I first tasted lasagna at a restaurant called Little Italy in Bangalore, that specializes in Italian vegetarian cuisine. One interesting fact about the restaurant is, all the dishes are listed with their Italian names in the menu card with a description of each item in English. Until and unless one knows italian, they would have a tough time ordering food. So there is an ID for each dish. Its enough if we provide the ID number to the waiter and the ordered dish would reach us. Three years back when we went to the restaurant, I only knew pizza and pasta that were Italian food. So my husband took charge of ordering the food. All the items that we ordered including the lasagna tasted too good. The dishes were heaven in disguise..The cost!!!!that tells why we haven't gone there again...
When I had the lasagna at Little Italy, I wouldn't have even imagined that one day I would be making my own. But here I am with my own vegetarian Ratatouille lasagna as adapted from the mini series cookbook by Tarla Dalal called "Pizza and Pasta".
It look solid 3 1/2 hours to make the lasagna, though the cookbook said 30 minutes preparation time and 10 minutes cooking time. I knew it is not humanly to make the lasagna from scratch in 40 minutes. Still went ahead and started at 7 in the evening and the lasagna was ready at 10:30 in the night. It was worth all the wait and effort..It was just fabulous and my husband too endorsed my opinion. :-)
I made few changes to the ratatouille based on preference and availability.. Ratatouille it seems is a french dish and the cookbook used brinjal(egg plant) and celery leaves to make a traditional Ratatouille.. Since I don't like brinjal, I substituted it with spinach and did not use celery leaves as I don't even know if we get it here. I don't know after these main substitutions, I can still call it a Ratatouille.., but it just tasted fantastic. The lasagna with creamy white sauce and aromatic Ratatouille with mixed herbs was just heavenly.
Here is the recipe for Ratatouille lasagna as adapted from Pizzas and Pasta by Tarla Dalal. Since I had very less time to prepare the lasagna, I first made the dough for the lasagna sheets and rested it for 20 minutes..When the dough was resting I made Ratatouille. I also prepared the white sauce. It took a bit more than 1 hour to prepare the Ratatouille and sauce. So the dough ended up resting for that much time..Next I rolled the dough and prepared the sheets. Finally did the layering and baked the lasagna..
Ingredients to make lasagna sheets
All purpose flour/Maida: 3/4 cup Spinach Puree: 2 tbsp(I pureed in an electric mixer) Olive oil or Refined Oil: 3 tbsp(I used olive oil) Salt: 1/4 tsp To cook the pasta: 1 tbsp oil and 1 tsp salt(I used olive oil)
Ingredients to make white sauce
Milk: 1 cup All purpose flour/Maida: 1 tbsp Grated cheese: 2 tbsp(I used cheddar) Butter: 2 tbsp Salt and coarsely powdered pepper to taste
Ingredients to make Ratatouille
Chopped Onions: 1/2 cup Chopped garlic: 2 tbsp Finely Chopped Spinach/Palak: 2 cups Chopped tomato: 3/4 cup Dried mixed herbs: 1/2 tsp Tomato puree: 2 tbsp(optional) Tomato ketchup: 1 tbsp Olive Oil or Refined Oil: 2 tbsp Salt and coarsely powdered pepper to taste
Some cheese is needed to sprinkle on the layered lasagna before baking. I used Britannia Cheeza for this.
Procedure to make lasagna sheets
1. Combine all the ingredients in lasagna sheets in a bowl and knead to a very firm dough. Add water only if necessary. I kneaded for 15 minutes and did not add water at all. 2. Rest the dough under a damp cloth for 15 minutes.( I rested it for almost an hour) 3. Divide it into 3 equal parts and roll out each portion as thinly as possible. The size of the sheet depends on the size of the baking dish. I had a square baking dish. So after rolling the dough, I cut it with a pizza cutter to get 3 square sheets. 4. Add water in a wide pan(that can hold the lasagna sheets) and add salt and oil. Once it starts boiling, cook each sheet of lasagna for 2 minutes, one after the other. 5. Drain and transfer the lasagna sheets in a pan of cold water. 6. Drain again and keep aside.
Procedure to make white sauce
1. In a pan, heat butter if it is hard. Once it melts, add flour and saute for a minute. 2. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking it continuously so that no lumps form. 3. Add the grated cheese, salt and pepper and mix well. 4. Remove from the fire and keep aside. It will thicken to form a creamy white sauce.
Procedure to make spinach Ratatouille
1. Heat oil in a pan. Add onion and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. 2. Add spinach and salt. Just sprinkle very little water. Let the spinach cook for sometime. (around 10 minutes) 3. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and mixed herbs and mix well. Let it cook for another 5 minutes in medium flame. Just see to it that it does not get stuck at the bottom of the pan. 4. Once the mixture looses most of the water content(it need not be dried completely), add ketchup, salt,pepper and mix again. 5. Put off the flame and keep aside.
Putting it together
1. Pre heat the oven to 200 degree C. 2. Place one sheet of lasagna on a greased baking dish. 3. Top with half the Ratatouille and then spoon some white sauce.(around 4 tbsp) 4. Place the second sheet of lasagna and top it with the remaining Ratatouille and spoon some white sauce.(around 4 tbsp) 5. Place the third sheet of lasagna and top it with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle some grated cheese. 6. Bake for around 30 minutes or until the cheese starts browning..(Mine took almost 40 minutes) 7. Allow it to cool a bit. 8. Should I even say what to do next???Attack!!!!
Note: The ingredients and procedure are that of my adapted version. When I cooked the lasagna sheets, one of them tore at the side. I used that in the middle layer. I actually got 4 lasagna sheets, 3 the size of the baking tray and one a bit smaller. I got that one extra by making dough out of the left overs from the 3 lasagna sheets after cutting them into squares I kept that extra sheet in the bottom most layer while setting the lasagna...After removing the sheets from the cold water, I just kept them in 3 plates to drain..When I set the layers, the sheets were not completely dried, but as our appetite was increasing with every passing second, I just went ahead and used the half dried sheets for setting the layers..But the overall result was just too good..