Italian Nonna Style Pesto Lasagna

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We first had Pesto Lasagna in Cinque Terre, where Pesto is a specialty.  It was one of the best meals we have had during our travels and we have talked about re-creating it ever since.  Well, on this Saturday in Brussels, we decided to do just that and I am so glad we did!  Though it takes some time and TLC, this dish is superb, so superbo you will think your Italian Grandmother (Nonna) made it!  Seriously!

Let's start with the pesto.  This pesto can be used for anything, pizza, pasta, on toasted bread as an appetizer, on a burger, you name it.  You will need lots of fresh basil, so get planting soon so you can have fresh basil out of your garden all summer long.  We are starting our mini garden next weekend!  Once you make this Perfect Pesto, you will never want to eat pesto out of a jar again. 

Start by toasting the pine nuts on medium heat shaking pan frequently.  You will want to keep a close eye on them, so they don't burn.  No one likes burned nuts.  Or you can simply place them on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 F (176 C) for 10 minutes.  Note: Mine never actually got a toasted color.  I read this changes the texture and you don't want them that toasted.
 Chop the basil with a sharp knife and garlic together with a sharp knife.  Or use a garlic chopper for the garlic, and chop the basil.  Then combine, and chop a bit more.
Shred both cheeses (my parmesan was in flake form, so I just chopped it).
Add the chopped basil and garlic to a mortar and pestle.  Add the toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil.  Begin to mash it (is there a special verb for the act of using a mortar and pestle??  I have no idea).  
Continue to mash until it is in a paste form.  Add both cheeses.

Add another drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and continue to mash until it is in your desired consistency.  Salt and pepper if desired (Both cheeses are quite salty, so I opted for no salt).  Voila.  You have Perfect Pesto that can be used for anything!

Now we will continue to the Besciamella sauce (sounds fancy, right?).

Melt butter over medium heat and slowly stir in the flour.  Whisk together.  Slowly stir in the warmed milk, while continually whisking.  Continue to whisk until sauce comes to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer.  
Cook for about 15-20 minutes.  Add salt, pepper, nutmeg.  Taste test the sauce to see if it tastes floury.  If it does, cook a little longer (I cooked mine for about 25 minutes), to avoid a floury taste.
Butter the baking dish and line with a small amount of the besciamella sauce.  Layer no boil noodles.  Top with a layer of besciamella and about 3 spoonfuls of pesto.  Mix together with a spoon.  Sprinkle some sundrieds and a little parm.  Repeat until sauce is used up.  Bake at 350 F (176 C) for 35 minutes covered with aluminum foil.  Remove foil, and broil for 10 minutes. MMMMMMMMM.

Italian Nonna Style Pesto Lasagna
As Adapted from CookingChannelTV.com by Gabriele Corcos & Debi Mazar

Serves 8


2 recipes Pesto Sauce (as follows)
1 recipe Besciemella Sauce (as follows)
1 package spinach lasagna no boil noodles
1/2 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
extra parmesan for serving


Grease a baking dish with butter.  Pour a thin layer of Besciamella sauce on the bottom.  Layer on the Lasagna noodles.  Cover with Besciamella sauce and about 3 tbls of the pesto.  Mix together.  Sprinkle on a little pit of parmesan cheese and some sundried tomatoes.  Repeat until sauce is used up.  Bake at 350 F for 35 minutes covered with aluminum foil.  Remove foil, then broil for 10 minutes until hot and bubbly. 

Perfect Pesto (double recipe if making the lasagna)
4 cups loosely packed fresh basil
4 cloves garlic 
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
1/2 cup pine nuts
Juice of 1/4 of lemon
1/4 cup freshly grated percorino romano
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan 

Start toasting your pine nuts on the stove over medium heat, shaking pan frequently or in the oven on 350 F for 10 minutes.  Chop garlic and basil together (if you have a garlic chopper, use that) into fine pieces.  Put basil and garlic mixture into a mortar bowl.  Add pine nuts and 1/2 of the olive oil.  Mash into a cream like paste.  Add the cheeses and the remaining oil.  Continue to mash a little more.  Once to your desired consistency,  squeeze the lemon juice on top, and stir.  Salt and pepper if desired.

Besciamella Sauce

1 cup butter
1 cup flour
9 cups milk (warmed)
sea salt & ground pepper  
a dash of nutmeg

Start melting the butter over medium heat.  Slowly add in the flour, whisking constantly.  Once mixed, slowly add the warmed milk, whisking constantly.  Bring mixture to a boil, while continuously whisking.  Once brought to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 15-25 minutes.  Add salt, pepper and a dash of nutmeg.  Taste your sauce.  If you taste a hint of flour cook for a few more minutes.

Serve with some crusty bread and a salad.  Let me tell you... it was sooooo good.  You must try this recipe!  It is the best one yet!  
Bon Appétit!

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1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Mmmm! Looks delish!