Fresh sheets of pasta are made green from kale (no taste of kale). Then, it is layered with a white/bechamel sauce, dotted with a sage & basil pesto and dusted with finely grated mozzarella and grana padano – a milder version of parmesan reggiano.

My very Green Lasagne was originally made for my vegetarian guests. It is so delicious that the meat eaters were happily helping themselves to it. I now make double portions so everyone eats the same main dish. That frees me from the kitchen which is always welcome. To cater to everyone’s diet, starters are varied with a board of charcuterie, there is plenty of grilled vegetables -might as well make full use of the oven whilst it is heated, a simple green salad is set out and there is something refreshing like wedges of sweet honey melon. If melons are off season than quarters of cold poached pears are served in its place. It’s a very nice menu, homestyle and rather elegant at the same time.

This dish requires more work than usual. If you plan ahead, it would just be a matter of assembly before putting it to bake. Better still, as this dish keeps very well, bake it 3 days ahead and reheat in the oven before serving.

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Dinner with just the family comes with a side of salad. The sausage was mandatory -the last of my stash carted back from Amsterdam.

Here’s a look at my meat and tomato based lasagne. It’s speedier to make as there is no white/bechamel sauce to make. Instead, I use ricotta and bottles of my favourite passata/tomato sauce.

Green Lasagne

Prep: 1 hour (includes pasta & pesto making)
Cook: ~40 minutes
Inactive: 30 minutes for pasta dough to rest
Level: Labour intensive
Makes: 12″x8″x2″ tray. (30.5x20x5)cm
Oven Temperature: 340F (170C)
Can recipe be doubled? Yes.
Make ahead? Cooked lasagne can be refrigerated up to 3 days. Freezes well. Pasta and sauce can be made 3 days ahead. Pesto can be made 5 days.

Ingredients

Pasta*
~300g plain/all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk (~1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon)
~3 Tablespoons squeezed dried cooked kale/spinach**
White/bechamel sauce
(6 Tablespoons)(3 oz)(85g) unsalted butter
(7 and 1/2 Tablespoons)(2 oz)(57g) plain/all-purpose flour
(2 and 1/2 cups)(625ml) milk
2 eggs
(3/4 cup)(2.1 oz)(60g)grated grana padano***/parmesan
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Sage & Basil pesto
(~1/2 cup)(0.5 oz)(15g) fresh sage
(~1/2 cup)(0.9 oz)(25g) fresh basil
(~1/2 cup)(2.3 oz )(66g) ground grana padano***/parmesan
(~6 level Tablespoons)(1.4 oz)(40g) ground almonds
~1- 2 garlic
~ 5 – 6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
~1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper to taste
Cheeses
(~2 and 3/4 cups)(10.5 oz)(300g) shredded mozzarella
(~1 and 1/4 cups)(3.5 oz)(100g) grated grana padano***/parmesan

* Leftover pasta? Scroll down to ‘Tips’.
** That’s ~1 cup fresh, to cook only a few seconds to wilt in a little boiling water to maintain the vibrant green.
*** Grana padano has similar taste undertones as parmesan. I prefer the milder tasting grana padano in this dish. It also cost less as it is produced in more regions in Italy. 

Method

Pasta
-I had dedicated an entire post to making Fresh Lasagne Sheets, please click, here. It comes with plenty of images to make it easy to follow the process.

1. Use a heavy duty standing mixer. A handheld mixer will not be powerful enough. The alternative is to knead by hand until you get the same result as you would with machine kneading.
2. Into the mixer bowl, mix in flour and salt. Create a well, crack in the eggs and spoon in the pureed kale/spinach.
3. Start the machine on low speed and work it up to medium speed. It takes ~ 10 minute for the dough to become a smooth ball that will gather up on the dough hook. The sides of the mixer bowl will also be relatively clean.
4. If the dough looks too crumbly, add 1 Tablespoon more pureed kale/spinach/beaten egg.
5. If the dough looks too dry, add 1 Tablespoon flour.
6. The dough should be a tiny bit sticky but not uncomfortably so.
7. Gather the dough into a ball, gathering loose ends under the ball to create a relatively smooth looking ball.
8. Cover directly and completely with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes. The dough will not roll out if you do not let the gluten rest.
9. The dough ball can be refrigerated up to 3 days.
10. If you wish to roll out the dough ball into pasta sheets and then keep those sheets for use up to 3 days later, here’s what you do. As soon as a sheet of pasta has been rolled to the correct thickness, dust with flour and slide them into airtight food safe plastic bags (refer to image under ‘Assembling the Lasagne’). Fold the ends down to seal, slide plastic bags onto a flat baking tray. Continue with the process until pasta ball is used up. Refrigerate. Alternatively, set pasta sheets on plastic wrap, separating pasta sheets with plastic wrap and store in airtight container. Refrigerate.

