Lasagna is one of the best main course dishes to make with my toddler, especially if I have the sauce or sauces already prepared. It then becomes a simple but fun assembly job!
This lasagna is based on the Red Bean Lasagna from Rose Elliot’s ‘Vegetarian Pasta ‘. It is perfect for a bean-loving girl such as my daughter. Apart from the cheese on the top it is also vegan!
Red Bean Lasagne
600ml soy milk
1 bay leaf
slice of onion
some extra milk
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 430g tin kidney beans
2 400g tins tomatoes
2 heaped tablespoons tomato purée
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
salt & pepper
enough lasagne sheets to cover your lasagne dish three times
70g Parmesan cheese, grated (omit or substitute for vegan dish)
To make the béchamel sauce, melt the margarine and stir in the flour. When it starts to bubble, add half the milk and whisk over the heat until it thickens. Add the rest of the milk and whisk until the sauce is thick and smooth. Add the bay leaf and onion and leave over a low heat for ten minutes. Remove from the heat and pour the extra milk carefully over the top — this will help prevent a skin from forming. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C/gas 6.
For the bean/tomato sauce, fry the onions in a little oil until starting to brown, then add garlic and stir for about a minute. Add beans and tomatoes and leave on the heat, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until sauce is just beginning to thicken. You don’t want it too thick or there won’t be enough liquid to cook the lasagne! Add the tomato purée, chilli powder and salt & pepper to taste.
To assemble the lasagne, remove the bay leaf and onion from the béchamel sauce and whisk until any lumps are gone. Rinse one third of your lasagne sheets under cold water and use them to cover the bottom of a greased lasagne dish. Pour a third of your béchamel sauce on top and cover with half your bean/tomato sauce. Cover with another layer of lasagne and the same quantities of the sauces. Top with the rest of the lasagne, the rest of the béchamel sauce the cheese, then bake for about 35 minutes until the pasta feels soft when you stick a fork or skewer through it.
Lasagne is almost infinitely variable! You can use different sauces, just one sauce instead of two, you can replace the béchamel sauce with a soft cheese (my favourite for this is marscapone), you can add a layer of sautéed vegetables between the sauces… whatever sounds good to you! My daughter and I particularly love to add layers of sweetcorn. Yum.
What my toddler did
Despite my recommendation above to have your sauces made already, I did not. So my daughter did a lot of ‘helping’ to stir things on the stove. I hold her on my hip for this so I can put her down and get her out of the way quickly if anything starts to spit or bubble too fiercely. Other things she did:
- Choosing a bay leaf from the bag.
- Peeling (most of) the onion.
- Attempting to use the garlic press (not very successfully!)
- Helping to grease the dish.
- Putting lasagne sheets in the dish — I rearranged them slightly after.
- Spreading the sauces out to cover the lasagne.
- Sprinkling the cheese on top. Or throwing it on in big lumps, whichever she felt like!
If I had made the sauces earlier and they had been cooler I would have put the appropriate quantities in bowls for her to pour into the dish as well. When we do this she has practically assembled the whole lasagne herself!
The finished product
…I actually forgot to take a picture of the finished product because we were so eager to eat it! So here is a picture of the almost-ready-for-the-oven product instead.
I am going to be away for two and a half weeks for Easter, but when we get back… apple upside-down cake! Yum.