Before we left for our spring break, the farmers' market was loaded with greens, but not much else. We decided to make this lasagna with it, which is loosely based on a lasagna that my sister and brother-in-law have made many times for us. I love the flavors because the greens and the basil give it a freshness that suits the season, even if it is a cheesy, comforting lasagna. It has become one of our family favorites.
Although we made the dish in spring, it really is perfect for fall and winter too, when those greens are abundant at the markets. I'm not going to say too much more. I'll let the pictures do the talking.
I'm looking forward to heading back to the farmers' market this weekend to see what's available now. Ramps? Asparagus? I can't wait.
Second Helping: Velvety Ramp and Watercress Soup with Crispy Shallots
Thirds: Kale Chips
1 pound lasagne noodles*
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
12 cups fresh spinach leaves, carefully washed
16 ounces ricotta
1 cup freshly grated parmesan
4 1/2 cups whole milk
9 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
olive oil for the pan
1 large bunch of basil
1 half pound mozzarella
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt the water, and cook the lasagne noodles for a minute less than the time called for on the package. When they are done, drain them in a colander and rinse them with cold water. Stir them gently with a wooden spoon as you rinse to keep them from sticking together.
Put the spinach in a large stock pot and add enough water to nearly cover it. Bring the pot to a boil. Cook until the spinach wilts but is still a bright green. Drain the spinach in a colander, mashing it with a wooden spoon against the side of the colander to remove any remaining water. Let it sit for a few minutes to cool and dry out while you make the bechamel sauce.
In a small stockpot, heat the milk over low heat. It should be warm but not boiling. (You could even heat it in the microwave in a glass measuring cup if you don't want to get another pot dirty.) In a larger sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the flour, reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir until the flour is fully incorporated. Add the milk and stir vigorously until the mixture is smooth. Add a few pinches of salt and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture has thickened and you feel a lot of resistance against the spoon as you stir. Stir in the nutmeg. Remove the pan from the heat, cover it, and set it aside.
In a large bowl, mix the cooled spinach with the ricotta and parmesan. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Spread a bit of oil over the bottom of a 9-by-13 inch lasagne pan and place a layer of noodles over the bottom. Add enough of the spinach mixture to cover the noodles thinly. Add a layer of basil leaves. Don't be tempted to skimp on the basil; it is the secret ingredient that sets this lasagne apart. Repeat with another layer of noodles-spinach-basil.
Ladle enough of the bechamel sauce over the second layer to cover it. Keep adding more layers of noodles-spinach-basil until you run out of spinach mixture. Pour the remaining bechamel over the top of the lasagne, letting it drip down the sides if you have enough. Add mozzarella to the top.
Bake until the lasagne is lightly browned on top and bubbling, about 45 minutes. Let it rest for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
* Am I the only one that always has way too many lasagne noodles left over? You will not need the full pound, but I make them all anyway because I'm never sure how many I will need. If you are feeling crafty, you can always cut the extras into strips, toss them with some olive oil and butter, and serve them to any pickier eaters who won't eat the lasagne because it has green stuff in it.