September 23, 2010

Spring Vegetable Lasagna

3:30 AM Good Morning!

Apparently drinking supple amounts of diet coke at the mexican restaurant last night was a bad idea. No worries, I have been asleep until about an hour ago, but now I am wide eyed and ready for the day. I was having an awkward monologue (seemed more like a dialogue) in bed, you know the one where you are arguing with yourself to go back to sleep, and then you can't sleep because you are arguing with yourself. So what did I think would be a good way to start the day at this hour... oh just write up a quick spring vegetable lasagna recipe on the interweb. I am sure I will be regretting this at 5 tonight when I am still sitting in class.

About a year and a half ago before I was brave enough to do any exploring in the kitchen, a sweet friend of mine, Eli, gave me the cookbook of a locally renowned chef, Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef's Love Affair With Italian Food. The subtitle is the perfect descriptor for what you will find in the pages of this book. His risotto recipes will take you to Venice yet his macaroni is something that could only have been concocted with a southern spoon. I have been so excited about using Frank's recipes but have honestly been a bit intimidated to try them. For the past few months I would flip through the pages, looking at the savory flavors that I thought were too fancy for my kitchen. But au contraire, last weeks grocery menu brought me to this cookbook, and to my first Frank recipe..... Spring Vegetable Lasagna.

Be forewarned that as Frank mentions in his book, this meal was a labor of love, one that his grandmother would prepare all Sunday for a family meal. So of course..... I thought this would be a good one to start at, let's say 6 pm. If anything, prepare the vegetables ahead of time. It is the most time consuming part.

And..... for all of those skeptics.... this received the Hudson stamp of approval! So get your chopping blocks ready, your roux stirring and enjoy!!

Note: This is my interpretation/ version of this lasagna, I know I shouldn't mess with perfection, but I tweaked some things to my liking. I did not purchase all Frank's ingredients because some of them were such small amounts of expensive spices, but I encourage you to go for it to get the full effect. I also used my own concoction of cheeses so I wouldn't have to buy so gourmet, and it was still good!


1/2 pound lasagna noodles (use wheat if you want to be super healthy about it)
3 TBSP olive oil
3 zucchini, trimmed and thinly sliced (whip out that mandoline if you have one)
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 TBSP unsalted butter
2 Vidalia onions
1 leek, light green and white parts thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 TBSP finely sliced chives
Pinch of cayenne
2 cups bechamel sauce
1 lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/3 cups grated Fontina
1/3 freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/3 cup grated pecorino romano.

1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
2. Bring salted water to a boil and add lasagna noodles. Follow directions on package
3. Drain noodles and toss in oil to prevent sticking.
4. Place zucchini slices in one layer on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil. Salt and pepper. Put in oven for 5 minutes. Remove and bring heat down to 350 F. Set aside
5. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions, leek, and garlic. Saute until soft, about five minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside
6. Boil peas according to package instructions. Drain. Put in food processor and puree. Set aside
7. In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta, lemon zest, chives, and cayenne and season with a little salt and pepper. Set aside
8. Get your game face on.... it's time to assemble!!
9. Spray 13x9 pan.... or your favorite baking dish. Place a layer of noodles on the bottom, then a third of the ricotta mixture, a third of the onion-leek mixture, pea puree, and zucchini. Top off the layer with a third of the roux. Repeat with two more layers of noodles, ricotta, onion-leek mix, pea, and zucchini. Salt and pepper in between. On top put a layer of mozzarella slices and sprinkle with the grated cheeses.
10. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the the cheese is melted and turning a light brown. Frank wants you to let the lasagna rest for 30 minutes before serving.... I guess it's worked really hard? This will give you plenty of time to clean up the huge mess you have made :)

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