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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ligurian Cuisine: Lasagna al Pesto

And taking you on a tour of the five plus one villages:

I’m going to go way beyond and with the inestimable help of Daniella’s exquisite recipes allow your taste buds to travel to Cinque Terre.  Being a generous soul, I’ll even allow you to take complaining family and fickle friends along.  Airfare not included.

On our first journey (yes, there will be more than one), you’ll make two sauces and put them together to form the perfect lasagna.  But, it’s not just any lasagna.  This one has no meat and no tomato sauce, so put those cans of tomato paste back on the shelf, behind your expired cans of Chef-Boy-R-Dee spaghetti.  Today, you’ll sample lasagna as you’ve never tasted it.

Pesto Lasagna Ligurian Style, by Daniella

First off, what is Ligurian style?  Well, Liguria is the area of Italy, often known as the Italian Riviera.  It’s capital is Genoa and Cinque Terre is right on the coast, on the part that curves to the right.  (See the map)

Now that you’re enlightened, let’s get on with this fabulous dish!  No more interruptions please, except of course to refill my wine glass.  As was famously said, I often cook with wine and sometimes I add it to the food.

Lasagna al Pesto

Preheat the oven to 350ºF or 180ºC
Butter a 9 X 13 Inch (23 x 33 cm) roasting dish or pan

Lasagna noodles
2 Packed cups fresh basil leaves
2 Cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons pine nuts, plus 2 tablespoon to put on top of the finished dish.
¾ Cup of mixed and grated cheese (parmesan and pecorino) + more cheese for
dusting between layers
Olive oil, (see putting it together below)
2 Cups whole milk
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour

Here’s a hint:  What we call Parmesan, in Italian is Parmigiano

Here’s another hint:  Pine nuts too expensive?  No basil handy?  Lots
of ways to make pesto.  Try spinach with walnuts.  Delicious!

Use fresh lasagna noodles, or a package of no boil noodles, approx. 1 1/2 lbs.
If using fresh noodles, add sheets one at a time to boiling water
for a minute, then plunge in cold water. Place each sheet on dry towel.

Pesto- (Make double or triple the amount of pesto, if you’re a pesto
lover, as I am!)

Clean the tightly packed fresh basil leaves in cold water, dry well. 
I mean really dry!  Roll them in a tea towel, or dish towel. 

Place the leaves in a food processor or blender and pulse them until they’re finely chopped.
Add the garlic and a large pinch of salt and turn on the processor.  With the
motor running, slowly add ½ Cup extra virgin olive oil, 3 T. pine nuts and blend
until uniform and creamy. Add the grated parmigiano and pecorino cheeses and
pulse again. 

Note: You’re going to spread the pesto over several layers, so if you used
only two packed cups of basil, you’ll want to thin the pesto with about ¼ cup of
water, or do as I suggest and make double or triple the amount to begin with!

Béchamel (bee-sha-mell) Sauce = Besciamella (bee-sha-mella) in Italian

Warm the whole milk on medium heat until almost boiling. In another pot
heat the butter.  When melted, stir the flour into the melted buttr and cook and stir
2 minutes.

Note the milk heating on the back burner.

Drizzle hot milk into butter-flour mixture, a half cup at a time.  Repeat until
you've used up the milk. Continue stirring (I use a whisk) until smooth and thickened. 
Add 1/4 t. salt.

Putting the Lasagna together:

Spread about 2 or 3 Tbs of béchamel on the bottom of the roasting pan, and cover
with one layer of pasta, cutting the pasta if necessary to fit the pan.

Add a thin layer of pesto and sprinkle with parmigiano. Add another layer of pasta
and then a generous layer of béschamel. Continue making 6 layers in the same way,
ending with pesto, béchamel and parmigiano. Sprinkle more pine nuts on top.

Pop it in the oven about 20-40 minutes, until the top is browning.  Let sit 15 minutes
before serving.

Gather friends.  Pour wine.  Serve Lasagna….but not yet.  More recipes to come!
You’ll end up with a full assortment of several absolutely delicious Ligurian courses!

Bought your tickets yet?  Only a matter of time!  And while you’re at it, you might
Want to stay at one of Daniella’s properties in Monterosso.  
Go to The six digits are the villa where we stayed, but
she has others as well.

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