We harvested the last of our basil this weekend. We said goodbye to our evening Bruschetta until next year with a glass of Pinot Grigio and transformed the remaining sweet basil into a quart of pesto. The changing of the seasons is always met with a bit of sadness for the foods we leave behind and anticipation for the new foods about to arrive.
While pesto will maintain its flavor for several weeks in the refrigerator we immediately began a pesto binge. Saturday was spaghetti with pesto and Sunday we made a small tin of Lasagne al Pesto. This is an interesting twist on the traditional baked pasta dish. The pesto screams of summer freshness and flavor. Tomorrow we will prepare several additional tins and freeze them for special occasions this Autumn.
While this recipe uses only pesto it is equally as interesting with a red pesto sauce, which combines a simple tomato and onion sauce with the pesto.
Ingredients for a 9x12 inch casserole dish (about 1 kg total weight):
400 gr. (14 oz.) Lasagna pasta (we make our own fresh pasta)
250 gr. (1 ½ cups) Pesto
110 gr. (¼ lbs.) Pecorino or Asiago Cheese Chipped or Shaved
40 gr. (1/3 stick) Unsalted Butter
1-2 glasses of wine for each individual involved in the preparation, chilled to about 65 degrees. Since this will most likely be the morning I suggest the traditional “Bianchino” from Friuli. This would be a Pinot Grigio. A good wine that you can find easily here would be a Livio Felluga - Pinot Grigio. Another good solution, although not Friulano, would be “Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio from Alto Adige [you can find the 1.5 liter bottle for about 12 $]. I suggest this solution because Mezzacorona started using a composite cork in 2004. Since the wines imported often are not properly stored the wines with a traditional cork risk being contaminated by the cork itself. Throwing away any bottle of wine is a sin so this is a good solution.
Butter the casserole dish on the bottom and sides.
Fill a large pot, a stock pot would be good, with water and add 4 hands of medium or large grain salt (if using regular table salt reduce to 3 handfuls). This is more than traditional pasta water because you will be using the water many times. Bring to a strong boil.
Have a glass of wine.
Cut the butter into pieces and place in the bottom of the casserole dish. Place a couple of tablespoons of pesto sauce in the bottom of the pan. Place 3 pieces of pasta in the hot water and boil for 3 minutes (if you are using commercial dried pasta increase to 7 minutes). Lift the pasta out of the water with tongs and place on a plate. Before adding to the dish dry both sides with a towel. Place the sheet of pasta in the casserole dish, use the other pieces of pasta to create a base of pasta. This is your floor.
Add 2 ladles of Besciamella sauce and spread evenly.
Have some wine.
Get another 3 sheets of pasta and boil, dry and cover the sauce completely. This time spread ½ of the remaining Pesto sauce. Continue for about 5 layers. Continue alternating layers of Pesto sauce and Besciamella until you arrive about ½ inch from the top of the pan. The top should be Besciamella. Do not fill to the top. The lasagna will expand during cooking.
Distribute the Asiago or Pecorino chips across the top.
If you do not intend to cook immediately, cover with aluminum foil and place in the fridge.
About 45 minutes before serving, remove the foil, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and cook for 20 minutes. This will create a crusty top. If you prefer a soft top, use 300 degrees for 35 minutes.
Tags: Gourmet Foods Lasagna Liguria Pesto Italian Recipes Food and Wine Travel Italy