Fresh and Light Open Vegetable Lasagne – naturally gluten-free

This light and fresh open style lasagne ditches the pasta for easy, home-made chickpea pancakes, folding slices around thinly sliced fresh vegetables, pesto and goats cheese. Easy enough for a weeknight and impressive enough for company as a starter or a main course. Naturally gluten-free and easily vegan.I am willing to bet that you haven’t had a lasagne like this. Open lasagne, yes, perhaps. One made with lacy-edged chickpea pancakes (farinata/socca), cut into strips? Probably not.

This unusual take on an Italian classic was inspired by gazing lustfully and hungrily at an image of Donna Hay’s courgette and ricotta summer lasagne, as published in a recent Times Saturday supplement magazine. Although I have yet to make any of her recipes I do enjoy riffling through the soothingly photographed, stylish images by Australia’s food-styling doyenne  – whether in her eponymous magazine, or in The Times.

Donna’s recipe called for bought lasagne, bought pesto, and was somewhat of an assembly-job – which is often attractive on a weekday. Who doesn’t need and deserve a little convenience now and again?

I had just that day been experimenting with socca recipes for a client and, in a lightbulb moment, I just thought, this will work. Not quite running to the kitchen, I did jot down notes and let it stew in my head overnight. In the morning I set about gathering the vegetables from the garden and mixing my batter. Before I knew it what you see on this page took shape.

This light and fresh open style lasagne ditches the pasta for easy, home-made chickpea pancakes, folding slices around thinly sliced fresh vegetables, pesto and goats cheese. Easy enough for a weeknight and impressive enough for company as a starter or a main course. Naturally gluten-free and easily vegan.This fresh and light open lasagne is very, very easy to make up, and tastes of sunny holidays and warm breezes. It also looks so much like an invitingly messy bed that I really couldn’t help but almost polish off what is meant for two people. But don’t eat the whole thing yourself. You will be too full to move.

It’s a deceptive little dish, what with the light, thin-cut vegetables and the whisper of pesto and cheese. Unlike traditional wheat-based pancakes, or even other grains for that matter, pancakes made with chickpea flour are replete with satisfying fibre and protein (iron too). I ate my Jackson Pollock plate of colour at around 3 pm and then didn’t eat again until the next day.

Well, maybe I had a small snack.😉chickpea pancake open vegetable lasagne

You may think you have never had anything with chickpea flour before, but if you eat Indian food you most probably will have: the puffy golden pakoras that you can’t resist ordering are made using gram/chickpea flour. Falafels are also often made with chickpea flour, as well as chickpeas themselves.

Chickpea flour – also called besan, garbanzo, gram and farina di ceci – can be purchased at many larger supermarkets, either in the global foods section or in the aisle catering for food intolerances; the latter because it is a naturally gluten-free flour. Any health food store or Asian market worth their salt will also have it. I keep a small bag on hand for pancake cravings. Which, after scoffing them in this fashion, I have more often than I care to admit. Andrew likes them too. I hope you will as well.

Although not quite as quick as boiling up sheets of lasagne and mixing with veggies, I do think this dish is easily within the realms of weekday food if you do a little prep first. You can make up the pancakes ahead and just flash heat in a pan. Or, better really, make up the batter the night before and fry up your pancakes fresh just before eating. Be sure to have the fresh toppings at the ready, and the pesto slaked with lemon and water, and you will be good to go for a most unusual take on a favourite dish. Enjoy!

Btw, the winners of the four Jamie Oliver Everyday Super Food cookbooks are: Amy R from Edinburgh, Laura H in Glasgow, Katie O in Cleveland Ohio, and Ruth H in Lancaster. Copies are being sent out today by the lovely people at Penguin Random House. Katie, yours might take a bit longer to reach you but I assure you the wait will be worth it.🙂 Thank you everyone who entered.

This light and fresh open style lasagne ditches the pasta for easy, home-made chickpea pancakes, folding slices around thinly sliced fresh vegetables, pesto and goats cheese. Easy enough for a weeknight and impressive enough for company as a starter or a main course. Naturally gluten-free and easily vegan.

Fresh and Light Open Vegetable Lasagne {naturally gluten-free}

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This is a lot easier than first appears. Making the chickpea pancakes (farinata or socca, depending on the country one references) is easy and can be done ahead, flash heated before assembling. The veggie and herb element is also a doddle, just a matter of chopping and deciding how much you want to use. And the pesto, well, homemade or bought – it’s your call.

