Meatless Mondays: Fresh-Pasta Lasagna
Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.
A phenomenon happens when guests come over for dinner—without fail, everyone wants to cram into the smallest, busiest room of the house: the kitchen. This can be a real pain. You’re cooking, trying to stay organized and have dinner done on time, yet every time you turn around, someone is in the way. There is a solution: Put your guests to work.
Last weekend, I invited friends over for lasagna. It was a cool fall afternoon, and the warmth of the oven welcomed everyone into the kitchen. This time, I was ready.
One guest stirred the bubbling béchamel sauce that, combined with some of last summer’s basil pesto, would become the base of the dish. The rest of the guests worked together to make fresh pasta.
Fresh, whole-egg pasta makes luscious lasagna—the noodles are eager to suck up the sauce, turning the dish into something resembling more of a savory pudding than we’re used to. The final noodle layered over the top becomes crisp around the edges after baking, bringing a needed crunch to the otherwise tender dish.
After an hour of wine sipping and pasta rolling, we sat down to the ultimate comfort of schloopy, creamy noodles, which tasted all the better from the many hands that helped make it. The next time you’re faced with the eternal problem of too many people in the kitchen, embrace the crowd by breaking out the pasta roller.
For the pasta:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the lasagna:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 cups whole milk
3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup pesto
Make the pasta: Blend the flour, eggs, oil, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until the dough forms a ball. Or make a well in the mound of flour on a work surface, and place the eggs, oil, and salt in the well. Work the flour into the liquid with a fork until a dough forms, then knead the dough until it is an elastic ball, about 8 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Cut the dough into quarters, and dust each with flour. Using a pasta machine or a floured rolling pin, roll each piece of dough into a thin sheet, dusting it with flour as you go. Cut the noodles into 8-inch-long pieces.
Make the lasagna: Preheat the oven to 400° F.
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until hot. Whisk in the flour, and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the milk and 1 teaspoon salt, and bring to a boil. Boil the béchamel, whisking occasionally, 8 minutes; then remove from the heat and whisk in the cheese and pesto.
Cook the pasta sheets in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, about 2 minutes. Then drain.
Spread 1/2 cup of the béchamel over the bottom of a 3- to 4-quart baking dish or lasagna pan. Then layer the noodles and the béchamel in the dish in alternating layers until all but 1 noodle is used. Pour the remaining béchamel over the lasagna, and place the remaining noodle on top. Cover the dish with foil, and bake 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake the lasagna until it is bubbling and the noodle on top is crisp around the edges, about 30 minutes more. Let the lasagna stand 10 minutes. Then cut and serve.