My Vegetable Lasagne is legendary… Pasta layered with a rich, veg-packed tomato sauce and cheesy Béchamel, baked to perfection. THIS Vegetarian Lasagne has the power to convert meat-eaters and can be made with standard or gluten free pasta.
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Originally Published 18th August 2016… Updated 13th April 2023
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My Legendary Vegetable Lasagne
This Vegetable Lasagne is legendary among my friends. It is THAT GOOD that it has been literally used as a bartering tool… Not my suggestion I hasten to add… But in my 20’s and 30’s, people would offer me stuff in exchange for trays of lasagne.
I’ll be honest, it was never that I set out to make the best Vegetarian Lasagne that my friends had ever eaten. But here it is anyway! An Italian delight that is loaded with vegetables in a rich tomato sauce… is perfectly cheesy… and guaranteed to make all who eat it happy.
Having been making this recipe for upwards of 30 years now, I am certain that while it may be vegetarian, THIS lasagne will… without any doubt… have meat addicts considering conversion.
And yes… You can make it gluten free… or not.
Making gluten free Vegetarian Lasagne – What’s the difference?
Making gluten free Vegetable Lasagne is the same as making Vegetarian Lasagne with wheat pasta… With (obviously) a few ingredient subs to make it safe for people with Coeliac Disease (Celiac). So, what are the key gluten free ingredient changes?
- Pasta – of course! The lasagne sheets MUST be certified gluten free (usually found in the ‘free from’ section of supermarkets, delicatessens and farm shops).
- Soy Sauce – Standard soy sauce contains wheat so it is essential that you use Japanese Tamari which is gluten free. Look for a bottle that is either clearly labelled ‘gluten free’ or check the ingredients label carefully.
- Corn Flour (or a suitable alternative) is used in place of wheat flour as the thickener for making the Béchamel Cheese Sauce.
As is always good practice, I would recommend checking the labels for any processed ingredients to make sure there is no unexpected or hidden gluten contained within. If you are new to label reading, check out my page Coeliac Disease + Food for a guide on what to look out for when label reading.
Is Lasagne hard to make?
Lasagne (whether meat or vegetable) is not ‘hard’ to make at all… But it is time-consuming because of the need to make two different sauces before layering with the pasta.
Actually though, making the sauces themselves is pretty quick and easy. The time-consuming bit is doing the prep… Chopping the vegetables and grating the cheese. Once that’s done, it’s plain sailing.
The vegetable sauce is as easy as pie… A simple case of frying up the chopped veg in a big saucepan, adding the liquids and simmering to reduce.
Making the cheese sauce requires making a ‘roux’. It sounds like a very ‘cheffy’ thing and therefore complicated… But it’s not. I promise… Providing you follow the instructions in the recipe… Add the milk VERY slowly, mixing well between each addition to blend it fully with the flour paste… And KEEP STIRRING for the whole time when heating it back up to thicken… Then it should be super-smooth.
Get ahead with the prep…
There are things you can do ahead of time!
- Chop the vegetables ready – And store them in airtight containers in the batched order they need to be added.
- Toast the pine nuts – (Just try not to eat them all before you prepare the lasagne… they are very ‘snackable’).
- Make the vegetable sauce completely – And store it in the fridge until ready to make the lasagne. It’s fine to layer with the sauce cold!
- Grate the cheese – And keep it in the fridge until ready to make the Béchamel cheese sauce.
- Make the whole lasagne up to 2 days before – And store it (covered) in the fridge ready to bake. When ready to cook, add an extra 5 to 10 minutes baking time to compensate for the extra cold ingredients.
What’s the best Gluten Free Pasta for making Vegetable Lasagne?
I’ll be honest, gluten free lasagne pasta sheets vary massively from one make to another. There are some amazing and equally nasty ones out there. Some are too thick or too dense… Others too grainy or ‘pappy’… Some require ‘pre-cooking’ or ‘pre-soaking’ and others can be layered in the lasagne and cooked from dry sheets. But there are also some which are fabulous and perfectly Italian both for texture and ‘chew’.
So how do you know if you have decent lasagne sheets? In reality, you don’t unless you try them. And people’s expectations vary. As an Italian at heart and having grown up eating great pasta that was always from Italy, I have high expectations and prefer my lasagne pasta to be cooked ‘al dente’ (ie. not hard and not too soft either). Ultimately, how you cook it is probably the most important thing (check out my best tips below).
Either way… I ALWAYS use a good Italian brand and ALWAYS a brand that can be used without pre-soaking or pre-cooking. My favourites that are reasonably priced? ↓↓
- La Buona Vita – From Pasta Lensi (available from Ocado)
- Granoro – Which I’ve managed to pick up from the occasional farm shop
- Barilla – which I recently spotted in Sainsbury’s
I’ve used all of these for my Vegetable Lasagne successfully. Alternatively… For the BEST lasagne, make your own Gluten Free Pasta with my amazing recipe. It’s easier than you think!
