Free-form frypan zucchini, caponata, ricotta and pesto lasagne

Pasta is optional in this rustic lasagne.
Pasta is optional in this rustic lasagne. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Dietary
Vegetarian

Originally this was going to be all zucchini and no pasta, but carbs are my way of life, so they ended up back in there. Omit if you want a low(er) carb version but be aware it will be more free-form as you serve. The pasta (aside from being delicious) also offers a bit of love and support – dinner spanx – to give your comfort eats a necessary bit of structure. For a slightly firmer lasagne, overlap the ripped pieces slightly when arranging them in the frypan.

Ingredients

Pesto

2 cups firmly packed herbs and leaves (I used a mix of basil, mint and kale)

2 cloves garlic

40g nuts (such as smoked almonds)

185ml olive oil

¾ cup parmesan, grated

2-3 tbsp grated pecorino

Caponata

2 red capsicums

1 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic

1 red onion, peeled and chopped

2 eggplants, chopped into 1.5cm cubes

1 x 400g tin crushed tomatoes

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or more to taste)

To assemble

2 lasagne sheets, coarsely torn to fit your frypan

1½ cups ricotta

3 zucchini, shaved lengthways using a vegetable peeler

1 x 125g ball of fresh mozzarella in brine, drained and sliced

salt and pepper

Method

For the pesto, add all ingredients to a blender and blitz to combine. Add more oil if needed, then season generously with salt and pepper. Cover until ready to use. (Leftover pesto will keep for two weeks covered in the fridge.)

For the caponata, line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the capsicums on the tray and roast for 15 minutes or until completely soft and blackened in spots. Allow to cool then peel the skin from the flesh and remove the seeds. Roughly chop the flesh and set aside.

Place a frypan (or saucepan) over medium heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil and the garlic and onion. Cook for one to two minutes or until fragrant. Add the eggplant and cook until soft. Add the chopped, roasted capsicum and the remaining ingredients. Turn the heat to a simmer and cook until it reduces to a jam-like consistency. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. (Leftover caponata will keep covered in the fridge for two weeks.)

Grease a 25cm-diameter ovenproof frypan with olive or ricebran oil and preheat the oven to 180C.

To assemble, layer torn pieces of pasta across the base of the frypan – don't worry about creating a perfect layer. Add dollops of pesto and caponata and generous spoonfuls of ricotta. Layer over slices of zucchini and slices of mozzarella and repeat the process. You want to create loose-ish layers but this is not a traditional layered lasagne. Continue until the frypan is three-quarters full.

Bake in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top layer of zucchini is golden and the mozzarella is bubbling. Stick a fork into it to check the lasagne sheets at the base have cooked through. Depending on how many layers you created, your cooking time may vary. If you think they are still a bit firm and resist the fork as you push it through, cover the frypan with foil and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Tip: This is one for the weekend, with the pesto making and caponata. If you want to make it midweek-friendly, prep these elements ahead of time or use quality versions from your local deli instead.

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