Pesto cheese Lasagna
This is a great lasagna for summer. It contains no meat and there is no tomato sauce. It makes use of that great summer basil and it can either be a side dish to grilled meats or a main dish.
If you want to save some cooking time, you can use no-boil lasagna noodles. Keep in mind, though, that these noodles require a lot of liquid or sauce in order for them to cook properly. They absorb a lot. So if you use these instead of regular cooked lasagna noodles, you have to make sure each layer is covered in plenty of sauce.
Another tip for you when making lasagna is to use the No-Stick aluminum foil. I can't believe how many people do not know about this product. Reynolds makes a non-stick foil that is my everyday foil. Foods don't stick to it and it's perfect for lasagna - you take it off the top and the cheese doesn't stick to it. Once you use it, you'll never buy anything else.
makes an 8x8 pan
* note: for this recipe in an 8x8 pan, you can make a smaller size lasagna using only 10 noodles (5 layers with only 2 sheets per layer). You can also make a larger lasagna in this pan, using all the space by having 4 noodles per layer.
note on lasagna noodles: I find that regular lasagna noodles work best with this recipe. That is, lasagna noodles that you cook first. Fresh sheets of pasta, cooked, also work as well. If you are using lasagna noodles which you have cooked, you don't have to use quite as much bechamel sauce. If you are using the "no-boil" lasagna noodles, the noodles must be coated heavily with sauce, so that they cook properly. They tend to absorb a lot of sauce. I don't like them as well, but they will work alright if you want to save some time. Just be sure to wrap the lasagna tightly with foil while cooking.
for the pasta:
- 10 - 20 no-cook lasagna noodles or fresh pasta sheets, cooked or regular lasagna noodles, cooked *
for the pesto:
- 3 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, cut into chunks
- 1-1/2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup olive oil
for the bechamel:
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- 2 cups milk (whole or lowfat)
- 1 chicken bouillon cube (half, if using Knorr)
- 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
for the assembly and topping:
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Make the pesto:
Place the chunks of Parmigiano cheese into the food processor and process until finely ground. Add the basil, garlic and pine nuts to food processor. Process, using pulses, till finely chopped. With machine running, add the olive oil until pesto is smooth.
Make the bechamel:
In a heavy medium saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and stir for a couple of minutes, until the flour is cooked. Add the bouillon cube and allow to dissolve. Whisk. Add about a third of the milk, slowly, and whisk over medium heat. Add the nutmeg and pepper. When the sauce is smooth, add another third of the milk and whisk. When the sauce is smooth again, add the rest of the milk and whisk until smooth. Transfer to a heat proof bowl or Pyrex cup and let cool slightly.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In an 8x8 pan, place about 1/3 cup of the bechamel to coat the bottom of the pan. Lay first layer of lasagna noodles. Add enough bechamel to coat the noodles. Add some pesto and spread into the bechamel. Add a handful of the grated Parmesan. Continue to layer the noodles, bechamel, pesto and Parmesan until the last layer of noodles. On top of this, just spread the bechamel only, add the rest of the Parmesan and top with the mozzarella. Sprinkle the oregano on top. Wrap tightly with foil (preferably Reynolds No-Stick foil).
Bake for one hour (if using regular, cooked noodles) or one hour and 15 minutes (if using no-boil noodles). Remove foil and bake for 10 minutes more, until top is golden. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 15 minutes before slicing.