Aubergine, yellow pepper, pesto and ricotta lasagne


"It's really yummy, you should try some." Big bro to his little sis when I served this up. It was music to my ears!

Facing constant rejection of what you cook for your child's dinner can be exhausting/upsetting/demoralising/frustrating/stressful/worrying (delete as appropriate) for parents. There are days when I'm sorely tempted to just put another batch of fish fingers and chips in the oven - because at least then they'll have full tummies and there won't be any moaning. In fact, I do that at least once a week, sometimes more, just to give myself a break. Although my two's eating habits are generally moving in the right direction, they could both still be called fussy or picky eaters (although I don't describe them as such when they're in earshot), especially when it comes to vegetables. Serving up peas, beans or sweetcorn with the aforementioned fish fingers usually results in two or three peas etc being eaten and the rest ending up in the bin. I witness friends' children gobbling up their veg in amazement - we know one child who eats all his veg and leaves the fish fingers - and whose favourite snack is sliced raw peppers! Such behaviour by my children would probably result in tears of joy from me.

Lasagne, although not the favourite meal of Little Miss R, usually gets eaten by her big bro and after an initial complaint she usually tucks in as well. It's so easy to hide as many vegetables as you like in a lasagne as well by puréeing the sauce, although this time I only puréed half of it as I'm trying to get them used to vegetables appearing in their meals. I've made a vegetable lasagne before - even sneaking kale into it. This time I wanted to find a use for an aubergine that was starting to look a bit past its best and also experiment with ricotta, which I'd never given to the kids before. The result? Well, I had to scrape all the ricotta off for a certain four-year-old before he'd contemplate eating the lasagne but he gobbled up the rest including homemade pesto, aubergines, peppers and tomato sauce. Which I consider a success. The little one ate the lot, ricotta and all.

1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 aubergine, sliced into 1cm pieces and then cut into a semi-circle shape
2 yellow peppers, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
9 lasagne sheets, pre-soaked in water for five minutes if necessary (this makes it softer when it cooks, you don't need to do this if you're using fresh lasagne sheets)
1 x 250g tub of ricotta
1/2 jar of basil pesto, homemade or shop bought

For the cheese sauce
25g butter
25g plain flour
1 pint (600ml) milk
100g grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the onion, garlic, aubergine and pepper in an oven proof dish. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss well. Roast for around 40 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Stir occasionally to ensure that they cook evenly.

When soft, stir in the chopped tomatoes and oregano and place back in the oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and then purée half or all of the vegetables into a sauce if desired. Feel free to skip this stage if you don't feel it's necessary.

Next, make the cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Stir in the plain flour until it forms a paste, then whisk in the milk. Cook gently, stirring constantly until thickened into a sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in most of the the grated cheese, reserving some for the top of the lasagne.

Place half the vegetable sauce in an oven proof dish. Cover with three of the lasagne sheets. Spread over the ricotta and add dollops of pesto. Cover with three more lasagne sheets. Spread over the rest of the vegetable sauce. Cover once more with lasagne sheets and pour the cheese sauce all over the top, ensuring that all the pasta is covered. Sprinkle your reserved grated cheese on the top and bake for 25-30 minutes until the lasagne is cooked through and the sauce is golden and bubbling.

I'm entering this into Recipe of the Week hosted over at A Mummy Too.