Baked Pesto Lasagna

12 wide lasagna noodles (not instant)
1 bunch fresh basil, stems removed
1/3 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves, washed and dried
8 – 10 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups half-and-half or milk
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
butter as needed
8 ounces mozzarella, grated
8 ounces Monterey Jack, grated.

Boil noodles in salted water according to package directions. Drain well and lay strips to dry on paper towels.

Wash basil leaves well in several changes of water. Blanch in boiling water just until limp. Using slotted spoon, immediately plunge into ice water to cool. Drain again and squeeze dry. Place in blender with parsley, garlic and oil and purée until smooth. Season with pepper to taste and set aside.

Melt butter in heavy saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour until smooth and cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in half- and-half. Raise heat and cook, whisking, until thickened and smooth. Stir in Parmigiano. Let cool slightly, then stir in pesto until completely blended.

Preheat oven to 325° F.  Liberally butter bottom and sides of 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Spoon a little pesto sauce over bottom of pan. Line with 3 strips noodles. With spatula, top each strip evenly with sauce. Sprinkle with about one-quarter of the mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheeses. Repeat with three more layers, using all the noodles, and most of the sauce and cheese. Pour all remaining sauce over, smoothing top, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings.

About 1 1/2 hours

Adapted from “The California Farm Cookbook” by Kitty Morse (Pelican Publishing, 1994)

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