This dish is a bit of a show pony in my paleo recipes repertoire. It’s a perfect meal to serve to your non-paleo friends, partners, or fussy kids. It’s so yummy, hearty and filling, they won’t even remember to ask about the missing pasta. Speaking of pasta, I don’t think I can technically call this a lasagna as it’s missing the actual lasagna pasta sheets but it still retains the traditional shape, layers, colours and flavours.
The key to a good lasagna is a tasty, hearty base sauce. I believe this lasagna sauce tastes as good as it does because of the grass-fed beef used in the recipe. I’ve been paying attention to the beef mince sauces I make with grass-fed mince versus regular grain-fed and I can say with outmost certainty that the grass-fed beef based sauces are more delicious. The rest is just good fresh produce and a bit of patience as it does take a little while to assemble all the layers. It’s a good recipe to make on the weekends and you can get you kids or partner involved in preparing all the layers.
For no dairy folks, it’s totally fine to leave out the last layer of ricotta and grated Parmesan. I used those two cheeses as they contain less lactose and ricotta is mostly whey protein as most of the casein is removed during the making of the cheese. You can alternatively make a puree from pre-cooked cauliflower, olive oil and cashews processed until smooth. This can be used as a ‘white cream sauce’ topping.
- 2 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 1¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ghee
- 500g grass-fed beef mince (1.1 lb.)
- ⅔ cup dry red wine
- 3 garlic cloves, finely diced chopped
- ⅔ teaspoon black pepper
- ⅔ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 3 cups tomato passata
- 1 large parsnip, peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 large eggplant, sliced into 1 cm-thick disks (1/2 in.)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoon virgin olive oil
- 5 tablespoons virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons ghee
- ½ cup torn fresh basil leaves
- 5–6 button mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- 3 medium zucchini, sliced vertically into thin ribbons
- 1 ½ cups ricotta cheese (optional)
- 2–3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
- Cherry tomatoes to garnish
- Heat oven to 180°C (355°F). Place a layer of parsnip slices with a little ghee in a deep lasagna tray and pre-bake in the oven for 15 minutes, this will help to soften them slightly before we build the rest of the layers. Set aside
- To make the sauce, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and sauté onion with a pinch of salt for 5-8 minutes, until slightly caramelised. Add 1 tsp of ghee and bring the heat up to high. Break the beef mince and add to the frying pan. Use a spatula or a potato masher (my little trick) to stir and break the mince apart into small pieces, as it tends to clump together during cooking. Cook for about 5–6 minutes, until browned.
- Add red wine, garlic, pepper, paprika and salt to cooking meat and fry for a further 3-4 minutes. Add tomato passata, bring to boil and turn the heat down to simmering temperature. Cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sprinkle eggplant slices with sea salt and set aside for 10 minutes to draw out some of the juices. Rinse and pat dry. Heat the oven back to 180°C (355°F).
- In another frying pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp ghee. Fry the eggplant in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side, until light golden brown. Add more olive oil and ghee as you go along. Set aside, by this stage all our layer ingredients should be ready.
- Take the baking tray out of the oven and start layering the lasagna in the following order: pre-cooked parsnips, ⅓ of tomato meat sauce, eggplant slices, fresh basil leaves, mushrooms, the rest of the meat sauce pressed down evenly, baby spinach, zucchini, drizzle of olive oil and some cracked black pepper. Cook in the oven, at 180°C (355°F), for 35–40 minutes. See step-by-step pictures below. If using ricotta and grated Parmesan cheese, add on top of the lasagna at the 20 minutes cooking-time mark. Increase the heat to 200°C (390°F) for the last 10–15 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil and a few cherry tomatoes. Serve with a side mixed salad.Cook’s notes: Tomato passata is basically a fresh tomato puree but you can use diced tomato instead, just process them into smoother consistency in a food processor or blender.
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