Diana Henry, the telegraph’s award-winning cookery writerPumpkin and spinach lasagne recipe
- Diana Henry, the telegraph’s award-winning cookery writer
28 OCTOBER 2021 • 5:25PMFollow
Lasagne takes time, but whatever version of it I cook people love it. It is the ‘treat dish’ in my house, cooked for birthdays, parties and celebrations. The really important thing is to season it well – the pumpkin, spinach, tomato sauce and, especially, the bechamel. It might seem like a lot of bechamel sauce but this is a big dish of lasagne.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour 20 minutes, plus half an hour infusing time
- 2.2kg pumpkin or butternut squash (use Crown Prince if you can get it)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1kg spinach, any tough stalks removed, washed
- 25g butter, plus extra for the dish
- Whole nutmeg, for grating
- 8 fresh lasagne sheets
- 115g Parmesan
For the tomato sauce:
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 celery stick, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 x 400g chopped tomatoes (I use Mutti)
- 1-2 tsp sugar (optional)
For the bechamel sauce:
- 1.5 litres full-fat milk
- 10 peppercorns
- ½ onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 150g butter
- 150g plain flour
- Heat the oven to 190C/180 C fan/gas mark 6. Halve the pumpkin or squash, deseed and cut into two centimetre slices. Peel each slice (or you can remove the peel when the pumpkin has cooked). Toss in a roasting tin – you might have to use two) with the olive oil and season. Roast until tender and slightly charred in places. This can take up to 40 minutes.
- For the tomato sauce, soften the onion in the oil for eight minutes, or until it’s soft and pale gold, then add the celery and garlic and cook for another four minutes. Add the tomatoes, 50ml water and seasoning. Leave to simmer uncovered, for about 20 minutes. Stir the mixture from time to time. You should be left with a thick sauce. If you think it’s too thick add a little water. Add sugar if you think it needs it (it depend on the tomatoes you’ve used).
- Put the spinach in a saucepan with the water that clings to it after washing, cover the pot and set it over a medium heat. Wilt the spinach for about four minutes, turning it over with tongs a couple of times. When completely wilted, drain and leave until cool enough to handle. Squeeze the water out with your hands or between two dinner plates. It’s really important that the spinach is as dry as possible. Chop and put in a pan with the butter. Saute the spinach, season with salt, pepper and a generous grating of nutmeg. It should be nice and buttery.
- For the bechamel sauce, bring the milk to the boil with the peppercorns, onion and bay leaf. Set aside to infuse for half an hour. Strain the milk. Melt the butter in a pan and add the flour. Stir together until the butter and flour come together in a roux. It should be straw coloured. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a wooden spoon after each addition. You must keep the mixture smooth. Set the pan back on the heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. The sauce will thicken a lot. Turn the heat down and simmer for four minutes. Taste. This needs to be well seasoned.
- Heat the oven to 200C/190C fan/gas mark 7 and assemble the lasagne. Butter a large gratin or baking dish, about 1.4 litres in capacity. Put a layer of pumpkin in the bottom, followed by a layer of tomato sauce. Lay some pasta sheets on top, cutting them to fit (you don’t want the sheets to overlap). Now add a layer of bechamel followed by half the spinach and half the cheese. Top with more lasagne sheets, the rest of the spinach and pumpkin, the rest of the tomato sauce, and finally, a layer of bechamel. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Bake for 40 minutes or until the lasagne is golden and bubbling.