Creamy Pesto Lasagne

Recipe by Alice Waters, Adapted by Tricia Wheeler


5-6 cloves young garlic or 3-4 cloves mature garlic
Coarse Salt
Whole Black Peppercorns
4 cups roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
¾ cup virgin olive oil
1 1/3 cups lightly toasted pine nuts
2/3 cups Parmesan

Bechamel Sauce:

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoon all purpose flour
3 cups half and half
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and Pepper
Bouquet Garni –thyme, parsley, baby leaf, black peppercorns, onion and garlic
2 Egg Pasta Dough (see spring pasta recipe or use store-bought noodles)
½ Cup Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons butter

Make the pesto in a mortar & pestle or food processor, blending all ingredients but oil to a coarse chop, then drizzling in oil at end. To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, and when it is gently foaming add the flour and whisk together. Cook the roux over low heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to let the flour brown. Turn off the heat and let it cool a little. Combine the half and half and cream and heat them almost to the boiling point. Pour them into the roux, in a steady stream whisking all the while until the mixture is smooth. Season with salt and pepper and a subtle amount of nutmeg.

Make a bouquet garni of a few sprigs each of thyme and parsley, a bay leaf, a few black peppercorns, a slice or two of onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic. Wrap these ingredients in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it with a string. Put the boquet garni and béchamel in the top of a double boiler, cover, and let it simmer for an hour or so, stirring occasionally as it cooks. Remove it from the heat and let it cool while you roll and cook the pasta.

Remove the boquet garni from the béchamel and blend the two sauces together. Layer the thin sheets of pasta, with a light, even coating of the sauce; repeat with layers of pasta and sauce until the dish is filled. These quantities will fill a dish approximately 12 by 9 by 2 inches. Finish the lasagna, folding the last sheets together like a package. Cover the top with a layer of freshly grated Parmesan and fresh bread crumbs and dot with butter. Cover with foil and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes, or until the cheese and bead crumbs top is golden brown. Let the lasagna cool just a little before serving. The aroma is irresistible.