When I get invited to dinner parties, these days, I pretty much make it a policy not to take pictures. This takes the pressure off the host or hostess, who may be nervous that their food blogging friend is scrutinizing every bite, preparing to skewer them for all the world to see on his food blog the next morning. Mostly, though it takes the pressure off me: by not taking pictures, there’s no expectation that I’m going to blog about it. So if you’re wondering why the sweet potato souffle you cooked for me didn’t make it on to the blog (that’s just a hypothetical) it’s most likely a function of my policy. Unless, of course, you cook me the lasagna in the photo above.
That lasagna was prepared by my newest friend Morgan Tingley (you read about him a few posts ago when I wrote about Meyer lemons) this Sunday night at his apartment. (Funny side note: did you know that Morgan’s dad was David Lebovitz’s English teacher? I’m sure we’d all love to hear the stories!)
The lasagna that Morgan cooked on Sunday was so good that I exclaimed, in an emotional outburst: “This is the best lasagna I’ve ever had.”
Reflecting on it now, I’m not sure I can even think of Morgan’s lasagna as a lasagna in the traditional sense. By traditional sense, I mean the kind of lasagna that your best friend’s mother made when you slept over in middle school: the kind with lots of red sauce in between the layers. Morgan’s lasagna was all white.
That’s why I’ve titled this post “White Lasagna,” though I’m not sure how appetizing that makes it sound. Your appetite will be whet, however, when you imagine all that oozing cheese (both ricotta and mozzarella) layered with basil pesto, zucchini, tomatoes, and–the coup de grâce–Suzanne Goin’s mustard bread crumbs on top. It’s something of a revelation.
Thankfully, Morgan shared the recipe (and these pictures) on The Community Blog last night. His post goes into the history of the dish, how it passed from friend to friend and how it can be tweaked (the version I ate had ramps in it). For those of you who hate clicking, here’s the recipe copy-and-pasted for your enjoyment. And thanks to Morgan for both the dinner (there was strawberry rhubarb pie for dessert!) and the recipe. You may have inspired me to change my policy.
“The Best” (Vegetarian) Lasagna
by Morgan Tingley
via several friends, with breadcrumbs borrowed from Suzanne Goin
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 sprigs of thyme
6 medium zucchini, sliced evenly into 1/3” rounds
3 plum tomatoes, sliced very thinly (less then 5 mm)
Lasagna noodles for 3 layers (no-bake or parboiled, up to you)
1/4 cup basil pesto (fresh or purchased)
1 pound ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
zest of 1 lemon
1/8 c + 1 T chopped parsley
8 oz shredded mozzarella
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 T Dijon mustard
8 T olive oil
3 T butter
Optional: Greens from 1/4 pound ramps
1. Add 2 T olive oil and 1 T butter to a large skillet and heat on low until butter is melted. Add onions and leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme. Sauté over low heat about 1 hour until onions are caramelized. If not sweet to taste after 1 hour, increase the heat to medium till onions are browned.
2. Preheat oven to 300 °F. In a large bowl, toss zucchini slices with 4 T oil, and salt to taste. Arrange rounds on 2 baking sheets and bake 40 minutes until tender and slightly desiccated. Increase temperature to 400 and bake 10 minutes more until tops are browned.
3. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta with shredded parmesan, lemon zest, 1/8 c. parsley, and salt and black pepper to taste.
4. In a small pan, melt 2 T butter over medium heat until foamed. Add in leaves from remaining 2 sprigs of thyme, 1 T Dijon mustard, and 1 T finely chopped parsley. Remove from heat and whisk vigorously. Add in breadcrumbs, toss to combine, and set aside.
5. With all materials prepared, assemble the lasagna layers in a 9 x 13” baking dish, in the following order, remembering to lightly season between layers:
a. 1/3 of onions
b. 1/3 of zucchini
c. 1/3 of tomato slices
d. 1 whole layer of prepared pasta
e. evenly brush pesto over pasta in a very thin layer (use 1/3rd or less)
f. 1/3rd of ricotta mixture, spread evenly to edges of pan
g. If using, evenly cover ricotta mixture with 1 layer of ramp greens
h. 1/3rd of shredded mozzarella
6. Repeat to create 3 full layers, using up most of your ingredients (you may have some leftover, just eat it all in a sandwich). Over the top, sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture. Cover lasagna in aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight.
7. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Take lasagna out of refrigerator and place directly in the oven. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove foil and bake an additional 40 minutes till bubbly.
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