Lasagne was one of those dishes we learnt to make in home-ec, or food design and technology as I think it was called at my school, because obviously cooking, sewing and carpentry are such minor life skills they can in fact be condensed all together into one class per week for the first three years of secondary school and by the end of that time you will of course be fully equipped to take on the world. Pause not.
One of the many useful things we learnt during this time was how to make lasagne. Now compared with designing the perfect sandwich (I kid you not), learning how to make a victoria sponge cake and perfecting chocolate brownies (okay, fair enough, that is a life skill everyone should have), lasagne is pretty useful. However, when compared with other pasta dishes it takes at least twice as long, since you have to cook pretty much everything once, then put in the oven for a further 30-40 minutes to cook all over again. It also produces unholy amounts of washing up, so I didn’t end up making it that often. Not making it that often petered out to basically never when I was diagnosed as coeliac, since there was no such thing as gluten-free lasagne sheets back then, and making pasta from scratch sure as hell wasn’t on the approved syllabus for 11-13-year olds.
However, I recently (well, lets say sometime in the past year) noticed there is now such a thing as gluten-free lasagne, which shouldn’t surprise me too much, since if you can make corn into a spiral shape, you should be able to flatten it out into a thin sheet without too much difficulty. So this put lasagne back into possible territory, but there was still the issue of making a bolognese and a roux, as well as soaking the pasta, before layering the whole thing up and then waiting for it to cook. Far too much effort for a weekday evening meal and if I’m spending that amount of time on something at the weekend I’d at least like something moderately impressive to show for it, thank you very much. Consequently it wasn’t until I stumbled upon this recipe (well, something similar anyway) on my great pumpkin recipe trawl that I even realised you could make lasagne without the bolognese and bechamel. But you can indeed, and it still looks like lasagne, though my home-ec teacher would probably be turning in her, er, retirement home if she saw this.
One thing that bugs me slightly about lasagne is it tends to be pretty drippy, with all the sauces going on. Here the mozzarella provides some much-needed stability in the layers, as well as general stringy, cheesy goodness. This takes a mere 5 minutes to throw together, and then it sits and bubbles merrily in the oven for half an hour, the perfect length of time for you to go do some light carpentry perhaps…
Pumpkin and mozzarella lasagne
Adapted loosely from Martha Stewart
2 cups (500ml) pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ball (125g) mozzarella, sliced into thin discs
150g (about 6 sheets) gf lasagne sheets
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C.
2. In a bowl mix the pumpkin puree with the sage, nutmeg, salt and liberal quantities of black pepper.
3. Soak the lasagne sheets in hot water for 3-4 minutes until just softening; rinse in cold water and drain.
4. In an ovenproof dish layer 2 sheets of lasagne. Spread half the pumpkin puree on the pasta sheets, then layer half the mozzarella discs on top of the puree. Place two more lasagne sheets on top of the mozzarella, then spread the remaining pumpkin puree on top, topped with the remaining mozzarella. Place the final two lasagne sheets over the mozzarella and sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese.
5. Bake the lasagne in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is crispy and the cheese bubbling.