Sunday, 8 August 2010

Lasagnette di zucchini - Courgette lasagne

Like many simple dishes, courgette lasagne can be tricky to do well. What you are aiming for is a balance between the pasta, the béchamel sauce and the courgette. So, do

1. ensure that you use egg pasta and that you parboil it for four minutes

2. ensure that the flour is cooked out of the béchamel and that it has the consistency of thick pouring cream

3. grill the courgette until it is soft and caramelised. The photo below shows how it should look.

I’ve found that a lower layer of leek and spinach adds variety to the dish but be careful not to brown the leek so that its flavour drowns out the more delicate courgette. To assemble it, I start with a layer of pasta which I leave to overhang the dish on all sides. Then there’s the leek and spinach on a bed of sauce, followed by more sauce, another layer of pasta and the courgette. Finally, fold the overhanging bits in, fill in any gaps with more lasagne sheets and finish off with a thick layer of béchamel. This last is vital to ensure that the pasta cooks well so reserve 40% of the sauce for this last bit.

Crumbs, that sounds a bit complicated. Once you get going, it’s anything but and you get a cheap, appetising dish that feeds four well. If it’s a primi, it could be followed by a piece of grilled meat or fish. If it’s a secondi, it could be preceded by a salad. Or you could do it English caff style, with garlic bread and chips. (A joke.)

I used a well greased dish approximately 24cms x 28 cms.

4 medium Courgettes

130g Butter

100g Plain flour

1 l. Milk

100g Parmesan grated

To taste Salt and pepper

Grated to taste Nutmeg

2 Leeks

200g Spinach

12 sheets Egg pasta lasagna

1. First, slice and grill the courgettes. Cut each one into two or three tubes and then slice each one lengthwise into 40mm. thick strips. Heat and oil a griddle and grill the strips on each side until they are soft and brown.

2. Make the béchamel by melting the butter in a large saucepan, stirring in the flour and cooking them into a smooth paste – or roux - over a low light. Then heat the milk and gradually add it to the roux, stirring it all the time with a wooden spoon while the sauce thickens. Bring it to a slow simmer, stirring around the bottom of the pan to prevent it sticking, and cook it for four minutes. Stir in the parmesan and season with salt and black pepper and a good grating of nutmeg, to your taste. Taste to ensure that the sauce is well cooked. It may need another minute or two.

3. Clean the leeks and spinach thoroughly. Chop the spinach roughly. Slice the white and light green part of the leeks across into 50mm. chunks. Fry them in 30g of butter. When they are soft add the spinach and cook until it too is soft, ensuring that there is no liquid in the bottom of the pan.

4. Boil a large saucepan of water, and parboil the pasta six sheets at a time. When it is ready, lift it out with a draining spoon and drop it into a bowl of cold water. Lift it out and leave it to drain on a teacloth.

5. Grease an ovenproof dish with butter, then lay two sheets on each side of it so that they overhang the side, meeting in the middle of the bottom of the dish. Place a sheet lengthwise at each end of the dish so that there is a complete layer of pasta on the bottom of the dish.

6. Spread a layer of sauce over the pasta, then cover this with a layer of leek and spinach.

7. Lay three sheets of pasta across the dish, then add the layer of the griddled courgette.

8. Fold over the overhanging pasta and complete the pasta layer with one or two sheets of lasagne.

9. Finish with a smooth layer of the sauce.

10. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 160 degrees for 30 minutes or until it starts to go brown and crispy.

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