I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t love lasagna. And note that I’ve used the word love, not like. This Italian entree has passed the test of time, and travelled continents, finding welcoming appetites wherever it has landed. Peru is certainly no exception. Italians came from Liguria to Peru by the thousands in the late 1800’s, most of them opening Italian grocery stores in their new country. The change they created in the gastronomy of the time didn’t involve as many new ingredients, as it did new ways of using fresh local vegetables, and a growing tradition of eating all kinds of pasta all the time.
Fast forward a hundred years, and dishes like lasagna are part of the diet of the average Peruvian, and prepared in many different forms. Surprisingly enough, even though Peruvians are enthusiastic meat lovers, I would say vegetarian lasagnas are as popular, or even more so, than the original version with minced beef, tomato and cheese. This is something I’m very happy about, because I get to eat wonderful veggie lasagnas very often when I eat out in Lima, or when I go to friends’ houses.
And if its delicious taste wasn’t reason enough to bake a lasagna on a regular basis, another great thing about it is that you can bake a big tray of it, and you will have food left for several days, because this is the perfect dish to keep in the fridge and reheat as needed. As a kid, I even loved taking it to school in my lunchbox and eating it at room temperature during lunch break. It always felt like a treat!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 small white onions or one large, chopped
- 5 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 zucchini, diced
- 1 box mushrooms, sliced
- Salt and pepper
- 2 ( 12 oz.) can evaporated milk
- 8 rounded tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon butter
- Pasta for Lasagna (No-boil)
- 4 cups mozzarella, grated
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- Heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat, and saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano and bay leaves.
- When the tomatoes start to release their juices, add zucchini and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, turn the heat to low, cover partially, and simmer until the vegetables are tender and very juicy. If there is no juice in the pan, add ½ cup water or white wine.
- In another saucepan, prepare the Bechamel sauce: Bring the milk and 3 cups water, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to a boil. When the milk mixture is boiling turn the heat to medium low, and add the flour dissolved in ½ cup water. Stir constantly until the mixture is thick. Add butter and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring.
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Using a large baking pan, place a layer of lasagna dough, and cover with a layer of vegetables sauce, a layer of Bechamel sauce, and mozzarella. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat the layers and finish with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
- Cover with aluminium foil, and bake for 40 minutes. Take out the foil, and continue baking for 3 minutes or until bubbly and golden.
- Take out of the oven, let rest for 15 minutes, and serve.