Eat well for less with our regular series of quick, delicious and wallet-friendly recipes by campaigner, columnist and award-winning food writer Jack Monroe.
This beautiful lasagne barely needs an introduction, as when I posted it on my Instagram, it received rapturous demands for the recipe. Good things come to those who wait, and here it is. Making lasagne from scratch is always a bit of a fanny, so I have deliberately made this recipe enormous so you can freeze it in portions for a quick ready meal, to make all of the work involved worthwhile by rewarding yourself with days where you won’t have to cook.
Simply portion it into foil containers with those cardboard lids (around 8 for £1 from most supermarkets and factory outlet type stores, and reusable dozens of times if you wash them carefully) and pop into the freezer for a lazy day. For those of you who don’t have wine kicking about the place or don’t want to slosh it into your dinner, simply add stock or extra tomatoes in place of it. I have opted not to put cheese on mine, but you can if you want – for my vegan readers, Violife mozzarella slices melt well, and can be found in most major supermarkets, but I didn’t really need them here.
Serves 6-8 from 35p each
1 onion, 6p (54p/1kg)
6 cloves of garlic, 10p (69p/4 bulbs)
150g dried green or red lentils, 27p (£1.80/1kg)
400g mushrooms, 85p (85p/400g)
100g spinach, kale or other greens , 17p (£1.50/900g)
100ml red wine, 33p (£2.50/750ml)
400g chopped tomatoes, 30p
1 tsp herbs, 4p (70p/15g)
1 tbsp gravy granules, 1p (20p/200g)
1 packet lasagne sheets, 50p (50p/500g)
For the white sauce:
1 tbsp flour, 1p (45p/1.5kg)
1 tbsp oil or butter sub, 1p (£1.10/1l)
200ml milk, 11p (55p/1l) – you can substitute with any plant milk to make it vegan, I recommend cashew for a creamy sauce!
½ tsp mustard, 1p (55p/180g)
1 tbsp breadcrumbs, 1p (80p/175g) – optional but delicious
First peel and very finely chop the onion and garlic. If you have a bullet blender, magimix or small chopper, you might like to use it here. If you haven’t, don’t worry, it’s simple enough to do by hand. Toss into a large pan (either a saucepan or a shallow frying pan will do) with the oil and salt, and bring to a medium heat for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, thoroughly rinse your lentils under a cold tap for a few minutes, and then add to the pan. Pour in the wine and tomatoes, add the herbs, and give it all a good stir before turning up the heat until it comes to the boil, then turn it down again to a medium simmer.
Finely chop the mushrooms into smithereens, almost a mince-like texture; this lasagne works best when its component parts are barely detectable, instead a mysterious homogeny of deep, earthy flavours and sneaky-vegetable bliss. When chopped as fine as you can muster, add those to the pan too with the gravy granules and spinach and – you guessed it – give it all a stir.
While the lentils are cooking and absorbing all that rich, winey flavour, you can make the white sauce. In a small, separate pan, heat the oil, flour and mustard together and stir briskly to form a rough paste. Add a splash of milk to loosen it, and another, and another, stirring all the time. It can be tempting to rush this step, but it will result in a lumpen, awful sauce, which in itself is not the end of the world as you can pass it through a tea strainer or sieve to separate the lumps, but try to take your time. Gradually add the milk until it is all incorporated, and leave it to cook on a low heat for around 10 minutes, where it will thicken considerably.
Now turn your oven on to 180C, and grab a suitable dish, one that looks like it will hold the same amount of lentil-mushroom-ragu that you have. Spread a layer of ragu into the bottom of the dish to cover it. Lay lasagne sheets over the top, leaving no gaps between them if you can help it. Spread a thin layer of white sauce onto the dry pasta. Then repeat: ragu, pasta, sauce, until the ragu is all used up. Top with a final layer of pasta sheets, then a generous layer of white sauce, carefully spreading it right to the edges. Sprinkle breadcrumbs generously across the top, and carefully place into the centre of the oven. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden and crisp around the edges. A knife inserted into the middle should go through the pasta easily. If not, bake for a further 10 minutes.
Cut into portions as desired, and serve.