A creamy vegetable sauce, made up of spinach, and ricotta, studded with sweet chunks of roasted butternut squash, and sun dried tomatoes, layered between sheets of fresh lasagne.
This week is national meat free week, where the challenge is to go a whole week (23rd-29th March) without eating any meat. The idea is to raise awareness of the fact that as a society we are eating more and more meat, with global production increasing from 78 million tonnes per year in 1963 to 308 million tonnes in 2014. However, with the growing food security crisis, we will need to change the relationship we have with meat, and vegetarian food.
Meat production currently uses up 26% of the earths ice free terrestrial surface, and requires a large amount of input, with an estimated 7lb of feed needed to produce 1lb of beef. With crop production already falling below demand, we will struggle to feed to worlds growing population if meat consumption continues to increase. Meat production is also a major contributor to climate change with 15% of greenhouse gas emissions being attributed to the meat industry.
I think a lot of people don’t even consider eating vegetarian food, and tend to focus every meal around what meat is in the fridge. But if we all had a a few vegetarian meals a week, we could be reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and helping to alleviate the strains of global food production, with the added bonus of vegetarian meals being cheaper and healthier!
There are plenty of vegetarian recipes that taste just as good as their meaty counterparts and make lovely weekday meals. So this week I will be posting a few of my own
First up is my Squash, Spinach, Sun dried Tomato and Ricotta Lasagne. I think a lot of people are put off vegetarian lasagne, because all to often they are just a mix of random vegetables in a tomato sauce, which is a poor substitute for bolognese! My recipe uses a mixture of spinach, mushrooms, ricotta cheese, butternut squash and sun-dried tomatoes, which go together really well to make a robust and delicious filling!
Ingredients: Serves 4
- 1/2 an Onion
- 12 Chestnut Mushrooms, finely chopped
- 4 Large Cloves of Garlic
- 500g Butternut Squash
- 125g Fresh Spinach
- 250g Ricotta Cheese
- 1/2 a Jar of Sun-dried Tomatoes
- 1tbsp Red Pepper Pesto
- 300ml Milk
- 2-3tbsp Corn Flour
- 1tbsp Butter
- Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 12 Fresh Lasagne Sheets
Preheat the oven to 200°C
Peel and chop the butternut squash into small 2cm chunks, coat in vegetable oil and salt. Bake in the preheated oven for around 20-25 minutes, until cooked through and beginning to caramelise.
Finely chop the onion, garlic and mushrooms, fry them over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until cooked through. Then stir in the pesto.
Chop up the fresh spinach and add to the pan, cook over a medium heat for 2 minutes, until wilted. Then add the ricotta cheese and chopped sun dried tomatoes.
Once the butternut squash is cooked, remove from the oven and stir into the sauce. Set aside.
The Béchamel Sauce
Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the cornflour, until combined, then pour in the milk.
Continue cooking the mixture over a medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens. Then add 2 handfulls of grated parmesan cheese.
Spoon some fillings and béchamel sauce onto the bottom of a large baking dish, then lay lasagne sheets over the top until covered.
Spoon some more filling and béchamel sauce over the top of those lasagne sheets, and then cover with another layer of lasagne sheets.
Continue until all filling and lasagne sheets are used up, ending with a layer of lasagne sheets
Cover the top layer of lasagne sheets with the rest of the béchamel sauce, and some extra grated parmesan cheese.
Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes, until the top has turned golden brown.
Decorate with some fresh oregano and leave to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Some other vegetarian recipes you might like: