According to the Ligurians of Italy’s north-west the basil that grows around the coast of Liguria is the best in the world thanks to the area’s unique geography. The capital, Genoa, is the birthplace of basil pesto after all, and it is rare to find a Genoan without a plot of basil, or some growing on the windowsill. This lasagna is a perfect way to make the most of a summertime abundance of the herb – the meat is replaced with a fragrant basil pesto. You will need a pasta machine for this recipe.
- 300 g (2 cups) '00' pasta flour (see Note), plus extra, to dust
- 3 eggs
- fine semolina, to dust
- 75 g (¾ cup) grated mozzarella
- 4 cups basil leaves, plus extra, to garnish
- 2 garlic cloves
- 80 g (½ cup) pine nuts
- 2 lemons, zested, juiced
- 60 ml (¼ cup) olive oil
- 200 g parmesan, finely grated
- 80 g butter, chopped
- 75 g (½ cup) plain flour
- 1 L milk
- ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- 115 g (1 cup) grated provolone
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time 30 minutes
Place flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add eggs, then, using your hands, draw in flour to combine with eggs and form a dough. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 6 minutes or until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Divide dough into 2 equal portions. Set your pasta machine at its widest setting, then feed through one portion. Continue to feed pasta through the widest setting 4 times, folding pasta and dusting with extra flour in between feeds. Reduce the setting, then fold, dust and feed pasta through again. Continue feeding, reducing the machine setting after each feed, until pasta is 3 mm-thick. Cut pasta sheet into 24 cm-long pieces. Repeat with second portion of dough. Layer pasta sheets on an oven tray dusted with semolina, sprinkling semolina between each sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
To make pesto, place basil, garlic, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper and pulse until roughly chopped. With the motor running, gradually pour in oil and blend until well combined. Transfer to a bowl and stir through parmesan. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
To make Béchamel sauce, melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until flour is cooked. Slowly add milk in a steady stream, whisking continuously, to prevent lumps. Cook, stirring, for a further 5 minutes or until thick. Remove from heat and stir through nutmeg, pepper and provolone.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Spoon a little of the Béchamel over the bottom of a deep ovenproof dish. Layer with sheets of pasta, a little more Béchamel and some of the pesto. Continue to layer, finishing with a layer of pasta topped with remaining Béchamel sauce. Sprinkle over mozzarella. Cover with lightly greased foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for a further 15 minutes or until golden brown. Serve scattered with extra basil leaves.
• '00' pasta flour or doppio-zero flour from supermarkets and delis, is a super-fine Italian flour grade that’s traditionally used for making pasta. Substitute plain flour.
Photography Chris Chen
As seen in Feast magazine, Dec/Jan 2013, Issue 27.