Lasagna di Vegetali (Vegetable Lasagna)

May 5, 2013Posted in:

Lasagna di Vegetali
Vegetable Lasagna
Serves 12 as an Appetizer

Ingredients:
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons dry white wine
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 cup well-washed and sliced leeks, white part only
1 cup trimmed and sliced zucchini
1 cup salted, rinsed, dried, and sliced eggplant
¼ cup seeded and sliced red bell peppers
¼ cup seeded and sliced yellow bell peppers
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 cups Pommarola (see page 174) or drained, canned Italian tomatoes
6 quarts water
1 pound lasagna noodles
2 ½ cups Bechamel (recipe follows)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Procedure:

1. Make sure all of the vegetables are cut to a uniform thickness. In a heavy saute pan large enough to hold all the vegetables, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium until it gets hazy. Add the garlic and saute until it starts to color, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and the white wine (be careful, it may flame up for a brief moment until the alcohol evaporates.) When the wine reduces, after about 2 minutes, add the following vegetables, in order: the onion, celery, carrots, leeks, zucchini, eggplant, and the bell peppers. Cook each vegetable for approximately 1 minute before adding the next. Add the black pepper and a tablespoon of the salt. Cook the mixture for 5 minutes more. Then add the basil, oregano, and thyme and cook for 5 minutes. Add the pommarola and cook for another 5 minutes. Set aside.
2. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, adding the remaining 3 tablespoons of salt and drop in the lasagna noodles. When the noodles are very al dente, drain them, and plunge them into an ice water bath to stop them from cooking. Lay them out on kitchen towels to drain.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 13-x-9-inch baking dish with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Spoon a little Bechamel sauce on the bottom of the pan. Cover the bottom with sheets of pasta, side by side, draping it up the sides, and over the edge of the pan. Trim the pasta to the size of the pan. Spread a layer of Bechamel over the pasta. Add a layer of the vegetable/tomato mixture, and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat the process until all the ingredients have been used up. The top layer should be pasta, a very thick layer of Bechamel, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. (You can prepare the lasagna up to this point, then refrigerate it, and cook it when you are ready to serve, a day later if you like. An alternative is that after it is cooked, you can cut it into individual portions, wrap in foil, and freeze it. The pieces can be placed directly into the oven to reheat.) Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until the lasagna is heated through and the top begins to turn golden.

Besciamella
Bechamel
Makes 2 ½ cups

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons sweet butter
4 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of white pepper
Pinch of salt

Procedure:
In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly to incorporate it well and prevent lumps. Do not let the flour brown, otherwise your sauce will be pasty tasting. In another pan, heat the milk, but do not let it boil. While stirring the butter and flour mixture, add the hot milk all at once. Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, white pepper, and salt. Turn the heat to medium-high and whisk constantly until the mixture boils, then thickens. Cook at a simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat.

A Note: For almost three hundred years, the world has called the popular white sauce of French cuisine, Bechamel, after Louis de Bechameil, a butler to Louis XIV. But Bechameil had nothing to do with the invention of this versatile white sauce. According to Italian cooking books from the renaissance period, biancomangiare or “white food,” already existed in the 1300s. One recipe, by Anonimo Toscano, an “anonymous Tuscan,” calls for combining rice flour with goat, sheep, or almond milk. Legend has it that Catherine de Medicis, when she moved to France to marry Henry II, brought the recipe with her and taught her chef how to make a sauce she called Colla-in modern Italian, “glue.”