Pesto Lasagne

Today’s recipe is somewhat a classic in Italy; it is a Vegetarian Lasagne, without the “Ratatouille” inside.
If you were in Italy, this dish would be always easy and very fast to prepare, here in the States it will be up to your own luck in finding the pre-made ingredients we use… In fact, almost anywhere in “The Old Country” you are able to scout (and successfully find) pesto and “besciamella” (bechamel sauce) ready to go, and a special kind of lasagne that do not need to be boiled in water: and this is what truly makes the difference, as you can prepare a pan that can serve up to 12 people in less than 20 minutes, and shove it in the oven without further worries. Here in the States, we only could find the “no-boil-required” lasagne from Barilla, but the search for the besciamella and the pesto did not give any result; yes, we know that your beloved Trader Joes’ has some sort of packaged pesto…but no, thanks!
After all, if you have a decent mixer in your kitchen, the preparation of this dish should not take you more than a half hour.

INGREDIENTI

BESCIAMELLA

1/2 cup of butter
1/2 cup of all purpose flour
4 cups of milk
Salt and Pepper
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

PESTO

4 cups of Fresh Basil Leaves (about 4 oz)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup of Pinoli. Plus three generous handfuls to set aside to be toasted later.
5 garlic cloves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Sardo or Romano
Salt and Pepper

BESCIAMELLA

1

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. This is the most important moment, as you have to slowly toast the flour without burning it... This will help you loose the flowery taste.

2

Pour in the milk progressively, whisking constantly while bringing the mixture to a boil, simmer for about 15 minutes and season with 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 quantity of all-purpose flour. The most important thing though is: Besciamella should not taste flowery... if you think your sauce it's ready, but you can spot a hint of "floweriness" when you taste it, think again, and kee on cooking it for a few minutes more.

PESTO

1

Rinse well the basil and separate the leaves from the stems.

2

Grate the cheese and peel the garlic.

3

Open the wine, start sipping.

4

Combine the basil, the garlic, the pinoli and the olive oil in a blender and blend until paste forms.If your blender sucks (like mine), you'll have to stop often to push down the basil. If the paste gets too thick, and you already used all the olive oil the recipe call for, help it by adding a little bit of water (less than 1/2 glass)...

5

Add the cheese, salt and pepper…blend until smooth. Your pesto is ready!

MAKING THE LASAGNE

1

Preheat the oven to 400º. Now that you have (or have made) the besciamella and the pesto, you only need a cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and 1 lb of Lasagne Pasta.

2

In an aluminum tray (13" × 9" x 4") start laying the ingredients as follows:

- a thin layer of besciamella

- cover with a layer of Lasagne

- a thin layer of besciamella

- about 4 tablespoons of pesto, gently spread across the surface

- about 2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan

- cover with a layer of Lasagne

- repeat the operation until you finish layering the pasta

- top with a very thin layer of besciamella, pesto, parmesan cheese and a little butter to help the cheese crisp-up when cooked in the oven.

3

Cook the lasagne for about a half hour, serve dressed with some parmesan and a drop of extra-virgin olive oil.

4

If by any chance you are planning into freezing this dish (which we suggest in case you are preparing in advance for a party), make sure you do not cook it completely, otherwise it will dry out a bit the second time you cook it. Keep it in the oven for about 20 minutes, then let cool off for about 1 hour. Cover with aluminum foil and freeze (up to a month). When ready to enjoy, thaw for half a day, and cook at 400º for about 15 minutes without removing the aluminum foil... at the end of the cooking time, remove the foil to ensure a light browning of the top layer.

Buon Appetito!

Debi and Gabriele