Farinata Lasagne with Creamy Spinach & Roasted Squash {gluten-free recipe}

Farinata Lasagne with Creamy Spinach & Roasted Squash {gluten-free recipe}

Homemade lasagne is one of the most glorious of comfort dishes to both prepare and eat. On a dreich and blustery day, pulling out the hand-crank pasta machine, turning its spindly handle and processing a lump of dough into silky sheets of pasta is a deeply satisfying and quite magical experience.

Not much can touch the original form and function of a basic lasagne, those layers of slippery pasta cradling rich tomato sauce and holding a cap of burnished béchamel. You just want to dive right in – never mind the manners. For some, the sauce holds nuggets of seasoned beef and sauce. While yours and mine may be full of slow-cooked and blitzed vegetables. All delicious, I’m sure. But I feel for those who can’t or wish not to eat gluten.

There are of course gluten-free pasta recipes around (and here), but they seem to require a number of ingredients that people often find difficult to obtain. And one really needs to be a fairly experienced home cook to achieve the kind of silky-smooth texture and mouthfeel that would-be pasta lovers deserve (I’m still fairly amateur at pasta making). Making good pasta takes practice, whether from wheat flour, or the amalgamation of tapioca, guar gum, xanthan, potato starch, rice flour etc (isn’t your mouth watering?😉 ). It is probably worth giving it a go if you are gluten-intolerant as the bought stuff is often a bit yuck.

However, if you want to have a nirvanic lasagne experience with a lot less hassle, I may just be able to help: chickpea pancakes.

Farinata in Italian, socca in French, chickpea pancakes are a really fabulous four-ingredient whole food alternative to pasta sheets. The flour used – often called gram flour or besan flour – is easier to find than xanthan or tapioca flour as it is a staple ingredient in Asian cooking. I always keep a wee bag on hand to quickly whip up some pancakes if I have leftover vegetables, to dunk into shakshuka, or even if I just fancy them with a smear of tapenade and some spiralised courgettes (as you do). The pancakes are also naturally vegan so can be added to any vegan lasagne recipe that you have. Today’s lasagne recipe can easily be made vegan by swapping the called-for ricotta/cottage cheese for cashew ricotta cheese, and using something like Daiya mozzarella-style shreds on the top. No tricky béchamel to make either.

The pancakes themselves are very straight-forward and can either be made up a day or so ahead of time and kept in the fridge, or the batter made the day before and just whisked up and dolloped into a hot lightly oiled pan. Here is the recipe. You will see that I have used them in another lasagne, a warm-weather lasagne, for when the sky is not dreich and threatening to snow. Although I can’t really say “roll on summer”. I will say, “roll on lasagne weather”: I am ready for you!

Farinata Lasagne with Creamy Spinach & Roasted Squash {gluten-free recipe}Servings: 6-8

Difficulty: moderate

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Can I call this lasagne if it doesn’t have pasta? I don’t know, but what I do know is that those who think it is lasagne have happily tucked in and cleared their plates. That’s got to count for something, right? Although the naturally gluten-free and low-carb chickpea pancakes (farinata/socca) are a doddle to make, please use pasta sheets, or even loose slippery coils of cooked spaghetti if you can’t get your head around making the pancakes. Try and grab an end slice for yourself to enjoy the delightful crispy edge.

Just to give you fair warning this, like all homemade lasagne, is rather labour-intensive affair, but I really think it is worth the time and effort. You can make all of the fillings, and even the farinatas ahead of time, storing in the fridge for a couple of days until you wish to assemble and bake the lasagne. It also freezes very well so make a double batch and keep one for a time when you want something deeply comforting but have no energy to prepare a nourishing and satisfying meal from scratch. This would make a wonderful gift to a new mum or someone going through cancer treatment. xx

**You will need: 1 medium-sized cast-iron skillet or round ceramic/Pyrex dish (my skillet is 10.5 inch/27.5cm); one-two saucepans, 1 sauté pan (if not using a skillet), several mixing bowls, baking tray, hand blender (ideally) or blender/food processor**

2 quantities of farinata/socca batter

1 small-medium butternut squash (or other winter squash) – about 500g prepared weight – peeled, deseeded and chopped OR equivalent frozen squash pieces

Tomato Sauce

2 tbsp + 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil – divided use (some for squash)

Ingredients

  • 3 medium leeks, finely sliced and chopped – divided use OR 1 ½ large sweet onions (some for squash)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced – divided use (some for squash)
  • 1 large carrot, very finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, very finely chopped
  • ½ red or orange pepper, very finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted and crushed
  • 15g fresh basil, torn (save a few nice leaves for garnish if you wish)
  • 400g spinach leaves, wilted in a little water, drained, pressed of water and finely chopped OR equivalent frozen spinach
  • 1 tsp powdered vegetable stock (optional)
  • 50g sharp organic Cheddar cheese or vegetarian hard Italian cheese, grated
  • 1 ball organic mozzarella, torn or sliced – optional
  • 1 palmful of dry-cure black olives, stones out and torn – optional
Read the whole recipe on food to glow