In May we had a wonderful week in Sicily. Our primary reason for going was to attend the wedding of the son of two old friends, but we were rewarded with a beautiful location, catching up with friends from our youth and childhood, and some delicious Sicilian food, as an added extra. On the Sunday after the wedding, Trays and Robby invited all the Irish (plus the Malaysian and Danish) contingent for Sunday lunch. One of the main courses was this delicious, vegetarian lasagne. It’s made with crepes instead of Pasta, and I was blown away by it, and couldn’t wait to share it with you.
The recipe was kindly sent to me after all the wedding events were over; after ourselves and the happy Bride and Groom had departed, and life had returned to it’s usual pace in Sicily. It may sound a little complicated, but never fear, I’ve made it easy!
EQUIPMENT: This makes a very large lasagne (for about 8-10 people) or two smaller ones. I’m assured that they freeze like a dream, or are even better the day after they were cooked.. (see NOTES)
- One large or two medium-sized lasagne dishes
- A smallish saucepan to make the Béchamel sauce
- A grater, or a food processor with a grating attachment (saves a huge amount of time)
- Wooden spoon/whisk
- A very large bowl or jug.
- weighing scales
- 2 clean tea-towels
For the pancakes:
- See my recipe on this site:http://eatingforireland.com/recipe/crepes/ and make about 8 thin crepes (don’t add any sugar), let them go cold, then use them as described in the recipe.
- OR do what I did today and buy some unsweetened ones from the chiller cabinet at the supermarket.
- Another plan would be to make some crepes when you have the time, and freeze them until needed. I might do that next time, but to be honest the ready-made ones worked really well.
For the Béchamel sauce:
- 1 onion or large shallot, peeled, cut in two, and studded with 2 cloves each side.
- 2 bay leaves
- 500mls whole milk
- 50g butter
- 50g plain flour
For the Lasagne filling:
- 3 medium/large Courgettes, washed and grated (skins and all) Mine weighed 650g today.
- 225g Emmental cheese, grated
- 250g tub of Ricotta
- 50g grated Parmesan
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- Grate the courgettes, put them into one of the tea-towels, twist the ends and squeeze well to get as much liquid out as possible.
- Transfer the courgettes onto the second tea-towel and spread them out thinly to dry for as long as you can, certainly until you’ve made the Béchamel sauce. (My friends say at least one hour, and that three hours is better!)
- Make the pancakes (or, you know, just buy them 😉 )
Then make the Béchamel sauce:
- Put the milk, onions and bay leaves into the small saucepan and bring the milk to the boil.
- Turn it off the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes.
- After the 20 minutes, strain the milk into a small bowl, and discard the onion, etc.
- Rinse the pan and return it to the heat.
- Melt the butter in the pan, then add all the flour in one go.
- Stir well, until the flour and butter are combined.
- Cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the strained milk.
- Reduce the heat to medium-hot, and briskly whisk the sauce constantly until all the lumps disappear. This could take 5-10 minutes.
- Taste the sauce and add salt and finely ground black pepper as required.
Put the lasagne together:
- Put the grated Emmental, the Ricotta, the Courgettes and the beaten eggs into a large bowl
- Add the Béchamel sauce and mix everything together thoroughly.
- Put a thin layer of the sauce onto the base of the lasagne dish.
- Add a layer of crepes (I cut mine into halves, and fitted them in that way, using smaller pieces as I reached the top)
- Add a more generous helping of the sauce, spread it out evenly and grate some Parmesan over it.
- Continue layering as before, finishing with a layer sauce on top.
- Grate a generous amount of Parmesan over the top.
- ** At this stage you can keep the lasagne chilled until you want to cook it**
- Heat the oven to 180 fan
- Cook the lasagne for 40-50 minutes, until risen and golden. It should rise up like a soufflé (sadly it will fall again too)
- Allow it to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
- Serve with a fresh green salad and some garlic bread.
- My ready-made crepes worked very well in this recipe, and they certainly saved a lot of bother on the day.
- It’s important to let the courgettes dry out for as long as you can.
- I made this up the day before I cooked it, and there was some leftover. I reheated it (in the microwave) the following day, and if anything it was even nicer than the day before. I emailed Trays about this, and she said that yes, quite often Sicilian recipes are better the day after. Something about the flavours taking time to mingle etc.. I’m thinking now that in the future I might even cook it the day before I need it, keep it in the fridge and then cover firmly with foil for reheating. I’m going to leave that up to you..
- This Lasagne tasted exactly as I remembered it in Sicily, so I was very pleased with myself. It’s lovely to have a really good vegetarian recipe like this in your back pocket. Our vegetarian guest was delighted with it.
- It gives a whole new meaning to a holiday souvenir!