Thoughts Gluten Free Lasagne Pasta Sheets…
First off (and having read a plethora of reviews where people have failed to make gluten free lasagne successfully)… Lasagne pasta should not need either pre-cooking or pre-soaking to get a good result. It should also be fine to overlap at the edges without leading to ‘hard’ uncooked patches. These factors are important!
Pre-cooking gluten free lasagne leaves it REALLY tricky to layer and it’s REALLY hard to pre-cook as individual sheets that don’t end up sticking together. For those who have battled long and hard with gluten free pasta, you’ll also know that the slightest ‘over-cooking’ can lead to pasta that disintegrates into something both unusable and inedible.
While soaking gluten free lasagne may seem an ‘easier’ option, it can also result in stuck-together sheets and a tricky layering conundrum.
Let’s be honest… Both options are a faff and are likely to put you off making gluten free lasagne ever again…
Tips for cooking gluten free Vegetable Lasagne perfectly
So… here are a few tips that will (hopefully) make making gluten free Vegetable Lasagne more consistent and successful for you…
- Choose a good brand of pasta that has always worked for you and stick with it. (See my pasta notes above).
- Use lasagne sheets that don’t require pre-cooking or soaking. This should be clear in the cooking instructions or on the packing as something like ‘no pre-cooking required’.
- Before you start layering the lasagne, put a couple of tablespoons of water in the base of the dish and start with a thin ‘wet’ layer of vegetable sauce before adding any pasta sheets. This ensures that steam will permeate up through the layers as the lasagne bakes, helping to cook the pasta. The use of vegetable sauce at the base raises the first lasagne sheet slightly so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom and can also benefit from the steam.
- Layer the pasta sheets with a good layer of vegetarian sauce. While the sauce shouldn’t be ‘too wet’ or ‘too dry’, the moisture needs to be enough to ‘feed’ the cooking of the pasta so that it becomes soft and succulent. Not skimping the sauce will ensure enough liquid to do so.
- Cook your vegetarian lasagne for the full 40 to 45 minutes to allow the necessary cooking time. If you get towards the end of the bake and the pasta looks like it is browning more than you want, either cover it with some foil or turn the oven down by 10 degrees.
What are the best Vegetables for Vegetarian Lasagne?
The vegetables I use in my legendary Vegetarian Lasagne recipe are many and varied… Picked for their contrasting colour, flavour and texture. They work perfectly in combination and have been chosen to complement each other.
Aubergine brings softness… Baby corn adds crunch… Mushrooms offer a little earthiness… Courgettes a hint of subtle ‘bitterness’…And peppers and tomatoes bring sunshine sweetness and colour. Alongside these are plenty of onions and garlic for depth and richness… All seasoned with a sprinkle of oregano, thyme and basil to achieve Mediterranean perfection.
Of course, as far as vegetables go, there are really no hard and fast rules. If there is something you don’t like, leave it out… If there’s something you wish to add, throw it in. Just make sure all the veg is chopped nice and small so that it caramelises when sautéed for flavour intensity… And so that it layers evenly in the lasagne.
The ‘secret’ ingredients that (probably) make my Vegetable Lasagne ‘legendary’
When making Vegetable Lasagne, I always add a couple of ‘secret’ ingredients. I suspect it is these that have taken it to ‘stardom’… They are a…
- Splash of soy sauce (gluten free Tamari)…
- Dollop of honey
- Sprinkle of toasted pine nuts
These three are (together) game-changers… The depth of flavour, subtle honey-sweetness and earthy nuttiness are simply divine and bring a little magic to the dish.
Gluten free Béchamel cheese sauce
Making a gluten free Béchamel cheese sauce is more straightforward than its reputation deserves. Just make sure you follow the instructions carefully.
The usual mistakes for the Béchamel are to add the milk to the cooked flour and butter paste too quickly/too much at a time (it needs to be added in tiny amounts until the paste has become watery)… Or, to forget to stir the sauce when it is cooked and thickened on the hob. Both of these mistakes will lead to lumps forming.
In terms of the best cheese to use, this is again flexible, as long as the cheese melts well. I usually use Mature Cheddar or a combination of Cheddar and Parmesan. But there are lots of options for you to choose from dependent on strength and ‘notes’ of flavour and/or the colour you want to achieve.
How to layer Vegetable Lasagne
Layering the two sauces with the lasagne pasta is pretty straightforward. Whether making meat or vegetable lasagne, the basic order is usually the same.
To make sure the gluten free lasagne sheets cook properly (as noted above), I would advise starting with a couple of tablespoons of water and a thin layer of vegetable sauce in the base of the dish.
Follow this (from the bottom up) with a layer of lasagne sheets (very slightly overlapped to avoid ‘gaps’)… a good layer of vegetable sauce… then a layer of cheese sauce… before the next layer of pasta. Continue for a further layer or two, but when you reach the last layer of pasta, cover it with a thick(ish) layer of cheese sauce only (no vegetables).