White/Bechamel sauce
-If you are making white/bechamel sauce for the first time, I go into detail, with plenty of images on the process in my post, Moussaka (a Greek dish of baked eggplants, meat, tomatoes topped with a layer of white/bechamel sauce). Keep in mind that the consistency of the sauce for this recipe will be thinner than that for Moussaka.

1. In a pot (nonstick is best), melt the butter over medium heat.
2. Once melted, add the flour and stir continuously. It will bubble and then start to thicken.
3. After ~2 – 3 minutes, when the the mixture is the colour of condensed milk, add the milk, 1/4 cup at a time.
4. As soon as you add the first 1/4 milk, the mixture will thicken immediately. That’s fine. Continue to add the milk gradually, making sure it is worked into the mixture before you add more milk.
5. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn off the burner and remove pot from stove.
6. In a large bowl, crack the eggs in and use a whisk to mix lightly.
7. With the same whisk, get a dollop of sauce and whisk it quickly into the beaten eggs. You don’t want to scramble the eggs.
8. Continue to work in more sauce into the the egg mixture the same way.
9. The sauce should be about the consistency of double/thickened/heavy cream, perhaps a little looser. Add a little more milk to loosen if necessary. Keep in mind that even though the pasta sheet is rolled to the thinnest setting, they are uncooked when it goes into the oven, so the sauce must be a little more fluid to cook the pasta sheet through.
10. Finally, add the cheese, whisk to incorporate. It might not completely dissolve which is fine. It will do so in the oven.
11. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Lay a plastic wrap directly over the surface of the sauce to prevent skin from forming. Remove and set aside. Sauce need not be hot/warm to use.
12. The sauce can be refrigerated up to 3 days.

Sage & Basil pesto
1. Use a mortar and pestle if you wish, but I prefer a food processor.
2. In the food processor, add all the ingredients. Grind up until you have a puree.
3. Taste and adjust the seasoning. More garlic, cheese, herbs, almonds, salt, pepper?
4. Transfer to a jar, lay a plastic wrap directly over the surface of the pesto to slow it down from darkening (through oxidation), cover. Set aside. You could add an extra layer of oil to seal, but who needs so much oil?
5. The pesto can be refrigerated up to 5 days.

Cheeses
1. Mix the shredded mozzarella with the grana padano. Set Aside.

Rolling out the dough 
1. I had dedicated an entire post to making Lasagne, The Fresh Pasta Sheets. Comes with plenty of images to make it easy to follow the process. Please click on the link.
2. If you wish to roll out the dough ball into pasta sheets and then keep those sheets for use up to 3 days later, here’s what you do. As soon as a sheet of pasta has been rolled to the correct thickness, dust with flour and slide them into airtight food safe plastic bags (refer to image under ‘Assembling the lasagne’). Fold the ends down, slide them onto a flat baking tray. Continue with the process until pasta ball is used up. Refrigerate. Alternatively, set pasta sheets on plastic wrap, separating pasta sheets with plastic wrap and store in airtight container. Refrigerate.

Assembling the lasagne
-Preheat oven to 340F (170C), oven rack adjusted to lower middle position.
-If you are using store bought pasta sheets, cook it according to the package direction before using.

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1. Using my 12″x8″x2″ (30.5x20x5)cm Pyrex vessel, this recipe uses about 7 layers of pasta sheets. So make a mental note and divide the bechamel, pesto and cheese mix into 7 portions.
2. Spread 2 Tablespoons of pesto onto the base of the baking vessel.
3. Cover the entire base with a layer of lasagne sheets.
4. Spread a layer of sauce over the entire surface at least 1/4″ (0.6cm) thick.
5. Dot with pesto. Sprinkle with the cheeses. Refer to image below for amount.
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6. Repeat. However, the top layer of pasta will not have any pesto, just sauce and the cheeses.
7. Bake for ~ 40 minutes or until it is golden brown. Cover with aluminium foil until ready to eat.

Tips

Leftover fresh pasta
You will most likely be left with pasta trimmings of all shapes and sizes. Do not be tempted to gather those up and reroll them into new sheets. I tried it. They taste hard. I am not Italian but definitely a practicalist. The most convenient way for me to use trimmings up and not waste any, is to cut the pasta into a hodgepodge of shapes but keeping its surface area somewhat similar so that the pasta trimmings will all cook at about the same time. I use a pizza cutter to do the job. You will rarely find me cutting them into strips of uniform ribbons of tagliatelle. When I say hodgepodge, I do mean it. My pasta trimmings have no distinct shape to them, 1/3 of them will look gnarly, twisted and such. Dust the hodgepodge of trimmings with flour, spread them out and let it air dry. It doesn’t take that long. Perhaps an hour? Store in an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to use. I usually cook them by day 3.

To cook: Bring lots of water to boil, salt it generously, bring it back up to a boil, throw in the pasta trimmings. Takes 2 minutes at most to cook. Drain and toss into an awaiting pan of melted butter, toss. If necessary, add a little pasta water to loosen sauce. Squeeze lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle some toasted almonds. Serve. I did say I am not Italian.

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