With its hearty tomato sauce, thick layers of pasta and cheese, and long cook time in the oven, traditional lasagna isn't the most Summer-friendly of dishes. However, when I came across a lighter, vegetarian version in the June issue of Bon Appétit, I knew I had to try it.
The classic meaty sauce is replaced with a homemade herb pesto and the filling is a mixture of cooked spinach, shallots, and lots of oozing cheese. It's a decadent dish that's absolutely worth the effort.
I served it at a vegetarian dinner party, and my guests could not stop raving about the creamy texture and flavorful pesto. It would also be an excellent side next to grilled meat or chicken. To give this seasonal lasagna a try, get the recipe here.
1 1/2 cups (lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups reduced-fat (2%) milk
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 6-ounce packages baby spinach
15 no-boil 7x3 1/2-inch lasagna noodles (from two 9-ounce packages)
3 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese (28 ounces)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 large egg
2 cups coarsely grated Italian Fontina cheese (8 to 9 ounces), divided
- For Pesto: Combine first 6 ingredients in processor. Blend until herbs are finely chopped. Add oil and blend to coarse puree. Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to small bowl. Can be made 1 day ahead. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of pesto and chill.
- For Sauce: Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk 1 minute (do not brown). Add milk and wine and whisk until smooth. Cook until sauce thickens and comes to boil, whisking constantly, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Whisk in Parmesan cheese and salt. Season sauce to taste with pepper. Sauce can be made up to 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
- For Spinach: Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic. Sauté until shallots soften, about 2 minutes. Add all spinach (pot will be full). Cook spinach until wilted but still bright green, tossing often, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, transfer spinach to large sieve set over bowl; reserve pot. Press out excess liquid from spinach. Drain 10 to 15 minutes longer.
- Return drained liquid from spinach to reserved pot. Boil until liquid is reduced to glaze. Return spinach to pot and toss 1 minute. Remove spinach from heat. Mix in 1 1/2 cups sauce. Season spinach to taste with pepper.
- For Lasagna: Place noodles in large bowl. Fill bowl with hot tap water. Soak noodles until pliable, stirring occasionally to separate, about 15 minutes. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface. Transfer noodles to parchment in single layer, shaking off excess water.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Mix ricotta, Parmesan, and lemon peel in medium bowl. Season to taste with salt. Mix in egg.
- Spread 1/2 cup sauce thinly over bottom of prepared dish. Top with 3 noodles, arranged side by side and covering most of bottom of dish. Spread half of spinach mixture over (about 1 1/2 cups). Sprinkle with 1/3 cup Fontina. Top with 3 noodles and half of ricotta mixture (generous 13/4 cups). Drop half of pesto over by teaspoonfuls, spacing drops evenly apart.
- Continue layering with 3 noodles, remaining spinach mixture, 1/3 cup Fontina, 3 more noodles, remaining ricotta mixture, then remaining pesto. Top with last 3 noodles. Spread remaining sauce over; sprinkle with remaining Fontina. Cover dish with buttered foil.
- Bake lasagna until heated through and bubbling at edges, 50 to 55 minutes. Remove from oven. Remove foil from dish.
- Preheat broiler. Broil lasagna until top is browned in spots, turning dish occasionally for even browning, about 4 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes to set up.
- Pasta, Main Dishes