TGIFOOD

THRIFTY COOKING

What’s cooking today: Roasted tomato lasagne

What’s cooking today: Roasted tomato lasagne
Tony Jackman’s roasted tomato lasagne. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Roasting a load of bright red tomatoes with onion and garlic makes for the start of a really great pasta sauce. If you make plenty of it, it can be turned into a cheery weeknight lasagne dish.

Pasta with tomato sauce, I scrawled in pink chalk on the blackboard in the dining room of our restaurant in Sutherland, nigh on two decades ago. “Seriously?” said a woman at a table nearby, incredulous to the point of being shocked. “You’re actually offering us pasta with tomato sauce poured on it?”

Gosh, ma’am, thanks for your vote of confidence in my cooking, I thought, but didn’t say it. I did say: Well, no, ma’am. Not ketchup. It’s a homemade tomato sauce, made with love and lots and lots of roasted tomatoes.

The restaurant had not been open for long and I learnt quickly that you have to give some detail.

Lasagne, almost invariably, used to be a baked dish of lasagne sheets layered with savoury mince of one sort or another and béchamel sauce, topped with grated cheese. But the meaty layer can be substituted with a variety of vegetables, whether brinjals (eggplant), butternut, leeks, even beans.

Not long ago I made lasagne with spinach, or Swiss chard if you must, grown in my little vegetable garden, but by now the brilliant green leaves have withered and all but disappeared as the baking Karoo sun of February has taken its toll. The stems have become thick and stalky, and they’ll be pulled out this week to make way for winter crops.

Don’t be shy with the quantity of tomatoes in this dish, and make sure they’re really ripe to the point of being almost past it.

(Serves 6 to 8)

Ingredients

8 to 10 large, ripe tomatoes (yes, you need a lot for this dish)

1 large red onion, peeled and halved

1 whole head of garlic

Olive oil

A glass of dry white wine

⅓ cup balsamic reduction

Fresh oregano or basil

6 lasagne sheets

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste

Parmesan, finely grated

For the béchamel:

1 litre full-cream milk

2 heaped Tbsp flour

2 heaped Tbsp butter

2 bay leaves

Method

Preheat the oven to 200℃ or higher.

Oil the bottom of an oven pan and put the whole tomatoes in it. Halve the onion (after peeling off the dry skin and cutting away the root base) and add that, along with the whole garlic.

Drizzle olive oil over and season with salt and grated black pepper.

You only want the garlic cloves to be cooked until the pulp within has softened and become mushy, so keep an eye on them and remove them before it’s too late. Half an hour in the oven should do it.

But let the tomatoes and onion keep on cooking until the tomato skins have blacked somewhat, to be sure to get maximum roasted flavour out of them.

Remove from the oven. Leave to cool a little, then peel off the tomato skins.

Chop up the tomatoes and transfer to a saucepan. Chop up the onion and add it. Squeeze the pulp out of the garlic husks and into the pot.

Add a glass of dry white wine and put the heat on, as well as the balsamic reduction. Let it cook until half of the wine has evaporated and the flavours in the pot have strengthened.

Add fresh oregano or basil (or both if you like) and cook for a minute or two more. Season with salt and black pepper, while tasting to check the flavour balance.

Bring a litre of milk just to a boil with the two bay leaves in it, and immediately turn off the heat. Remove the bay.

Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a large enough pot (1 litre-plus) and, off the heat, thoroughly stir in the flour.

On a modest heat, while stirring continuously, add the hot milk a little at a time, stirring until combined and smooth. 

Grease a deep oven dish with olive oil.

Add one layer of béchamel (a third of it).

Over this, add half of the tomato mixture.

Add three lasagne sheets.

Add a second layer of béchamel, then a second layer of tomato sauce.

Add the second layer of lasagne sheets and top with the remaining béchamel.

Sprinkle Parmesan over.

Bake in a 220℃ oven for about 40 minutes. 

Serve with a crisp salad.

It’s best to leave the dish to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into portions, as it holds itself together better. DM

Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido. Order his book, foodSTUFF, here

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on a plate by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.

Gallery

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