do the blanching thing. It does add 10 minutes to your prep time, but gives a really fantastic flavour that the kids will love. If the green flecks are going to cause grief for you, use a blender and pulp the spinach and it will hide in the recipe more easily.
I find though, that the amount of cheese in this bechamel-free lasagne overcomes any vegetable obstacles.
The best-ever vegetarian lasagne
800g can chopped tomatoes
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup sliced black olives (optional)
2 cups finely diced vegies (try broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms and carrot)
2 tsp dried Italian herbs
Salt & black pepper
250g grated mozzarella
300g cottage cheese
150g other cheese of your choice (crumbled feta, grated cheddar, grated parmesan)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 bunch silverbeet, blanched and chopped or a frozen 200g box of spinach, thawed, with the excess liquid squeezed out
500g box instant lasagne sheets
Handful grated cheese, for topping
Preheat oven to 180C. Spray a 5-litre lasagne dish with cooking spray.
For the tomato sauce, place all the ingredients in a large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the initial crunch is taken out of the vegies and onion. Everything gets baked later, so avoid overcooking at this stage.
For the spinach layer, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Use your hands to get everything mixed through well.
Now you’re ready to begin layering. This is the order: enough tomato sauce to cover the bottom of the dish, then pasta (break sheets to cover entire layer), half the spinach, pasta, half the remaining tomato sauce, pasta, rest of the spinach, pasta, rest of the tomato sauce. Did you keep up?
Top with a little more grated cheese and bake for 45 minutes or until golden and YUM.
SERVES 2 ADULTS & 4 KIDS
FREEZING & DEFROSTING
Wrap slices of lasagne in two layers of plastic wrap. Freeze on oven trays to maintain its shape and then transfer to freezer bags. Stores well for 3 months. Reheat by thawing in the fridge for 24-36 hours before microwaving until steaming hot throughout.