If you use any kind of social media – you’ll have seen the headlines proclaiming you’ve been doing everything wrong – and not just wrong but “all wrong.” You’ve been boiling eggs all wrong. You’ve been brushing your teeth all wrong. You’ve been making your bed all wrong. You’ve been driving all wrong. Shopping all wrong. Reading all wrong. Chances are you’ve been living your entire life all wrong…
When I first tasted this layered sweet potato, spinach, and mushroom ‘lasagna’ in the Sole Restaurant and Wine Bar in Waterloo, Ontario, it occurred to me that I might just have been making lasagna all wrong, all my life.
I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful this dish would be. Not truly a lasagna since it does not have any noodles in it – it is actually more akin to a layered vegetarian terrine. At a dinner in the 150 year old Seagram building, a dear and trusted friend (my writing mentor / editor) suggested I try this. Sole’s menu reads, “Sweet Potato Lasagna – layered sweet potatoes, leeks, shiitake and Portobello mushrooms, feta and mozzarella, vodka rose sauce.”
I knew from the first mouthful that I loved this dish. Packed with super-food vegetables it’s a nutritional powerhouse, but more importantly, the combination of flavours and textures is simply perfect. Robust, creamy, intensely flavourful, slightly salty because of the cheese, and yet, ever so slightly sweet and fragrant thanks to the layers of finely sliced sweet potatoes acting in place of the traditional noodles. Love at first bite.
I’ve worked at recreating this in my own kitchen. I’ve done a totally vegan version substituting a few tablespoons of sun-dried tomato pesto and a quarter cup of vegan mayonnaise for the cheese and eggs. And I’ve made a couple of versions of the full-on loaded with cheese version. Both are fantastic. But since the cheesy version is most similar to the one I had at Sole, I’m including my version of their perfect dish below. My only lament is that because I’m a completely inadequate photographer – I just cannot do this dish justice with a photograph. I vow to keep trying but overlook the photographs – this lasagna really is my new favourite thing.
This recipe requires a bit of preparation. I don’t have a mandolin because I’m afraid if I did, I’d probably slice more than just the vegetables and end up in the emergency room. Plus despite all my hours in the kitchen – I work at not loading up my kitchen with rarely used gadgets. I’m a big believer in some good wooden cutting boards and excellent knives. You’ll need either a very good knife or a mandolin to slice the potatoes thinly enough for this recipe. In addition – you’ll probably need a food processor (or endless patience for chopping). I’ve got a tiny Kitchen Aid food processor. I use it constantly. Mostly for hummus but also for pesto and soup and definitely for this lasagna.
Please try this wonderful dish. It is my absolute new favourite and everyone I’ve served it to simply loves it. If you’re serving it a dinner party – make the vodka blush sauce and serve it on the side. A simple green salad with nuts and dried cranberries and a loaf of sourdough served alongside would make a fantastic meal for a vegetarian dinner. Nobody will miss the meat.
Sweet potato, spinach, and mushroom lasagna
- 2 large sweet potatoes – try to pick long thin ones if possible, peeled and if not thin, cut in half lengthwise
- 1 or 2 small white potatoes, scrubbed or peeled
- at least 142 grams or 5 oz of organic baby spinach, washed and thoroughly dried
- 2 medium onions (I’ve used red and yellow onions in place of the leeks in the original lasagna description)
- 225 grams (1/2 pound) or more of mushrooms – I used cremini
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes
- 1/4 tsp salt
- ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups of grated mozzarella or old cheddar
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta or 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 2 large eggs
For the optional vodka rose sauce
- 3-4 tbsp sun-dried tomato pesto
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 tbsp vodka
Using the food processor, pulse the spinach, mushrooms, onion, and garlic until chopped NOT desiccated. I had to do this in several small batches. Be careful not over process although if you do – it will still work.
In a large fry pan, gently warm the olive oil and add the pulsed vegetables. Add a little salt and pepper and the dried red pepper flakes. Sauté for about ten minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, you can finely, finely slice your sweet and regular potatoes.
Reserve about 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, and add the remainder to the sautéed vegetables along with the beaten eggs.
Liberally grease an 8 x 8 inch glass pan or something equivalent, and begin by layering the sweet potatoes and regular potatoes – you can overlap them and stack them a bit. Then spoon over about half the spinach and mushroom mixture. Add another layer of potatoes, then the remainder of the spinach mix. Top with a final layer of potatoes and cover this with the remainder of the grated cheese.
Cover the dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes. Remove the foil and return to the oven for another ten minutes to brown. Remove the dish from the pan and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
While the lasagna is standing, you can whip up the sauce. Place the sun-dried tomato pesto in a small sauce pan over med-low heat. Stir gently and begin adding the heavy cream, stirring the whole time. When the two are well-mixed and warm, turn the heat off and add the vodka. Serve on the side.