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Recipe: Zelda's Devrani Lasagne

May 23, 2023 13:05 IST
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Lasagne, made from pasta layers, when prepared right is one of the best pasta dishes to tuck into -- hearty, fragrant, juicy, with so many flavours and textures, it's a dinner fit for a king.

Lasagne, or lasagna, has evolved over the centuries, with each part of Italy choosing to stuff something different under the pasta sheets. And then lasagne travelled across the Atlantic to the 'New World' and the Italian-American varieties are often cheesier and heavier than the original dish.

The most important point to remember while making lasagne is that you do not have to cook the sheets separately and then put the dish together for baking. Uncooked dry sheets are baked with the layers of sauce and magically cook to just tender.

Keeping this in mind, the sauces you choose should be juicy enough to allow the sheets to steam cook in the oven.

Also try to use a deep enough and large enough dish (but should fit in your oven or a microwave with a convection setting) to bake the lasagne in, so you get to add enough layers. Or else use several smaller, deep one-serving dishes.

I make a three or four types of lasagne. They all have two layers of spinach with paneer/ricotta, a few layers plain Bechamel white sauce and a top thinnish layer of cheese.

I vary the third sauce making either a tomato-based red sauce or vegetable-based white sauce or something else.

This recipe uses a vegetarian red sauce. You can put your choice of vegetables or meat (mince or sausage pieces or salami slices in it) or use the vegetables I chose.

The lasagne will therefore have five components, alternating through the layers: A thick vegetable-packed red tomato sauce, spinach-paneer/ricotta, a plain Bechamel white sauce, lasagne sheets and cheese.

It is cheaper to make your own lasagne sheets at home but slightly more tedious and tricky.

A dish with five components and many layers sounds daunting. It's not really and the finished product is most definitely worth the effort and will fill your home with a yummy fragrance.

Lasagne, like biryani, often tastes better the next day and can also be half-baked, cooled wrapped well in its dish with foil and plastic wrap and frozen to be eaten another day.

Zelda's Lasagne

Photograph: Zelda Pande

Devrani Lasagne

Serves: 7-8 or more


For the tomato-based sauce

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 large, juicy tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1 medium-sized baingan or eggplant or brinjal, cut into 1-cm cubes
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, peeled, grated
  • 1 red capsicum or bell pepper, deseeded, cored, chopped into 1-cm squares
  • 2 large red onions, finely chopped
  • 10 pods garlic, crushed or minced
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1-2 tej patta or bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly-crushed black pepper powder
  • 4-5 tsp Tabasco
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp jaggery or kokum syrup or honey
  • Water

For the Bechamal white sauce

  • 3-4 stalks spring onions, white and greens chopped separately
  • ½ tsp freshly-crushed black pepper powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp maida or white flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup water

For the paneer-spinach layer

  • 200 gm quality paneer or ricotta cheese, crumbled or mashed with a fork
  • 1 bundle or 200-250 gm spinach, chopped, boiled, cooled
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly-crushed black pepper powder

For the cheese layer

  • 150-200 gm grated cheese, Amul mozzarella or cheddar will do fine (not too much cheese or the lasagne will become too heavy on the stomach)

For the lasagne sheet layer

  • 15-18 sheets uncooked sheets (please see the note below)
  • A large glasss baking dish, 12 inches x 6 inches and 2 inches deep

Devrani Lasagne

Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/


For the tomato-based sauce

  • In a large saucepan or thick-bottomed kadhai, saute the onions in the olive oil for 4-5 minutes over medium heat.
    Then add the garlic and the eggplant, mix, and fry 4-5 minutes more till eggplant is nearly cooked.
    Next the red capsicum and the chopped parsley, mix, fry for another 4-5 minutes.
  • Then add the tomatoes, salt, tej patta, half of the chopped basil, black pepper powder, vinegar, jaggery, Tabasco, ½ to ¾ cup water, mix, and cook for 15-20 minutes on first medium heat and then simmer over low heat, mashing the tomatoes and vegetables occasionally with masher, adding more water if needed, so the sauce comes together. and you have a thick juicy sauce.
  • Take off heat, add more salt if required, add the grated carrot and the rest of the basil and mix.
    Keep aside.

For the Bechamel white sauce.

