Vegetable Lasagna “in bianco”
I love a little help in the kitchen, especially when it is my four year old daughter helping me with her little hands. My hope was that if she helped me assemble this lasagna she would also want to eat it, but I was wrong, she turned her nose up at it and ended up with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I remember my mother calling it food wars and we are deep in the trenches, I can’t complain too much, according to her teachers she is the only kid in her class who eats everything on her plate, vegetables included. It is at home that we have these problems, to the point of creating a “try it, try it” chart and the promise of a toy when she fills it with stickers of delicious things that she has tried without making gagging noises and eventually spitting it out. We are moving very slowly on the progress of this chart.
The important thing is that we had fun making it, raising her enthusiasm for making the next thing. My husband and I thought it was delicious and were able to lunch on it for a few days afterwards too. I usually stick with a tomatoey lasagna, but with all of these veggies I knew that the tomato would overpower, so a bechamel sauce was the perfect delicate match. I used an olive oil bechamel recipe from my favorite New York Times author, Martha Rose Shulman, which is so delicate and much healthier than it’s butter alternative.
Vegetable Lasagna in Bianco
- ½ pound no-boil lasagna noodles
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 cups grated mozzarella
- 2 cups of frozen spinach, thawed and drained
- 3 zucchini, sliced
- 1 head of radicchio, chopped
- ½ pound mushrooms, sliced
- 1 small onion or shallot, minced
- a few slices of ham
- zucchini flowers, if available
for the bechamel:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons minced shallot or onion
- 2 tablespoons sifted all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- salt and pepper to taste
Saute the vegetables separately, I sauteed them all in the same pan, but to save time in the process, but not necessarily in the clean up, you can saute them all in separate pans. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil to blanch the radicchio. In the meantime heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan, add zucchini and saute until browned on both sides, be careful not too crowd or they will release too much liquid and not brown very nicely. Remove from the pan and set aside. After blanching the radicchio for 1 minute, drain well and add to the pan, if you need to add a drizzle more olive oil, do so. Saute the radicchio in the pan until it has started to change color. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add another tbsp of olive oil to the pan and add the minced onions, saute until translucent and add the mushrooms. Allow the mushrooms to release their liquid, when that liquid has evaporated turn off the heat and remove from the pan to set aside.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy saucepan. Add the shallot or onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until smooth and bubbling, but not browned. It should have the texture of wet sand. Whisk in the milk all at once and bring to a simmer, whisking all the while, until the mixture begins to thicken. Turn the heat to very low and simmer, stirring often with a whisk and scraping the bottom and edges of the pan with a rubber spatula, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is thick and has lost its raw-flour taste. Season with salt and pepper.
Spread a thin layer of bechamel at the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, preferably glass. Place one layer of noodles on top, covering the entire dish. Distribute the mushrooms on the layer of noodles. Place the second layer of noodles on the mushrooms and spread another dollop of bechamel evenly over the noodles, topping that with the spinach, half of the mozzarella and some parmigiano reggiano. Place the 3rd layer of noodles on the spinach, and place the zucchini on that third layer, placing the ham slices over the squash. Place the 4th layer of noodles of the zucchini and ham and spread some of the bechamel evenly over the noodles, add the radicchio to this layer and distribute over the noodles. The final layer of noodles will be topped with bechamel, mozzarella cheese, zucchini flowers and what is left of the parmigiano-reggiano. Cover and let sit until you are ready to bake, it can be made 1 day ahead of time and chilled in the fridge. If you make it a day ahead, allow it to come to room temperature before putting it in the oven.
Preheat oven to 375°. Bake the lasagna, covered with aluminum foil, for 30 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and allow to cook for an additional 10 minutes, until it is bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow it to sit for a few minutes before serving.
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