Thought Christmas was over? So Friday was Epiphany (the day everyone realised Jesus Christ was the son of God) and it was Orthodox Christmas. For me it was the second day of freedom after my children had been on holiday for a MONTH! Freedom here is actually code word for a month’s worth of admin (paying bills, writing, planning for the next school holiday, etc.). It’s not as bad as it sounds as I get to enjoy drinks while they are still hot, have uninterrupted thoughts and I don’t have to carry anything.
What I would have done if I were not enjoying my (ahem) freedom was make this lasagne because lasagne is traditional for pretty much every Italian holiday somewhere, it is delicious, everyone loves it and if I had any vegetarian friends over, they could eat the same food as us. I did manage to make it to the local pastry shop and buy a French galette des rois (puff pastry cake filled with almond paste). Since my husband is Piedmontese and they have strong ties to France, this is a family tradition for him. We slice up the cake and the youngest to oldest choose their slices as there is a trinket baked in the cake. Whoever ends up with the trinket gets to be king for the day and wears a crown (which comes with the cake). My youngest won for the second year in a row but was kind enough to share his kingdom with his suspicious older brother.
My children could eat pesto pasta every meal every day and probably never get sick of it. (The same goes for pizza – note my many variations of pizza: pizza pasta, pizza rice, etc.) The thing is that we can’t, so pesto lasagne is a nice compromise. We get a little diversity and they still get “pesto pasta”. By the way, we also call minestrone, “pesto soup”. It’s all about how you spin it….and what mood they are in.
Lasagne al pesto (pesto lasagne) – Liguria
Pesto lasagne is the combination of two great Italian recipes – lasagne and pesto sauce. The pesto offers a freshness while the creamy béchamel sauce combined with the silky egg pasta makes this real comfort food. It is guaranteed to be loved by young and old alike and is vegetarian. See here for an illustrated step-by-step version of the recipe.
10 mls extra-virgin olive oil
80 grams butter
80 grams flour
1 litre whole milk
5 grams (1 teaspoon) salt
4 pinches black pepper, freshly ground
200 grams pesto (it’s advisable to whip your own up in the food processor if you have time)
70 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
30 grams Pecorino cheese, finely grated
40 grams pine nuts, toasted
Preheat the oven to 190C (375F).
Rub olive oil on the bottom of a rectangular baking pan. Make the béchamel, following the method here.
Set aside one cup of the béchamel. Mix the rest with the pesto.
Place a fourth of the pesto béchamel mixture on the bottom of the baking pan, ensuring it is evenly spread. Top with a fourth of the pasta, ensuring it is evenly spread. Spread another fourth of the pesto béchamel over top of the pasta. Add a third of the vegetables. Sprinkle with 20 grams each of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino cheeses. Place another layer of pasta on top and repeat layering until you have used up the pesto béchamel, vegetables and Pecorino cheese (there should still be 40 grams of Parmigiano-Reggiano remaining).
Top with another layer of the pasta. Spread on top the reserved béchamel. Sprinkle over top the remaining 40 grams of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and the pine nuts.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. (If you are using store bought lasagne, cook for the amount of time indicated on the packaging. Let the lasagne sit for 15 minutes before serving.