Monday, March 10, 2014

Francesca's Lasagne alla Pesto

Lasagne, as we traditionally know it, is a rich and comforting Italian dish with layers of lasagne sheets, bechamel sauce, meat ragu and cheese, baked until it's all bubbling and meaty and fragrant. This recipe came to me via the VBF who works in a big multinational company with colleagues from all over the globe. Her workmate Francesca brought some of this lasagne into work and the poor girl barely got a bite as the rest of them scoffed most of it.  Greedy gannets.

Pesto comes from Liguria in North-Western Italy where basil is grown in abundance and turned into a delicious pesto sauce with the addition of garlic, pine nuts, parmesan and olive oil.  Pesto got it's name from the Genoese word Pesta which means "to pound" - this is how pesto is traditionally made, in a mortar and pestle.  In Genoa, Francesca can buy really thin lasagne sheets but we don't seem to have the option here, so just use fresh lasagne sheets and all will be well.  The pesto cheese sauce should be on the thin side as the cream cheese thickens up in the oven and can get a bit solid (the VBF made hers before mine and this was her one piece of advice!).  If you're using bought pesto, as I did, check the label to make sure it contains pine nuts rather than other nuts which are a bit of a cheeky bait and switch.  A certain supermarket's Finest range would be my chosen shopbought pesto.  You can blow the budget and use mozzarella di buffala if you like, but a pack of grated mozzarella works perfectly in this dish.  By the way, this serves at least 4 people - you could stretch it out to 6 if you like.

Francesca's Lasagne alla Pesto

190g jar Pesto
200g Cream Cheese (full fat, no skinny shortcuts)
50ml Milk
6 Fresh Lasagne Sheets
100g Parmesan, grated
150g Mozzarella, grated

Preheat your oven to 180c/Gas Mark 4  and get a rectangular oven dish ready.


In a large bowl, whisk the pesto, cream cheese and milk together until smooth.

Put 3-4 tablespoons of the sauce in the base of the dish, top with a sheet of lasagne, the same amount of sauce, a tablespoon of the parmesan and a handful of the grated mozzarella.

Repeat until you've used the last sheet of pasta and top with the remainder of the sauce and cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes until the cheese has melted and is golden brown on top.

Serve as a starter (primi) or side dish with a main course.  Ours was part of a dinner of roasted duck breast and some steamed green beans  And it was stunning.

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