Here’s a new podcast. It’s a talk about lasagnas, how I put them together, what styles I like, and the way I like to cook and serve them. I hope you enjoy it. Please leave comments, and share recipes too, if you like. I love to hear from you.
Lasagna with Wilted Greens, Guanciale, and Spiced Besciamella
(Serves 6 as a first course)
For the spiced besciamella:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
1 fresh bay leaf
A big pinch each (about 1/8 teaspoon) Aleppo pepper, black pepper, allspice, cardamom, coriander seed, and nutmeg
For the rest:
Extra-virgin olive oil
¼ pound guanciale, cut into small cubes
2 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5 cups tender mixed greens, stemmed, leaving a bit of water clinging to them: perhaps spinach, baby kale, arugula, mustard, chard, the leafy part of broccoli rabe, or anything tender enough to collapse with a quick sauté
1½ cups freshly grated grana Padano cheese
¾ pound fresh lasagna sheets, boiled, cooled, and laid out in the usual way
To make the besciamella: In a medium pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, and whisk until it’s blended into the butter. Sauté for a minute or so, without letting it brown, to get rid of the raw taste. Add all the milk, and whisk well to blend. Add all the spices and a decent amount of salt. Whisk a few times, and then let it slowly heat, whisking frequently. Keep whisking while keeping it at a low bubble, until the sauce becomes thick and smooth, about another 3 minutes. You’ll now have a not too thick sauce, one that won’t add heaviness to your lasagna and will allow it to breath a bit. Cover the surface with plastic wrap so it doesn’t form a skin.
In a large, deep skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium flame. Add the guanciale, and let it render some of its fat. Add the shallot, and sauté until it softens. Next add the garlic, and cook just until fragrant, a few seconds. Add as much of the greens as you can, turning them in the oil until they wilt. When they’ve left enough space, add the rest of them. Cook, uncovered, until they’re just tender, about 4 minutes. Season with salt, black pepper, and a little Aleppo. Now pull them out of the skillet, leaving all excess water behind. Give the greens a good chop (this will make the lasagna easier to cut).
Preheat the oven to 425 degree.
Choose an approximately 10-by-12-inch baking dish about 2 inches deep. Drizzle in a little olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of the dish, and lay down a layer of pasta. Make a layer of greens, drizzle in a layer of besciamella, and sprinkle on some grana Padano. Repeat the process, using up the rest of the greens but holding back about ¼ cup of besciamella and a little of the grana Padano. Put down a final layer of pasta, the remaining besciamella, and the rest of the grana Padano. The pasta layers can be a little haphazardly arranged, hanging over the pan a bit. In fact, I prefer them that way.
Bake uncovered until the lasagna is hot and bubbling and the edges are browned, about 20 minutes or so. Then by the time you get it to the table, it’ll be ready to cut.