My healthier alternative for a perfect mid-week or weekend meal which is layered with sweet-potatoes and stuffed with a chickpea ragu and topped with a white-bean sauce, baked in the oven until nicely browned and softened.
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Sweet-potatoes are my best friend and ever since discovering them a few years ago when I got into cooking and eating healthier more nutritious food, I haven’t been near a white spud unless forced to be eaten when out for dinner and not wishing to waste a thing on my plate! Sweet-potatoes aren’t necessarily much better for you than white potatoes as white potatoes are nutritious in their own right but sweet-potatoes do win slightly as they are higher in fiber, contain more starch, potassium and are the richest sources of beta-carotene and I personally prefer the taste far more than white potatoes. I also think they are far more versatile than white potatoes and you can make both savoury and sweet dishes such as these jerk-potatoes and this baked breakfast potato and they can even be sneaked into cakes without you even knowing!
I have made many dishes with sweet-potatoes but I wanted to create a savoury dish that was hearty and warming but didn’t bloat you out like a typical lasagne type dish with pasta and a heavy cheese sauce so I created a baked dish with layers of sweet potato, a chickpea Ragu and a white-bean ‘cheese’ type topping which is filling and not bloating and full of healthier nutritious ingredients perfect for sharing and feeding the family for a healthier alternative mid-week meal.
Some of my favourite dishes are indulgent dishes such as the Turkish classic Mousakka and an all time favourite classic Lasagne which I remember having so often as a child and a teen but these are dishes I now consider a treat if I eat out (which sometimes happens to be often), so I needed a healthier mid-week alternative that I didn’t feel guilty about eating but used the same principles as my classic favourties… layers stuffed with a tomato sauce and topped with a cheese-like topping.
I opted to use sweet-potatoes as my layers which should be softened a little in order to slice them, a tomatoey ragu layer using a mixture of chickpeas and meat-free mince but you could opt to use a mixture of chickpeas and lentils, and then for my topping I create a white-bean sauce which is lower in calories and fats than a typical and rather heavy béchamel sauce.
Firstly, peel and slice your sweet-potato into thin slices and blanch (or microwave) for a minute or two to soften before placing a layer in the bottom of a casserole dish. Then make your ragu on the stove-top and add a third of this mixture on top of the potato slices, then add another layer of potato slices, another layer of ragu and repeat this until the mixture has been used up (I usually like to have two layers) and then finally the white-bean sauce is simply processed until smooth and then poured on top of the whole dish and baked in the oven. It is best to cover the dish with some aluminium foil as the topping is quite sensitive to heat and cracks so I have found this to be the best method. Cook until golden and bubbling around the edges, checking the potatoes have softened with a knife inserted. Remove from the oven and let cool down slightly before serving alongside some greens.
This will serve approx. 6 people depending on your portion sizes so store any leftovers in an air-tight container for 3-5 days or place in the freezer for up to 3 months.
I hope you enjoy, please let me know if you make it and leave me any comments 🙂
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
- Ragu Filling
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 150g meat-free mince
- 400g cans chopped tomatoes
- 200ml vegetable stock, or as necessary to prevent burning
- 2 tsp mixed Italian herbs
- Pinch sea salt and pepper
- 1 can cannellini drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 5 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/8 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp olive oil
- Firstly, blanch your sweet-potato until slightly softened either in a pan of boiling water for a minute or on high in the microwave. Then add a single layer of sweet-potato slices to a casserole dish.
- Start by making your Ragu filling, heat olive oil over a medium heat add to the pan add the onion and bell pepper for 5 minutes until softening, then add the garlic for a minute.
- Add the herbs, tomato purée and balsamic vinegar, cook on a high heat for 1 minute more. Then add the chickpeas and ‘mince’ and stir into the mixture, then add the tomatoes and enough stock to prevent burning. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside.
- Make the sauce by adding all the sauce ingredients (except the olive oil) to a blender and process until smooth and creamy, then slowly add in the olive oil.
- Now start assembling the dish, add a layer of Ragu to the sweet-potato slices, then add another layer of sweet-potato slices and then a layer of Ragu and repeat until all mixture has been used, finally finish off with the sauce and cover the casserole dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, checking after 45 minutes for brownness and bubbling around the edges.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for a minute before slicing into equal sized portions and serving with a side salad.