Roast Butternut and Baby Fennel Lasagne

Roast Butternut and Baby Fennel Lasagne

Roast Butternut Pumpkin and Baby Fennel Lasagne

I am a huge fan of traditional Lasagne, this is a very significant departure from traditional lasagne – it is vegetarian for a start and there is no tomato sugo in sight.  By roasting the veg with a little honey the flavours are well rounded and sweet.  Pairing this with sharp feta cheese and semi-dried tomatoes makes for a great combination.  I know the addition of pears seems a little odd, but it really does work.  If you are game, this also works well with blue cheese in place of the cottage cheese.

1 whole butternut pumpkin, quarteredRoast Butternut and baby Fennel Lasagne
3 baby fennel, sliced into thick pieces
2 pears, peeled and sliced into thick pieces
2 tablespoons honey
2 spring onions, sliced
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
3 cloves of garlic, whole
¼ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon caraway seeds

For the filling:

150 grams very sharp feta cheese - low fat works well
50 grams parmesan
100 grams cottage cheese
6 semi-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
Zest of 3 lemons
½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 eggs, beaten
5 cardamom pods, bruised
¼ teaspoon nutmeg or mace
1 packet of lasagne sheets, or homemade lasagne sheets
Sage leaves, parsley and hyssop
50 grams pinenuts
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C

On a large baking tray, lay out the pumpkin, pears, fennel, garlic, spring onions and half the herbs, sprinkle over the cumin, cardamom, caraway seeds, salt and pepper.  Drizzle over the honey, balsamic vinegar and a little oil, roast in a hot oven until the pumpkins are soft and the fennel golden. 

Prepare a lasagne baking tray, greasing the inside well.
If using packaged lasagne sheets lay them in a dish of hot water while you prepare the rest of the lasagne, it will make it a lot easier.  If using soft, fresh lasagne, bring to room temperature to make it easier to mould over the veges.

Mix together the eggs, cottage cheese, tomatoes and herbs with half the feta cheese and half the parmesan cheese. 
Add the nutmeg and plenty of lemon zest.

Spoon out the pumpkin from the skins, and mix together with the breadcrumbs, pieces of pear and fennel.  Spread a thin layer of the pumpkin mix into the bottom of the baking dish, then cover with a few spoons of the cheese mix, then a layer of lasagne sheets.
Continue building up the layers, finishing with a layer of pumpkin.

Top off the top of the lasagne with the reserved pinenuts, feta and parmesan and a good sprinkling of herbs, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
Bake in a hot oven for 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the juices bubble up the sides of the baking dish.
Serve with a green salad, baked fennel and lots of lemon.

Variations: blue cheese is excellent in this lasagne, adding a layer of prosciutto or pancetta is also fabulous.  Adding spinach or roasted peppers is delicious – just ensure all the excess moisture is squeezed out.

Note: it is possible to make this with full-size fennel, it can just be a little tougher, so wrap the fennel bulb in foil to roast it, adding a few garlic cloves and a little lemon and honey to the package to keep it moist and sweet.