This meat free pesto lasagna is made from pasta sheets layered with béchamel sauce and basil spinach pesto. It’s rich, creamy, and perfect comfort food for cold weather.
I love the smell of lasagne baking in the oven. There is something about coming in from the cold outdoors and its distinctive comforting smell greeting you as it fills the kitchen.
This lasagne, whilst not a meat bolognese one, still fills the room with it’s delicious smell, and is a very tasty meatfree alternative to regular lasagne! In fact it is one of those dishes you don’t miss the meat – as in this vegetarian cheese and tomato lasagna or this quick and easy Pasta al Pomodoro (pasta with tomato sauce).
This is a lasagna recipe with no tomatoes. The nut free pesto makes a substitute for the classic lasagne tomato sauce. Whilst traditional pesto for Lasagne Genovese is made with pine nuts, they are expensive (and we don’t like the flavour enough to justify the cost).
Sunflower seeds make a fantastic alternative to pine nuts in pesto. They thicken the pesto and provide that creamy, ‘nutty’ element but are so much cheaper, and using them in pesto also makes this lasagne suitable for those with a nut allergy.
I add baby spinach to the pesto for two reasons:
- My family aren’t too keen on strong basil – especially toddler Mini Jones.
- I love adding vegetables wherever I can! Not only is it a great way to increase the serving of vegetables into your daily diet, but it also means that if I am very short of time I don’t have to worry about serving a seperate vegetable dish with the lasagne.
Making the lasagna ahead of time:
The sauce and pesto can be assembled ahead of time. You can make the béchamel sauce up to three days before you want to cook the lasagne, and the pesto 24 hours ahead. Cover the pesto with a little oil to prevent the air from getting to it, causing it to go brown.
All that’s left to do is layer it up and bake in the oven for 30 minutes; making it a great dish for busy weekday nights (and for Meat free Monday).
You can assemble the lasagne ahead of time; however I have found that the pasta absorbs some of the sauce whilst it’s sitting in the fridge so by the time you come to cook it, it can be a little dry.
Can this lasagne be frozen?
I don’t recommend freezing it, as it can become dry in the freezer.
Make it yours lasagne:
Use bought pesto: and mix in some frozen and drained spinach. This lasagne is a recipe to use leftover pesto. If you have half a jar you can pad it out with some extra spinach and basil, and a touch of olive oil – if it needs it.
Love basil: add another half cup to the pesto.
Vegetarian Lasagna: make sure you use vegetarian-style parmesan cheese, as parmesan cheese isn’t suitable for vegetarians.
Adding Meat: Add some cooked chicken to the layers
Add Fish: flaking some cooked salmon to the béchamel would go well.
Pumpkin seeds: Use can use pumpkin seeds instead of sunflower seeds, they make a delicious nut free pesto like I use in these Spinach Pesto Pinwheels
If you like this recipe, you might also like these meat free comfort foods:
- 100g (3.5oz) dried lasagne sheets, approx 7 sheets ($0.80 /£0.28p)
- 40g (⅙ c) butter ($0.52 /£0.28p)
- 40g (¼ c) plain flour ($0.05 /£0.02p)
- 625ml (2 ⅔ c) milk ($0.97 /£0.39p)
- 1 bay leaf ($0.10 /£0.03p)
- pinch nutmeg ($0.03 /£0.01p)
- 40g (1½ oz) sunflower seeds ($0.32 /£0.16p)
- 40g (1½ oz) vegetarian parmesan cheese, grated ($1.00/£0.72p)
- 55g (1 c packed) baby spinach leaves ($1.38 /£0.19p)
- 40g (1 c) fresh basil ($4.00 /£0.75p)
- 1½ tablespoons olive oil ($0.24 /£0.12p)
- 20g (¾ oz) parmesan cheese, grated, for the top ($0.50 /£0.36p)
- Fresh black pepper ($0.02 /£0.01p)
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C / 381˚F
- Lightly grease a 26cm x 18cm (10" x 7") baking dish
Make the béchamel sauce:
- Gently melt the butter in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. As soon as it has melted, add the flour. Stir well to combine.
- Add the milk a little at a time and stir vigorously after each time.
- When you’ve added half the milk, use a balloon whisk to stir in the rest of the milk.
- Turn the heat down, add the bay leaf, pinch of nutmeg and cook for 5 minutes, stirring every so often. Season with black pepper.
Make the pesto:
- Put the sunflower seeds, grated cheese, baby spinach, basil and olive oil into a mini blender or hand blended and blend until smooth.
To assemble the lasagne:
- Spread 2 spoonfuls of béchamel sauce over the bottom of the baking dish.
- Lay 2½ sheets lasagne in an even layer over the sauce.
- Spread ⅓ of the remaining béchamel sauce in an even layer over the pasta then ½ of the pesto.
- Top with 2½ sheets of pasta and repeat the last step (adding ⅓ white sauce and ½ pesto)
- Lay over the rest of the lasagne sheets then top with the remaining béchamel sauce.
- Sprinkle over grated parmesan and a little black pepper.
- Place into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until golden.