I hope you enjoy this filling and healthy light supper or lunch for two.

Oh, before you scroll on down, check out eattheseasons.co.uk to see what other veg to use this month, and any month that you fancy making this or any other food to glow dish. Most of my recipes are quite flexible, and this little under-stated site is great for knowing how to mix and match with the seasons. There is also a US version here. xx

The farinata (chickpea pancakes)

130g gram (1 cup) /chickpea flour

260ml (2 cups) room temperature water

1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil + 1 tbsp for cooking1

1/4 tsp salt

The rest

2 tbsp best-quality pesto

Juice of ½ lemon

1 small zucchini/courgette (I used tiny homegrown yellow and green ones) – spiralled or cut in long, thin strips and squeezed of excess liquid (save the liquid if you can to slake the pesto later)

1 good handful fresh or defrosted petit pois or lightly cooked and cooled edamame or broad beans (keep them small for best taste and tenderness)

1 red chilli, thinly sliced

Double handful of fresh, best-quality small tomatoes, sliced (I used about 6 cherry tomatoes per serving)

Small palmful of fresh mint leaves, sliced thinly (chiffonade)

45g (2 ½ tbsp) goats curd cheese or crumbly, soft goats cheese – optional

Freshly grated pepper, to season as you wish

Special equipment needed: cast-iron or non-stick heavy sauté pan about 10” diameter

1. Make the chickpea pancake (farinata) by dry whisking the gram flour to remove any lumps, then whisking in the oil, salt and half of the water. When this is smooth, whisk in the remaining water. Cover and set aside in a warmish place, like a windowsill. Ideally leave for half an hour.

2. To make up the farinatas, heat half of the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet over a medium-high heat. Test the heat by flicking a little of the batter into the pan. If it sizzles immediately it is ready for the batter.chickpea pancake open vegetable lasagne

3. Pour in half the batter and carefully swirl the pan to cover the bottom evenly. It should be thin like single cream and have lacy edges when it hits the hot oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Carefully use a heat-proof spatula to loosen the pancake and flip, cooking a further 2-3 minutes. Two minutes on each side should give you a cooked but very flexible socca, which is needed for this recipe.

4. Make the second pancake with the remaining batter, heating the remaining oil first. Cut the pancakes into strips and divide between two plates, folding and spiralling some of the strips to give height and somewhere to tuck the toppings.chickpea pancake open vegetable lasagne

5. Now, the rest is just an assembly job. Mix together the pesto, a teaspoon or two of water or the zucchini liquid, plus the lemon juice in a mixing bowl; then gently fork in, or use your hands to mix in, the remaining ingredients – bar the mint and cheese. Gently divide this fragrant mix between the plates, tucking it into most of the farinata strips, and smearing or dabbing on the rest. Dot on the cheese, if using, and strew over the mint. Eat immediately.

Serving Suggestions:  If the idea of cutting up the pancakes and attempting an artful mess scares the pants off you – or if you want to make a big, cuttable version – use more veg, pesto etc, make more cakes and layer it up, finishing with some fresh toppings. Mash lightly, cut and serve. Or you could roll individual pancakes around the toppings for a burrito effect.

I will be posting other ways with this most delicious style of gluten-free pancake. In the meantime, here is one I made earlier, as they say, with more information about the use and history of both French socca and Italian farinata. And here are some ideas from my Instagram account – Brunch soccas and a simple watercress, courgette and cheese one. I also like the pancakes smeared with black olive tapenade or my green olive and coriander tapenade and topped with spiralled veggies and a spritz of lemon. Plenty of ideas here and below the pic to help you use that pack of chickpea flour!chickpea pancake open vegetable lasagne

Recipes and ideas from others:

Persian Festive Cookies (with fragrant rosewater and cardamom), via Franglais Kitchen

Ottolenghi Chickpea pancake recipes via The Guardian

Ideas for using up that bag of chickpea flour, via The Kitchn

Chickpea Flour Breakfast Pizza via Hummusapien (the best blog name I’ve seen in awhile!)

Why Chickpea Flour Should Be Your New Gluten-Free Friend (with links to loads of recipes), via Huffpost Taste