Green lasagne of spinach pasta, basil pesto, and zucchini with a pine nut béchamel.
Notes: I squandered my afternoon making the lasagne from scratch, but it would be more fit for a weeknight dinner by using about 3/4 cup pre-made pesto and dry lasagne noodles (which will take longer to boil). Throw the tofu ricotta together the night before. And the zucchini slices don’t even need to be salted and washed—I just seem to have rotten luck with getting bitter zucchinis, and I wanted them to be perfect. I used a mandoline to get quick even slices. Lastly, the lasagne strata are greatly open to improvisation: I left zucchini on top peeking through green noodle strands, but the spinach pasta recipe makes enough for a third noodle layer over another layer of vegetables, tomato sauce, or whatever else strikes your fancy. Be an architect: build your meals.
Lasagne Verdi con Pinoli
Makes 12 servings (about one 3″x4″ piece each)
Spinach Lasagne Noodles
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
3 Tbsp puréed spinach
14 oz drained firm tofu, patted dry
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups basil, packed
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Pine Nut Béchamel
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 1/2 cups soymilk
2 Tbsp dry white wine
1/4 cup Earth Balance margarine
1/4 cup flour
1/2 medium white onion
several slices lemon peel
2 lbs zucchini (about 5 medium), sliced into thin rounds
extra pine nuts, for topping
1. For spinach lasagne: Mix semolina and all-purpose flours in a medium bowl. Mix water and puréed spinach separately, then add to flours. Work flour into liquid until dough can form a soft green ball. Cover (as with a damp towel) and let sit for 30 minutes. Divide dough into three portions; work with one portion at a time while keeping remainders covered. Flatten dough somewhat into a rectangle and pass through a pasta roller several times until thin and elastic, folding in half each time and gradually rolling to about half the final desired thickness (pasta will plump when boiled). Repeat with remaining dough and cut into rectangular sheets to fit a 9″x13″ pan. Noodles can be sticky; allow to dry on cooling rack (or draped over chopsticks or long utensil handles held up by tall pots). Cook noodles just several pieces at a time, gently lowering into a generous amount of well-salted boiling water, for 3 minutes. Remove from water (gently) and dry on cooling rack.
2. For tofu ricotta: Crumble tofu with hands and toss with lemon juice and salt. Keep refrigerated until needed.
3. For basil pesto: Process all ingredients in blender (or pound in mortar with pestle, adding basil a cup at a time) until a smooth sauce is formed. Store in refrigerator.
4. For pine nut béchamel: Blend pine nuts, soymilk, and white wine until smooth and cream-like. Melt margarine in a medium saucepan over low heat, then whisk in flour to form a smooth paste. Heat and stir for 2-3 minutes. Stir in pine nut cream about a cup at a time, whisking until smooth after each addition. Add onion, lemon peel, bay leaf, and cloves, and raise heat slightly to bring sauce to a simmer. Simmer at least 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Remove onion, lemon peel, bay leaf, and cloves, then season to taste with plenty of salt and a pinch of white pepper and nutmeg. Remove from heat.
5. To prepare zucchini slices (optional): Toss slices with a generous amount of salt (at least 1/4 cup); set in a layer between paper towels to drain for at least an hour. Rinse off zucchini well, so that slices no longer taste salty. Pat dry with paper towels.
6. Assembling the lasagne: Lightly grease the bottom of a 9″x13″ baking pan with olive oil. Lay down a flat layer of spinach pasta, followed by about 2/3 of the zucchini slices, then the tofu ricotta. Top with another layer of pasta, spread with pesto sauce, and pour béchamel all over. Top with remaining zucchini, slices of left-over pasta, and extra pine nuts. Bake in a preheated 350° F oven for 25 minutes, then place under broiler for extra 3-4 minutes to crisp top and toast pine nuts.
It was my St. Patrick’s Day dinner, but I couldn’t help but add some jarred red marinara to the plates—pretty.