Tag Archives: pesto

Roasted Butternut and Pesto Lasagne

2 Jul

I was expecting quite a few people tonight to watch the Brasil – Netherlands game (was that a surprise or what?!) and so decided to make a lasagne. But I didnt want to do one which was rich in tomato sauce (though I do have a wonderful sauce that has a secret ingredient… oh wait, I will leave that for another time!). I decided I wanted to do a lighter version of lasagne, so I thought of butternut (orange for the Dutch) and pesto (green for the Brasilians). Instead of a bechamel or thick cheese sauce, I decided to do a mix of ricotta, light cottage cheese and sour cream. Not traditional, I know, but it made the lasagne very edible especially when watching such a nailbiting game! It wasnt heavy or overwhelming, but really scrumptious and pleasurable.

This is really easy to make, especially if you do the pesto the day before. This is recommended anyway to ensure that the sauce deepens in flavour and complexity. The rest is a matter of mixing a few things together, and roasting the butternut, and it really can do that all by itself!

This recipe will fill a very large roasting pan – serving probably 10 – 12 hungry people (or 6 with double leftovers, which isnt half bad!)

Roasted Butternut

Butternut is extraordinary. Its sweet and roasts, bakes, stews, steams and purees like a dream. It has a vibrant colour, and its just an amazingly beautiful texture and taste. You really dont have to do anything to it for it to taste good. Just let it be, and thank it for being. 🙂

For this recipe you will need:

  • 1 1/2 large butternuts (probably about 5 – 6 cups chopped)
  • Seasoned salt and white pepper
  • Olive oil

Preheat oven to 180C. Peel, deseed and chop your butternuts roughly. Tumble the butternuts onto a cookie sheet in one layer. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, some seasoned salt if you have it (if not regular salt is fine), and white pepper. Using your hands, mix all well, and pop into the oven. This will roast very quickly – you probably dont need more than 20 – 30 minutes. You will know its done when the butternut starts to caramelise and brown on the edges, and its soft through. Gorgeous. Leave to cool while assembling the rest.

By the way, the butternut is superb just like this, served as a side dish, or as the basis of a wonderful soup (whiz it up with some yogurt or a little bit of vegetable stock), or even as a cold salad, tossed with some rocket and balsamico and parmesan. Can you tell I adore butternut? 🙂

“White Sauce”

This is not your traditional bechamel. Its much lighter, and yet ensures that the lasagne stays moist and tastes very rich. Its easy to make because it takes no cooking. Just a little beating together and you have alchemy.

The egg just adds lightness and helps everything cook. If you dont have one, or dont want to add one, then forego it.

You will need:

  • 500 g light cottage cheese (curds or smooth, your choice, though I like curds)
  • 500 g ricotta (full fat or light, again your choice)
  • 250 g light sour cream or about 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • Handful of parmesan
  • Salt and pepper (just a little)

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, and set aside until assembly.

May I just make one note here? I had a beautiful bowl of cottage cheese, ricotta and parmesan and I broke the egg straight into it. And the egg was bad. The smell was terrible, and I was heartbroken. All that good food gone to waste, simply because of my laziness. Please do remember to make sure that when you are adding egg to a recipe, always break it open in a separate container and then add it to your main ingredients. You will save yourself an extra expense and trip to the grocery store. I know, from experience!

Assembly

For this lasagne, you will need:

  • Panful of roasted butternut
  • “White sauce”
  • Pesto
  • About 1 1/2 cups pecorino or parmesan, grated
  • 500 g box of dry lasagne pasta or fresh, if you can get it!
  • Olive oil
  • Handful of Italian parsley to finish

Preheat your oven to 180C.

If you are using dry pasta, fill a pan with hot water, add a few drops of olive oil, and put the pasta in. This will hydrate it a little, which will help in the baking process. You dont cook this lasagne for long, and it does not have a thick saucey component that will cook the pasta during baking. Hot tap water is fine, or a kettle that has been boiled and left for 15 minutes or so. You should be able to touch the water. Leave the pasta in for about ten minutes.

Oil the bottom of a very large roasting tin with a little olive oil. Spread about 1/3rd of the butternut over the bottom of the pan, sprinkle a little bit of parmesan over, and drop about 1/2 cup of white sauce over this. Cover entirely with pasta. Spoon about a cup of white sauce over this (or more – you want to cover the pasta entirely but not thickly), and spoon tablespoons of pesto on top. You want a white base, with beautiful bright green blobs. Cover entirely with pasta. As you cover it, you will see the pesto spread – this is good. Do another butternut layer, another pesto, and a final butternut layer. Cover with a final layer of pasta, and pour the rest of the white sauce over all, and sprinkle the remainder of your cheese over. You should have a pretty full pan, and five layers of lasagne.

Bake in hot oven for about half an hour, or until heated throughout, the pasta is soft, and the top is brown and crispy. Let rest for a few minutes when you take it out of the oven, and chop up a handful of Italian parsley to sprinkle over.

Serve with a refreshing salad. And watch your team win! Or lose 😉

Pesto

1 Jul

Glowing green. Scented with basil, pine nuts, pecorino and garlic. Goopy, gooey goodness. I am nuts about pesto. Its so easy to make – about 5 minutes cooking time to toast the nuts, and the rest a few pulses in your food processor. You can eat this so many ways: straight from the bowl (as per usual!); stirred through pasta or even rice; as an amazing addition to a sandwich or salad dressing; and, as I will be using it, as the base of a terrific lasagne.

Pesto can be made with so many things – any green vegetable – or go further – let your imagination take flight – use butternut, sun ripened tomatoes, mushrooms even. Try it with almonds, macadamias, walnuts, and change the cheese – blue, parmesan, etc. Its so flexible, and so delicious.

Note that I use some rocket in this recipe (about 1 to 3 in terms of the basil) because basil in Malaysia is very strongly flavoured. If your basil is the gentler variety, feel free to omit the rocket entirely.

For about 2 cups you will need:

  • 1 1/2 cups pine nuts
  • 2 cups (150 g) well packed, washed basil
  • 3/4 cup rocket
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, chopped into chunks
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup grated pecorino or parmesan
  • Up to 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil

First off, toast the pine nuts. In a non stick pan, over medium heat, layer the pine nuts. Make sure you keep stirring with a spatula. These go from golden toasty to burnt in a split second, so be careful.

Put your basil into food processor and add about 1/4 cup olive oil. Pulse a couple times so its completely chopped. Add the rocket, and pulse again.

Add the pine nuts, and pulse well, adding a little more olive oil if you feel it is needed.

Add the garlic and salt, and pulse again. Add the pecorino or parmesan, and mix with spatula. Turn out into a bowl, and add a little more olive oil until its the consistency that you prefer.

I would certainly make this at least 1 day in advance to allow the flavours to meld. Save covered with a slick of olive oil, covered, in the fridge.