Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Pesto Lasagna
*In regards to "a box", mine simply came in a medium sized plastic container promising to hold "Organic Baby Spinach". The container seems pretty standard stock for the grocery stores by me. In any event, use your imagination, but always get a bit more than you think you'll need.
Update: The "box" is approximately 5 oz. So, think somewhere in the 10-15 range. I also saw a "bag" in 6 oz size.
Ham and Lamb. Ham. Lamb. And me, the veggie head. My mother means well, but even a perfunctory glance at the Easter menu left me feeling like a leper at the table.
I like to eat, I don't like to eat living things and I haven't for almost five years. As a result, I'm often left to my own devices in the kitchen. So, when Ham and Lamb reared their formerly very much alive heads at the table, it was up to me to rescue the meal. I'd seen a special on Genovesian Lasagna and their focus on pesto rather than tomato sauces flicked a switch in the back of my brain. It was time to make a lasagna.
First things first, get your Pesto ready! I used Sneff's recipe over in the node and it came out wonderfully. You won't need a lot of pesto, so go ahead and break out the mortar and pestle. They run about 20-30 bucks for one of decent size. However:
Things to consider when preparing Pesto:
- You are going to need a good deal of basil. 3 rather hearty bunches just barely made it. As you'll be spreading and not pouring the pesto, it doesn't need to be an outrageous amount. Think 4 or 5 good sized bunches to be on the safe side, you're going to be grinding the hell out of them.
- Pesto, while absolutely delightful, tastes like plain 'ol basil without the salt. Salt to taste, there aren't a lot of strong flavors in the lasagna so you need to lend it some bite; I learned this the hard way.
- You can prepare your pesto days, or even a week, in advance. I'm told it holds well frozen. Regardless, the closer to actual cooking the better. When trying to impress it's best to keep the risks to a minimum.
- Make sure them leave are dry, but not totally. When grinding they'll lose a lot of water which, while delicious and the very definition of verdant, will thin out your pesto. Still, it's nice to have a little of the basil juice in there.
Back to the show:
So, go ahead and make the pesto. Stick some plastic wrap over the top and pop it in the fridge. NEVER heat a pesto, traditional cooking lore holds that the heat of the food will heat the pesto. About this time it'd be nice to wash the spinach and set it aside to dry. My girlfriend procured a greens drying bag at Williams-Sonoma which appeared to be made of cheese cloth or some alien space fabric. Either way, it left the spinach crispy and dry (And dry is good, remember? Leafy greens are water hogs!).
Which brings us to roasting peppers. Despite that fact that Easter rolled into town early April, it was still dropping under forty degrees. This, coupled with the yet unassembled grill in the garage, left me without any grilling surface to roast my peppers. Fear not! Grills are not a pre-requisite to a finely roasted pepper. I used the burners on a stove (Flame, but I hear electric works just as well). Cut a slit in each pepper, put it over the burner and keep turning until the better part of the pepper is charred. Stick them all in a bowl, cover it (It'll further soften them) and let sit for 10 minutes. Whem time is up take out each pepper and, under cold water, remove the skin just by rubbing it with your fingers, it should come right off. If there remains any stubborn skin a paring knife should do the job nicely. Slice the peppers into fairly broad strips and set them aside (I dropped them into a container with some olive oil, kosher salt and crushed garlic and let them sit for a day).
Now we're ready to assemble. Boil those noodles according to the directions on the box (Unless you made your own, in which case I admire and fear you) and get ready to cook. I busted out what was, I think, a 14x10 1/2 4" deep lasagna pan. Grease the pan and place 4 lasagna noodles against the walls on the pan itself. They'll absorb a lot of the intense heat and keep your lasagna moist. When this is done, lay down the first layer of noodles (Likely 2 noodles, I was unable to find anything large and broad at a reasonable price) and spread some pesto on. Put the peppers on top, try and visualize where the slice is going to be and keep it down to 1 1/2, 2 peppers per-layer, per-slice. Next,lay down a rather significant amount of the spinach, enough that you can't really see the noodles or the peppers anymore, the spinach tends to cook down so you'll need more than you think. Sprinkle the goat cheese with a mindful abandon- It tends to be extremely strong. Again, visualize slices, I tried to keep it to one quarter sized dollop per-layer, per-slice. Repeat for as many layers as you'd like (I ended up with 3 and had some supplies left over to decorate the top).
Attempt to pin the lasgna walls to the lasgna (Toothpicks do nicely), sprinkle some parmesan over the top, cover with foil and drop in the oven at 350 degrees Farenheight for about 35 minutes, take off the foil and go another 10 minutes.Keep an eye on it, when I made mine it was in a Nesco Roaster, but the cooking times should be similar.
When you remove it from the oven, for the love of God (Or, alternately, Satan, Allah, Moses or Pete), remove the lasgna walls. They will be tough, inedible and your uncle, whom you pity, will be unable to cut them. This will embarass you and will earn him the scorn and ire of his greedy, contemptous children. Do whatever you'd like with them, just get them out of the pan. Serve and Enjoy!
Reactions and Reviews
My girlfriend has this to say:
"The lasagna tasted good - but I would have used more peppers, spinach, goat cheese (would have crumbled and spread it more - the other option is melting it and pouring it on layers and more pesto - I suggest this because everything tends to cook down and you don't want the noodles to overpower the filling and vice versa - with the top of the lasagna I would have put more of a topping on there - maybe put the pesto and more goat cheese to prevent overcooking the noodles . Other than that tasted great - did need a little bit of salt - maybe experiment with a select few spices next time"
On my part, I wish it had just...tasted like more. I'm pretty sure salt in the pesto would've perked it up or some parmesean in the layers. It went over well with the extended family, though. I wasn't so sure they'd like it, but it met with rave (conciliatory?) reviews. Still, I'd take to tweaking it in your own kitchen. All said and done, definitley something I'd make again.
Directions cheat sheet!
*directions can be made a day or two ahead of time
- Wash basil and spinach, set aside to dry.
- *Roast those peppers! Set in a bowl to soften!
- *Make that pesto! Mortar and pestle, grind, GRIND! You could food process, but show some love! GRIND!!
- Cut those peppers! Chop! Chop!
- Noodles! Boil!
- Assemble! Cook! Serve!
- *Have a drink, you did well today.