Cesare Casella’s Lasagna Vegetale

By SMW Staff

lasangaLasagna Vegetale

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
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
1/4 cup seeded and sliced red bell peppers
1/4 cup seeded and sliced yellow bell peppers
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons alt
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
3 cups Pommarola (see below recipe), or drained, canned Italian tomatoes
6 quarts water
1 pound lasagna noodles
2 1/2 cups Bechamel (recipe below)
2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

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 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat 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: 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.

Bring the water to a boil in a large pot, add 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.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 13 x 9 baking dish with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Spoon a little Bechamel sauce on the bottom of the pan. Covr the bottom with sheets of pasta, side by side, drapong 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 become used up. The top layer should be pasta, a very thick layer of Bechamel, and Parmigiano Reggiano). Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until the lasagna is heated through and the top begins to turn golden.

Bechamel Sauce

6 tablespoons sweet butter
4 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3 cups milk
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of white pepper
Pinch of salt

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.

Pommarola Sauce

6 tablespoons EVOO
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup sliced fresh basil
1 cup chopped red onion
3 1/2 pounds ripe plum totates, cut into pieces
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Water, as needed

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil, garlic, celery, carrot, red pepper, 1/2 cup of basil and the onion over medium heat untl the carrots are soft, about 25 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for 40-50 minutes. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of basil, remove from the heat, and puree the mixture in a food processor. Return the sauce to the saucepan and cook for another 3o minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce seems too thick, add a little water. The pommarola is ready.

Note: If you want, you can store pommarola in the refrigerator for 5 days, or you can freeze it in small containers for up to 3 months. If you freeze it in small containers, you can create serving portions for two or three instead of freezing and unfreezing all of it.

Bon appetito!