Home made white lasagna for the Easter table

It is the beginning of the first week of Spring and, in the range of crops at the food store, we might find the asparagus that can be chosen as privileged ingredient of several dishes for the Easter table. During the last weekend, I made some different kind of fresh pasta at home. For the dough, according to the gastronomy tradition of my region, Apulia, I used simply good local flours (Senatore Cappelli and semola) and water. No eggs were necessary and, in this way, the dish could be a bit lighter. What is more, you can store the fresh pasta in the fridge for a couple of days. At this proper, for example, I use to alternate layers of lasagna on layers of fridge papers that are cut of similar sizes of lasagnas and store them accurately in the fridge.

As for the recipe about white lasagna dish, you need few simple steps for making it. 1. After removing the lower wooden ends of the asparagus (you need three or four per person), steam them for five minutes and then put them in a pan with a couple of spoons of extra virgin olive oil, a fragrant idea of garlic and cook them for few minutes more. 2. Make a smooth velvet Béchamel sauce. Melt some butter (I used about 30/40g), add a very small idea of garlic in the pan, if you like it. At this point, out of the small cooker, add slowly some all purpose flour (I used a couple of soup spoons) and mix it with the butter. Work it very well in order to dissolve each lump and have a smooth roux. Back on the small stove, add gently hot milk (250 or 300 ml) and keep on stirring and whipping until the white sauce is done. Add a sprinkle of salt, grated nutmeg and melt one or two generous handfuls of grated Rodez cheese (please, see the previous recipe – crêpes). 3. Cook lasagna pasta for about 5 minutes in salt boiling water. Then, strain and leave lasagna to dry on a clean towel on the table. Before starting with layers of lasagna, pour a couple of soup spoons of béchamel sauce on the surface of the cocottes and then alternate n. 4 layers of lasagna with béchamel sauce, asparagus and pieces of mozzarella cheese. 4. Place in the oven 180°C/200°C for about ten minutes (please, don’t leave it too long, in order to still have a moist surface) and then serve it very warm. I hope you enjoy the recipe and wish everybody ‘bon appétit‘.

Enjoy the music

Autumn and its culinary poetry: the light taste and seasonal ingredients for a homemade lasagna

   It is time to welcome the Autumn season and its very distinctive fragrances, its amazing natural landscapes made of warm shades and golden foliage! There is a world filled with inspiration in Albert Camus’s quotation, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower”, which makes you long to wander, at the week-end, through the woods and countryside paths of Apulia, for rediscovering those familiar places, where you know you can find those peculiar, seasonal ingredients for your kitchen. September mild temperatures, a bit more of humidity and little rain, from time to time, become the elements for the growing of new little plants of wild chicory, for example, that is one of the main ingredients of the homemade lasagna I’m going to prepare. It was a long time ago when I made this recipe for the first time and every year, by the arrival of the Autumn season, I enjoy to make it again and again.

   So, I start with making lasagna pasta, by using local organic Senatore Cappelli durum wheat (it is excellent for homemade cooked ‘al dente’ pasta). For about 4 portions, you will need about 250 gr of flour and some water for making into a mixture that you need to work very well by hands, in order to be compact and not sticky. Perhaps, you may help yourself, by adding a sprinkle of flour on the surface of it. What is more, in Apulia, we do not use eggs in the pasta mixture, since it does not belong to our local culinary tradition of ‘cucina povera’; on the other hand, dishes are lighter and more digestible when using only water. Once the pasta mixture is well done, you can use your traditional nonna papera pasta machine for making thin layers of pasta; then, leave them to get dried.

   In the meanwhile, boil some water in a pan, add and cook the cleaned wild chicories (about 500 gr) for few minutes. Strain the chicories very well and add them in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil, small cubes of bacon, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. 

   Prepare your béchamel sauce, firstly by working a couple of spoons of (semola) flour and some cold milk (between 250 ml and 350 ml – it depends on the consistency you prefer for the sauce) together in a saucepan, by melting all the lumps, add a sprinkle of salt, an idea of hot pepper, grated nutmeg. Secondly, put the saucepan on a small stove and a very moderate heat and start steering the spoon in order the flour does not stick on the surface of the saucepan. Then, as soon as the sauce starts slowly boiling, keep on steering just for little while more until it is well done but not too much thick, since the lasagna requires it be not too much thick. In the end, melt a knob of butter in the saucepan and some grated goat cheese.

   Now, before starting to prepare lasagna, it is necessary to cook the layers of pasta for very little moments, perhaps a couple of minutes, into boiling salt water. Strain the layers and make them dry on a cotton napkin, then, grease a baking pan with butter or few drops of extra virgin olive oil. Start fixing layers of pasta, then add small spoons of béchamel, a layer of chicories and bacon, one more of fresh mozzarella and then keep on doing again with a layer of pasta etc, until you have filled the bakery pan. A sprinkle of goat cheese on top and then place it in the oven 250° C for about ten minutes. When the mozzarella is melt and the surface of pasta appears little grilled, you can remove the lasagna from the oven and wait only few moments before making portions and serving them in the plates. 

   Pair the lasagna with your preferred wine and ‘buon appetito’!