Lasagna Caprese

My friend Christina Barest recently took over the magnificent Naked Pasta company, and every week, she riffs on a creative new filling for her raviolis. Helping her out in the kitchen, watching all those thick ribbons of fresh dough, got me thinking.

What the world needs now is a really fresh lasagna, something that bridges the late season garden bounty we enjoy here in SC and the heartier way we want to eat when the nights turn colder.

This recipe came about with a plan to interpret a classic Caprese salad as a pasta dish, with fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes (which we’re lucky to see the the markets here through early October) and fresh pasta, bound together with a pesto-laced bechamel sauce.

This can be as easy or as complex a preparation as you like. Make your pesto, or purchase. (Naked Pasta makes a great one, based on toasted pumpkin seeds for those of us with nut allergies.) Order fresh lasagna noodles, or use your favorite no-boil sort. (Marcella Hazan recommends boiling no-boil noodles for one minute to achieve a near-fresh pasta effect.) The essentials are the fresh tomatoes and the fresh mozzarella. Of course, we recommend Blue Ridge Creamery for that.

September 07, 2017

Ingredients

  • 6 layers of lasagna noodles, fresh or no-boil
  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups finely-grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 cup pesto sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • 5-6 meaty, fist-sized heirloom tomatoes, or equivalent variety of smaller ones, sliced

Preparation

Heat oven to 400°.

Prep your noodles if you need to. Fresh pasta is ready to go in the oven, but if you’re using no-boil noodles, bring a large salted pot of water to a rolling boil, and cook the noodles for one minute. Drain on kitchen towels.

To make the bechamel, bring the milk just to the point of boiling. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes. Don’t let it brown.

Remove the flour mixture from the heat and add the hot milk 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking, until you’ve added about ½ cup of milk. Add the remaining milk in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Return to the heat, add salt, and continue whisking until the sauce is the consistency of thick cream. This only takes a few minutes, so thin with more milk if it thickens too fast. Stir in 1 cup grated Parmesan and taste for seasoning.

To assemble the lasagna, spread a thin layer of bechamel in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Cover with a layer of noodles. Paint noodles with another thin layer of bechamel, then ¼ of the pesto, ¼ of the tomatoes, ¼ of the mozzarella and ¼ cup of the remaining Parmesan, holding one cup in reserve. Repeat these layers until you’ve used up all the pesto, tomatoes and mozzarella. Top with remaining noodles and remaining bechamel.

Cover lasagna with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil, top with remaining cup of Parmesan and bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

Allow lasagna to rest for 15 minutes before slicing. The tomatoes are likely juicy, but the pasta will absorb that liquid given the chance, and your slices will hold together better if not blazing hot.

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Ingredients

  • 6 layers of lasagna noodles, fresh or no-boil
  • 3 cups milk
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups finely-grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 cup pesto sauce, homemade or store-bought
  • 5-6 meaty, fist-sized heirloom tomatoes, or equivalent variety of smaller ones, sliced
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