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Monday, September 13, 2010

Pesto Tomato Lasagna

A few weeks ago, Anne Marie was brainstorming ideas for a new lasagna recipe she was concocting.  Listening to her ideas got me thinking about how diverse lasagna can be.  The noodles are a blank canvas waiting to be filled with whatever tastes and ingredients you find yourself craving that day. 

Since it's the end of summer and the markets are overflowing with an abundance of tomatoes, I wanted to make a lasagna using some fresh tomatoes while also steering clear of just creating a traditional tomato based sauce.  I wanted the tomato to be a complementary flavor, not the primary.  Below is my version of Pesto Tomato Lasagna.  Making a lasagna is simple yet time consuming so if you're going to attempt it be sure to do a little planning and give yourself adequate amounts of time.

Essentially, there are 4 steps in this lasagna creation process:
1. Roasting the tomatoes
2. Making the Pesto
3. Making the Bechamel Sauce
4. Assembling the Lasagna

Pesto Tomato Lasagna

|Step 1: Roasting Tomatoes|

  • 1 large yellow tomato (or 2 medium sized ones)
  • 1 large red tomato
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ground Pepper
1. Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-1/2" slices (keep in mind the thicker you slice them, the thicker your lasagna will be).
2. Place the tomato slices in a baking pan.  Drizzle EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar over the top.  Top with generous amounts of salt and pepper.
3. Cover with aluminum foil.  Bake at 325F for 20 minutes.  Set aside

|Step 2: Making Pesto|

  • 1 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup EVOO
  • 2 cloves garlic (medium sized)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh grated parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
1. Combine all ingredients into food processor.  Process until desired consistency.  Set aside.

|Step 3: Making Bechamel Sauce|
(Note: Bechamel Sauce can be made a wide variety of ways.  This is my very basic simple Bechamel Sauce.  Feel free to substitute your own favorite version if you like!  For this recipe, the Bechamel Sauce simply serves to provide the noodles with moisture without overpowering the other flavors.)

  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 3 Tbsp Flour
  • 1 3/4 cup Milk, heated
  • Salt
  • Fresh Pepper

1. Melt the butter.
2. Stir in flour.  Cook, stirring continuously until bubbles begin to form, approximately 2 minutes.  Do not let brown.
3. Add hot milk.  Continue to stir as sauce thickens.  Bring to a boil.
4. Add salt and pepper.  Lower heat and continue to cook 2-3 minutes more while stirring.  Remove heat.  Set aside.

|Step 4: Assembly|

  • 1 pkg whole wheat lasagna noodles (I used these with a 9x9" pan and 2 noodles per layer.  Since no boiling is necessary, be sure to be generous with the bechamel sauce to give the noodles enough moisture)
  • 8oz Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 8oz Fresh mozzarella (check out the difference between fresh and processed mozzarella here)
  • 1 Tbsp Pine Nuts
  • Bechamel Sauce (recipe above)
  • Pesto (recipe above)
1. Coat the bottom of the pan with a generous amount of bechamel sauce. Lay two noodle sheets side by side. Spread a generous layer of bechamel sauce over the first layer of noodles followed by pesto and topped with grated Parmesan.
2. Lay the next layer of noodles.  I like to alternate which direction I lay the noodles as I find it can make the pieces easier to serve and holds the lasagna together better.  Coat with bechamel and pesto.  Then add roasted tomato slices in a single layer.  I can usually fit around 6 tomato slices per layer depending on the size of the tomato.  Sprinkle Parmesan on top.
First layer of tomatoes
3. Create another layer of tomatoes as above.
4. Create layer of just bechamel, pesto, and Parmesan.
5. Create final layer of tomatoes.
6. Lay final two pasta sheets on top and coat generously with bechamel and pesto.  Sprinkle remaining Parmesan on top.  Cover the top with slices of fresh mozzarella.  Sprinkle some dried oregano on top (optional).
7. Cover with Aluminum foil.  Bake at 325F for one hour and 15 minutes.
8. Remove foil.  Sprinkle pine nuts on top.  Bake for another 10 minutes or until top is becoming golden.  Let sit for 15 minutes before slicing.

Pesto on Foodista

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