  • In a thick-bottomed saucepan, saute the white of the spring onions with the butter over low heat for 3-4 minutes.
    Add the flour and saute 3-4 minutes more till you get a slurry or roux that is golden brown.
  • Add the water, milk, salt, pepper and whisk to remove lumps, and bring it to a boil over low heat.
    Do not allow it to thicken too much because you need a thinnish white sauce.
  • Take off heat and ad the parsely and the chopped greens of the spring onions.
    Keep aside.

For the paneer-spinach layer

  • Mix the lightly-boiled spinach with the crumbled and mashed paneer or ricotta (you can also use a mixture of both ricotta and paneer too if you like) and add salt and pepper.
    Keep aside.


  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
  • Spoon one layer of 6-7 tbsp of the tomato-vegetable sauce into the glass baking dish and spread evenly on the bottom.
    Add one layer of lasagne sheets over it ie spread 3-4 sheets in a line covering the sauce completely (break/trim the sheets to fit and avoid too much overlapping).
    Spoon half of the paneer-spinach mixture over the pasta sheets and spread to cover the sheets.
    Then pour 1/3 of the white sauce over this layer and spread to cover the layer below completely.
    Add the next layer of lasagne sheets over it ie spread 3-4 sheets in a line covering the sauce completely.
    Then spoon another layer of the tomato-vegetable sauce and spread evenly across the sheets.
    Add the third layer of lasagne sheets over it ie spread 3-4 sheets in a line covering the sauce completely.
    Spoon the rest of the paneer-spinach mixture over the pasta sheets and spread evenly.
    Then pour 1/3 more of the white sauce over this layer and spread to cover the layer below completely.
    If the depth of your dish permits it, add the final layer of lasagne sheets over it -- spread 3-4 sheets in a line covering the sauce completely.
    Add any remaining tomato-vegetable sauce and spread evenly.
    Then pour the last 1/3 of the white sauce over this layer and spread to cover the layer below completely.
  • And finally as the top layer, spread the cheese evenly.
    Bake in a 200 °C oven for about 40 minutes till the cheese becomes a pinkish-red crust on top.
  • Take out carefully from the oven using gloves or a thick kitchen towel (the lasagne contains a lot of hot juices inside so carry it straight and with caution) and serve hot.

Zelda's Note: Make a point to invest in good quality lasagne sheets. They can be purchased online or found in a fancier grocery store.
After making this dish which is enough to feed 7-8 or more, you are still going to have leftover uncooked sheets. Store them well, in their original box, taped shut, then wrapped in plastic in the fridge, to protect them from moisture and bugs, handy for your next lasagne project or alternately break them into smaller strips and use in a dish that calles for wide noodles -- tagliatelle or pappardelle like Harrods' Wild Mushroom Papparadelle or Tagliatelle With Fresh Vegetables or Herbed Wide Noodle Alfredo.

Balsamic vinegar has a special taste, nothing like regular vinegar and can be easily purchased online or in grocery stores that sell gourmet food.

Ricotta cheese is not always easy to find but is made by several Indian companies and stocked in stores selling a variety of cheeses. It is slightly sweeter, creamier and softer than paneer. Paneer can do just as well, especially homemade paneer!

Other possible additions to the tomato-vegetable sauce: Half a zucchini, skin on, chopped, or a handful of small broccoli florets, instead of eggplant or a bit of both or all.
A ¼ cup chopped mushrooms.
Green or yellow capsicum or bell pepper instead of red.
A ½ cup full-bodied red wine instead of balsamic vinegar.
A dash of jaiphal or nutmeg powder. A dash of dried oregano powder. 1-2 tsp fresh thyme.

For making lasagne with mince, use the same tomato-vegetable sauce recipe, cutting back in quantity on the eggplant and the carrots and add 250 gm chicken or mutton kheema or mince with less than 1 cup water before you add the tomatoes and simmer till the kheema is somewhat cooked and then add the tomatoes, more water and simmer further for 15 minutes or more till the tomatoes have blended. 

Lasagne can be made without the top cheese layer for a weight-watcher's or vegan version and an equivalent amount of mashed tofu instead of paneer/ricotta can be used in the spinach layer. The white sauce can be made with extra virgin olive oil instead of butter.

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