Zucchini, Speck and Tomato Lasagna

Lasagna is such a versatile food that can be adapted to use whatever you have available as long as you can bring out the best in the flavours of your ingredients.

In this case the humble zucchini was the central ingredient. As it is generally such a mild vegetable there was the possibility of it being overwhelmed with the bechamel sauce and cheese. So I have layered the flavours of garlic, sweet caramelized mini Roma tomatoes and the smokey flavour of speck into the olive oil.

Lightly frying the zucchini slices in this flavoured oil gives them an extra depth of flavour that works well in this dish. The tomatoes and smoked speck marry perfectly with the zucchini.

The resulting lasagna brings bursts of flavour with each mouthful of rich creamy pasta.

Zucchini, Speck and Tomato Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1 large zucchini, cut lengthwise into thin slices
  • 5 slices of smoked speck, cut into lardons or thin strips
  • 12 baby Roma tomatoes ( or regular cut into small pieces
  • 2 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablsp olive oil
  • Barilla lasagna sheets
  • 500mls whole milk
  • 60 g butter
  • 1/3 cup plain flour
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Romano or Parmesan cheese finely grated (Romano has a sharper flavour) 1/4 cup for the Bechamel sauce and enough to scatter over each layer of the lasagna

Method:

1. Pre-heat oven to 180C and line a lasagna dish with a strip of doubled over baking paper to fit the bottom of the dish and overhang the sides at each end. (This makes lifting out the lasagna so easy if baked ahead and refrigerated)

2. Prepare the zucchini, tomato and smoked speck

3. In a large saucepan place 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a small knob of butter, over a medium heat

4. When the butter foams, add the crushed garlic and cook four a minute or so pushing the cloves around the saucepan to flavour the oil and remove if browning too quickly

5. Place the halved Roma tomatoes into the oil and cook gently for about 5 minutes until they soften and caramelise then set aside

6. Add the smoked speck strips and fry until they are rendered of their fat and golden then set them aside

7. In batches fry the zucchini pieces in the flavoured oil until they are well coloured and remove to a dish lined with kitchen paper. You can place the pieces of crushed garlic piece over the top of the zucchini as they cook but not allowing them to burn.

8. Now the elements of the lasagna are ready, prepare the bechamel sauce

9. In a heavy based deep pan, melt the butter on a low heat till bubbling
10. Remove from the heat then make a roux by whisking in the flour, mixing well and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper
11. Return to the heat and cook for one minute
12. Using the whisk, add the milk all at once, whisking well to dissolve the roux
13. Keep stirring over a medium heat until the mixture comes to the boil then lower the heat and continue cooking till the mixture is thickened
14. Take off the hotplate, stir in 1/4 cup of grated Romano cheese,  a pinch of nutmeg and cover

Assembling the Lasagna:

1.Lay some of the zucchini pieces over the lined base of the lasagna dish and dust with freshly ground black pepper

3. Place spoonfuls of Bechamel over the zucchini and spread evenly over the top

4. Then cover the dish with a layer of lasagna sheets

5. Spread some more of the Bechamel sauce over the top and place some of the zucchini pieces over it

6. Scatter some of the tomatoes and smoked speck lardons to fill in the spaces

5. Scatter over some grated Romano cheese and dust with freshly ground black pepper

6. Cover with another layer of lasagna sheets

7. Continue alternating layers of lasagne sheets then bechamel, zucchini, speck, tomatoes, grated cheese and freshly ground pepper in this manner

8. When the dish is filled, end with a final layer of Bechamel sauce

7. Scatter with some tomatoes, sprinkle over grated Romano cheese and dust with freshly ground black pepper

8. Place the lasagna in the pre-heated oven at 180 C and bake for 30 minutes, check to see that is well coloured, then cover loosely with foil and cook for a further 10 minutes

9. When the lasagna is cooked and well browned remove from the oven and rest for 10 minutes before serving

10. Serve with a green garden salad and some crusty sourdough bread and enjoy this different zucchini based lasagna

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