Recipe #15/20: Lentil Lasagna!

Semi-exciting news on the lentil diversity front! When I went to the co-op to pick up more lentils, (I was running low on green) I found……French green lentils! Also known as Puy lentils, they are a little smaller than traditional green lentils, but look way cooler. They are also supposed to have a richer flavor. Technically, these are not Puy lentils as they were grown in Canada and not one of the few regions in France that reserve the Puy lentil title according to the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, but they are the same botanical variety. Now I just need to get my hands on some black beluga lentils before this project is done.


As for the lasagna: sadly, the lentils compose only the sauce of the lasagna, not the noodles themselves. I would like to try to make lentil pasta as one of the remaining recipes, but this week I just do not have the time. For those of you who don’t know, I am currently in the process of applying to graduate school for a Ph.D. in bioengineering. There are twelve schools I am applying to and as application deadlines are roaring closer, it is tough to make time for super-diverse applications. Perhaps this weekend I’ll think of something. On a fun, related note though, I did talk about this project in my personal statement in my applications, comparing my interest in altering lentils into previously unexplored regions to the genetic manipulations conducted in the field of synthetic biology. So if nothing else, at least this project led to an interesting beginning to my application essay.

On to the lasagna! I found this recipe online after a friend suggested that I make lasagna. It is pretty easy and consists of three parts: lentil sauce, cheese sauce and assembly. I highly recommend making it in the order I have put them, rather than the cheese sauce before the lentil sauce as the recipe has because by the time the lentil sauce is ready, the cheese sauce would have become cold and clumpy. I also like baked recipes like this because while it is in the oven, you can do all of the other dishes so that when it is done, there is almost no clean up left! Also, I added Parmesan on top because every lasagna should have that. I mean seriously.

The taste is delicious. The lentils have a very meaty texture which compliments nicely with the softness of the noodles and creaminess of the cheese sauce. And with the weather storming outside last night and the temperatures dropping everywhere, the timing is perfect. The only complaint that I have is that I didn’t give the lasagna box a little rattle before buying it and it wasn’t until I got home that I realized most of the noodles were broken. Still just as tasty though.

Enjoy this recipe and hopefully by the end of this week I’ll have a good number of applications out the door and will be able to start down the home stretch of the Great Lentil Adventure!

(Also, feel free to leave suggestions regarding the next ingredient to try. I’m curious to know what you think.)

Lentil Lasagna
Serves 6 to 8 people

Ingredients

1 12oz. box lasagna noodles
7 oz. (200g) cheese, grated (I used raw sharp chedder)
3 oz. (80g) AP flour
3 cups whole milk
1 oz. (2 Tbsp.) butter
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 bay leaves
7 oz. (200g) green lentils
1 29 oz. can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted for a little extra flavor)
2 onions
1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil
1 Anaheim pepper (though any mildly spicy, green pepper will do)
1 tsp each dried basil and oregano
Salt and black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Lentil sauce
Rinse the lentils and cook in two cups of water for 30 minutes. Finely chop onions and soften on in a large skillet in oil with a bay leaf on medium heat for ten minutes. Add the chopped pepper and cook for a further five minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, cooked lentils, basil, oregano, and season with black pepper. Mix well and simmer gently for another five to ten minutes, stirring regularly.
Cheese sauce
Beat the flour in a small amount of the milk to a smooth, runny, paste in a small bowl. Warm the rest of the milk a little in a saucepan with the remaining bay leaf. Pour some of this warm, but not boiling, milk into the cold milk/flour mix, beating vigorously with a fork. (This is called tempering, in case you wanted to know.) Pour the warm flour/milk mix back into the saucepan containing the remaining warm milk, whisking constantly. Add the butter and bring slowly to a boil, again whisking. Stir the simmering mix for a few minutes, and take off the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste, the nutmeg, and the grated cheese, and stir well until the cheese melts.
Assembly
Butter an oven-proof dish. (I used a large Pyrex dish. I think it is around 17.5″ x 11″ x 2-3″, but anything around that should do.) Spoon a shallow layer of lentil sauce across the bottom. Next, add a single layer of lasagna, covering the sauce. Then, add a layer of cheese sauce followed by another layer of lasagna. Repeat lentil, lasagna, cheese, lasagna until all but the cheese sauce is gone, then finish with the remaining cheese. Finally, cover with grated Parmesan cheese and bake in a 350F oven for 45 minute. Allow to rest at least five minutes before serving. Enjoy!

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