I have five good reasons for making lasagne al pesto on a Monday morning. It was Monday and Mondays suck so one needs comfort food to ease the pain. My basil bushes are still in over drive in June and I had to celebrate this fact by making a massive batch of pesto. Last week I made lasagne but it was for someone else so I never got to eat any. My very dear Italian friend made me a lasagne al pesto once and I have always been meaning to recreate this ultra simple and ultra delicious dish. I watched Garfield with my nephew this weekend. Justification complete!
I whipped up some pesto (my own unconventional brand) but you can use a traditional recipe or go buy the best pre-made pesto from Pesto Princess. Then I made about 750ml of white sauce, added a cup of pesto to this and started layering my lasagne. Into the oven and done. I had it for lunch and supper yesterday and am happier for it!
I do have some modifications I will suggest if you decide to make this yourself. If using dry lasagne sheets, be generous with your sauce in between layers (I was a little too meagre) and make the sauce thinner than you would usually make a white sauce. The pasta will adsorb a lot of the moisture and you want the end result still to be moist and saucy.
I did some reading about this lasagne this morning and saw a suggestion which I though could be a great lasagne for me to try next. Alternate layers of pesto sauce with a pomodoro sauce or a red pesto sauce. I think that combination would be killer!
Lasagne al pesto
1 cup (250ml) of Basil Pesto*
3 cups (750ml) of thin white sauce*
250g of dry lasagne sheets
1 cup of grated cheese, Parmesan or any good melting cheese will work well.
Pre heat your oven to 180C˚ and place the rack in the middle. Combine the white sauce and the pesto.
Assemble your lasagne in a small square or rectangular casserole dish (about 2 litres in volume). Start with a generous layer of sauce then pasta (break the sheets it as needed to make a full covering to fit the dish), top this with a generous layer of sauce. Continue this process until the sauce runs out. The sauce needs to be the final layer and it needs to be a thick final layer. Leave at least 1 cm space from the top of the dish to allow the lasagne to expand. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until a sharp knife can easy pierce through the layers of pasta.
Scatter the grated cheese over the lasagne and grill until the cheese is golden and bubbling.
* Thin White Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
5 Tbsp of white flour
4 Tbsp of oil
750ml of milk
2 tsp of a smooth mustard
1 cup of a grated strong tasting white cheese (optional)
1 tsp of salt
Heat the oil and flour in a medium sized pan or pot. Allow it to fry for a few minutes while stirring the paste with a whisk. Remove it from the heat and add half the milk. Stir this with your whisk until the paste and milk have combined, then add the rest of the milk. Return this to the heat and stir it with your whisk slowly while waiting for the sauce to thicken. If it starts thickening very fast, remove it from the heat and continue stirring it until the thickening has settled down. It will reach a point where the thickness stabilises. Turn down the heat to low, add the mustard, cheese (if using) and salt and allow to combine.
50g of pine nuts (macadamia nuts are a great cost effective alternative)
1 clove of garlic
125ml of olive oil (for a lower fat alternative use half oil, half water)
50g of parmesan cheese (or similar – pecorino, grana padana)
40g of fresh sweet basil leaves
Salt to taste
Blend the nuts, garlic, olive oil and cheese together to form a paste. Add the basil and blend until just fine, but don’t over blend, add salt to taste.