Friday, September 23, 2011

Sausage Pesto Lasagna

When I think of comfort food, it doesn't come in the form of chicken and dumplings or pot roast, hands down it has to be lasagna.  I came up with this recipe while looking for ways to incorporate fresh pesto into other dishes.  The elements may seem complex but in reality, are simply made, and the flavors lighter than you would expect when using a cream based sauce.

Ingredients

freshly made pesto
  two bunches of basil leaves, picked and washed
  one handful of pine nuts, toasted
  1 garlic clove
   a handful of pecorino, freshly grated
  extra-virgin olive oil
  salt and pepper to taste
no boil lasagna sheets (I use Barilla Oven-Ready Lasagna)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
4 cups whole milk, room temperature
nutmeg
1-pound Italian sausage, removed from casing
2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
pecorino, freshly grated

Start by making the pesto.  In a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic clove and pine nuts until coarsely chopped slowly drizzling with olive oil until achieving your desired consistency.  I prefer a thicker consistency when using for spreads such as in this recipe, as thinner pesto will become runny when the lasagna is baked.  Last, pulse in about a handful of pecorino and season with salt and pepper.

Start browning the sausage on medium-high heat, breaking into crumbles with a wooden spoon.

To make the bechemel; in a sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Once melted, stir in flour and cook for about 2 minutes, you will know the flour, and butter are cooked together when they start to foam.  Once this happens, whisk in the milk and continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken.  The bechemel should have the consistency of alfredo sauce.  Stir in the shredded mozzarella, season with salt, pepper and a grating (or 1/8 tsp) of nutmeg.

In a lightly buttered, or greased casserole, spread a ladle of the bechemel on the bottom of the dish and layer enough pasta to cover.  Evenly spread a layer of pesto on top of the pasta then sprinkle with browned sausage crumbles and top with bechemel.  Repeat this process until you reach the a 1/4 inch from the top of the casserole dish, about 3 to 4 layers.  Top last layer with remaining bechemel, freshly grated pecorino and dot with butter.  Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour or until lasagna is bubbling and the top is golden brown.  Let stand 10 to 15 minutes before serving.  This recipe will easily serve 4 to 6 people.

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