A note on how much sauce to layer…
Some lasagne recipes appear to layer very sparsely with sauce between pasta. And while this may allow for a greater number of layers (and arguably, greater stability of each slice), I personally like my sauce layers to be more substantial. The additional moisture from more sauce may also be a ‘failsafe’ to ensuring the pasta cooks properly too.
But ultimately the choice is yours… For me, the choice between plenty of filling and definitely cooked pasta vs the risk of a possibly ‘collapsed’ slice, is an easy decision. After all, lasagne is (and always should be) a messy, ‘comfort’ affair.
Made my legendary Vegetable Lasagne?
I hope you love my Vegetable Lasagne. Do come back and let me know if you make it. You can leave a comment at the bottom, contact me on social media (Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest), or rate the recipe. And if you have any further questions just ping me an email and ask.
All of our recipes are shared with the gluten free community for free and with my love.
- chopping board
- sharp vegetable knife
- rectangular oven proof dish (approx 30cm/12 inches by 20 cm/8 inches)
- large saucepan x2
- oven + hob
- 200 g lasagne sheets gluten free as required (aprox weight) – See NOTES
- 2 tbsp olive oil (approx)
- 1 small brown onion – finely chopped
- 1 small red onion – finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic – crushed
- 2 small bell peppers red/yellow/orange – small rough chopped
- 120 g baby corn – cut into 1 cm lengths
- 1 medium courgette – thinly sliced
- 1 small aubergine – cut into small cubes
- 120 g button mushrooms cut into halves/quarters (dependent on size)
- 40 g pine nuts – toasted
- 140 g concentrated tomato purée (1 small tin)
- 1 tbsp gluten free soy sauce (Tamari)
- 2 tbsp runny honey
- 400 g tinned chopped tomatoes (1 standard tin)
- 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
- ¾ tsp dried thyme or 2 teaspoons fresh finely chopped
- ¾ tsp dried oregano or 1 tablespoon fresh finely chopped
- large handful chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried
- good grind black pepper – to taste
- sea salt – to taste
Cheese Béchamel Sauce
- 40 g butter
- 40 g corn starch (UK cornflour) = 4 tablespoons approx
- 620 ml milk
- 200 g mature cheddar cheese – grated (or Cheddar and Parmesan or alternative meltable cheese)
- good grind black pepper – to taste
- a little extra grated cheddar and black pepper to sprinkle on top
- Prepare a large (approx 30cm/12 inches by 20 cm/8 inches) glass or ceramic oven-proof dish by lightly greasing with butter or olive oil.
- Prepare the vegetables and herbs (chopping etc) ready for cooking, and toast the pine nuts either in a hot oven or under a grill for a few minutes (keeping a close eye to ensure they don’t burn).
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onions over a low-medium heat for a few minutes until they soften.
- Add the garlic and stir through, continuing to fry.
- Next add the peppers, baby corn, courgette and aubergine and continue to cook for several minutes, stirring intermittently, until lightly caramelised.
- Finally add the mushrooms and pine nuts and cook for 3 to 4 minutes more.
- Add the tomato purée and soy sauce and stir through.
- Allow to cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently and then add the honey and stir through.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, herbs and salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir thoroughly and then leave to simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to allow the flavours to mingle and the sauce to reduce slightly. (Pre tip: Make the cheese sauce while the vegetable sauce cooks)
- When ready, turn off the heat and set aside until ready to prepare the lasagne.
Cheese Béchamel Sauce (prep while the veg sauce is simmering)
- In a large saucepan, gently melt the butter over a low heat.
- Add the corn starch and continuing to stir, allow to cook through for 30 seconds or so.
- Remove from the heat.
- Add a tiny drop of milk at a time, stirring thoroughly until incorporated (don’t worry if at first it looks a little grainy. As more milk is added, it should become smooth).
- Once all the milk is added, return the pan to the hob over a LOW heat and stirring continuously, very gradually bring the sauce to a simmer. It should thicken into a smooth, even sauce.
- Remove from the heat and add the cheese and seasoning and continue to stir until the cheese has melted and blended.
- Set aside, but stir occasionally to avoid a skin forming while the lasagne is layered.
- Add a couple of tablespoons of water and a very thin layer of vegetable sauce to the bottom of the prepared oven-proof dish.
- Place a layer of lasagne sheets on top of this.
- Top with a generous layer of vegetable sauce, followed by a layer of cheese sauce. (see NOTES)
- Next add another layer of lasagne followed by layers of vegetable sauce and cheese sauce.
- If there is sauce remaining, add a further set of layers, but ensure enough cheese sauce is left to add a reasonably thick layer at the top.
- Finish the lasagne with a layer of lasagne followed by cheese sauce only.
- Top with a good sprinkle of cheese and a good grind of black pepper.
- Bake immediately or later : Pre-heat your oven to 200 C/400 F/Gas 6 and bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the lasagne is soft and bubbling hot and the cheese is melted and golden.
- Enjoy on its own, with salad or with garlic bread.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist