Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pesto Lasagna

Ingredients for the lasagna:
bechamel sauce
butter, for baking dish, plus more for topping
1 1/2 (9-ounce) boxes no-boil lasagna noodles
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

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Ingredients for the pesto:
4 cups fresh basil leaves, about 4 ounces
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino sardo or romano
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

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Ingredients for the bechamel sauce:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 1/2 cups whole milk
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparing the lasagna:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Butter a 13-inch by 9-inch by 4-inch baking dish and add a thin layer of bechamel sauce. Cover with a layer of lasagna noodles, and then another thin layer of bechamel. Gently spread about 4 tablespoons pesto across the surface, and then top with about 2 tablespoons parmesan. Repeat until you finish layering the lasagna. Top with a final layer of noodles and spread a final very thin layer bechamel, pesto, Parmesan cheese and a little butter to help the cheese crisp-up when cooked in the oven.

Cook the lasagna for about 30 minutes. Serve dressed with some parmesan and a drop of extra virgin olive oil.

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Preparing the pesto:
Combine the basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, and olive oil in a mortar and pestle and pound until paste forms. Add the parmesan cheese, pecorino cheese, salt and pepper and stir until smooth.

Keep the pesto in the refrigerator until you're ready to use.

Mix the pasta and the pesto. Serve garnished with some grated parmesan, fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of olive oil.

* * * * * * *

Preparing the bechamel sauce:
Melt 1/2 cup butter in a pan over medium heat. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon, and continue cooking until the flour is 'toasted', and the raw flavor of flour is cooked out.

Warm up the milk and gradually ladle into the pot with the butter-flour mixture, whisking constantly while bringing the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for about 15 minutes. Season the sauce with freshly grated nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

If the sauce is too thick, add a little more milk, if too runny, return to the heat and add a pat of butter mixed with an equal amount of all purpose flour. Bechamel should not taste of flour. If you think your sauce is ready, but there is a hint of "flouriness" when you taste it, keep on cooking it for a few minutes more.

Serves 8


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