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Squash and swiss chard lasagne

The perfect vegetarian alternative to a traditional lasagne, this squash and swiss chard recipe by Rowley Leigh is a deliciously hearty winter meal
Simon Bajada

This ticks a lot of boxes for a vegetarian lasagne recipe and is easy to prepare in advance and good for large numbers – either as a main in its own right or as a side dish. I like to make it the day before eating. You will need a rectangular deep oven dish, about 18 x 28cm and 6-8cm high.


For the squash and chard

1 squash (such as butternut, onion or hubbard) about 1kg
8 cloves
2 star anise
10 black peppercorns
1tsp allspice
½tsp nutmeg
4tbsp olive oil
100g amaretti biscuits
100ml double cream
1kg Swiss chard with thick white stems
1 lemon, juice and finely grated zest

For the béchamel sauce

100g unsalted butter
60g plain flour
500ml milk
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves
2 bay leaves
150ml double cream

For the lasagne

300g dry lasagne sheets
50g Parmesan, grated
  1. Method

    Step 1

    To cook the squash mixture, heat the oven to 200°C/fan oven 180°C/mark 6. Halve the squash, remove the seeds and cut into eight segments. Grind the cloves, star anise and peppercorns in a spice grinder or mortar and mix with the allspice and nutmeg. Sprinkle the flesh of the squash on a baking tray with the spices, season generously with salt and sprinkle with 2tbsp olive oil. Roast the squash in the oven for 1½ hours or until tender. When cooled, scoop the flesh off the skin and blend in a food processor with the amaretti biscuits and cream. The purée should retain a bit of texture.

    Step 2

    Wash the chard well before pulling the leaves off the white stalks. Cut the stalks diagonally into 5mm slices and toss in the lemon juice and zest. Cut the leaves into thick ribbons. Heat 2tbsp olive oil in a wide sauté pan or similar and add the stalks with ½tsp salt. Cook on a moderate heat until they start to wilt and soften. Add the shredded leaves and cook for five minutes, so the leaves wilt but remain a bright green. Drain in a colander.

    Step 3

    To make the sauce, melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to make a sandy roux. After 2 minutes, add a small amount of the milk and stir well to make a smooth paste. Add the remaining milk and, changing to a wire whisk, stir very well until the mixture comes to a simmer. Season with a good 1tsp salt and add the onion, cloves and bay leaves, and then simmer very gently for 20-30

    Step 4

    minutes, taking care that the sauce does not catch. (I usually diffuse the heat with the help of a cast-iron frying pan.) Add the double cream and then strain the sauce into a bowl.

    Step 5

    To bring it all together, pour a thin layer of the white sauce on the bottom of the dish and then

    Step 6

    a layer of uncooked lasagne sheets. Cover with half the chard mixture and then pour over another quarter of the sauce. Cover with lasagne sheets and then half the squash mixture. Cover with more lasagne, then the remainder of the chard, some more of the white sauce, then more lasagne, more squash, more lasagne and – finally – the remainder of the white sauce.

    Step 7

    Sprinkle with Parmesan and then cover with foil. Bake in a medium-hot oven (200°C/fan oven 180°C/mark 6) for 20 minutes before reducing to 170°C/fan oven 150°C/mark 3 and cooking for another 30 minutes. Turn the oven up to 220°C/fan oven 200°C/mark 7, remove the foil and give the lasagne a final burnishing to a golden brown. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.