Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

2 08 2011

Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

Farmers’ markets are at their peak right now and almost anything that grows during the summer is now available. To take advantage of the bounty, why not make this lasagna which is packed full of summer herbs and vegetables? It’s the perfect dish for entertaining because you can assemble it in advance and bake as guests arrive. The various components take a bit of time to pull together but it’s pretty straightforward and the effort is well worth it. The recipe can also be adapted to suit vegetarians.

Summer Lasagna with Vegetables, Sausage and Pesto

Serves 6 to 8

For a vegetarian version, omit the sausage and double the vegetables.

Pesto Sauce:

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Pinch of salt

Sausage and Vegetable Sauce:

  • 3 mild Italian sausages
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced eggplant (about ½ small eggplant, cut into a ½” dice)
  • 1 cup diced zucchini (cut into a ½” dice)
  • ½ small red pepper, diced
  • ½ small yellow pepper, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 28 fl. oz. (796 ml) can whole tomatoes
  • 5.5 fl. oz. (156 ml) can tomato paste
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Salt to taste

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 cups whole or 2% milk
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Salt, to taste

For Assembly:

  • 3 to 5 fresh lasagna sheets (or more to fit the pan)
  • 5 oz. mozzarella, grated (equals about 1 cup loosely packed when grated)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese

To Make the Pesto Sauce:

  1. In a food processor or processor cup of a hand blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To Make the Sausage and Vegetable Sauce:

  1. Remove sausage meat from casings. Heat olive oil on medium-high in a large skillet or enameled cast iron pot. Add sausage meat and cook until just browned, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove sausage from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add eggplant, zucchini, peppers and onion to the pan and cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, chopped basil and red pepper flakes and cook for another two minutes.
  3. Pour in tomatoes and break up with a spoon. Add tomato paste and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes until it is thick (béchamel can be prepared during this time – see below). Season tomato sauce with a pinch of sugar and salt to taste. Set aside until ready to use. Sauce can be refrigerated up to two days.

To Make the Béchamel Sauce:

  1. In a large saucepan, heat butter on medium-high until just melted. Add flour and quickly whisk into the melted butter. Reduce heat to medium and cook flour mixture for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
  2. Add 1 cup of milk and whisk until smooth. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until mixture begins to thicken and add another cup of milk. Continue until all milk has been added. Add nutmeg and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste and set aside until ready to use.

Assembling and Baking the Lasagna:

  1. In the bottom of a baking pan measuring 7” X 11” X 2” (2 quarts), spread a thin layer of pesto sauce. Cover with a thin layer of tomato/sausage sauce and top with a drizzle of béchamel.
  2. Place a fresh lasagna noodle on top, cutting sheets to fit the pan as necessary.
  3. Repeat the process: pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel, noodles/pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel, noodles/pesto, tomato sauce, béchamel. Top with shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan. Lasagna can be refrigerated until ready to bake, up to two days.
  4. To Bake: Heat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake lasagna for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is bubbling and beginning to brown. Let cool slightly before serving.
Bon Appétit and Enjoy!
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Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

This recipe first appeared on Suite 101.com.

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How to Make Perfect Mashed Potatoes

24 11 2010

Creamy, buttery mashed potatoes are a must at any holiday table.

When it comes to favourite comfort foods, mashed potatoes are near the top of my list.  They are the perfect side to serve with gravy-based dishes such as turkey and roast beef and no holiday table would be complete without them.

The great thing about potatoes (aside from being delicious) is that they are very inexpensive and readily available year-round.  I’m from New Brunswick, Canada, which is a major potato-producing region (McCain’s, the world’s largest producer of frozen french fries, is based there). A couple of years ago, I saw a roadside sign near Fredericton advertising 50 pounds of potatoes for $9.99 so it’s no surprise that they were a staple at our dinner table almost every night.

Potatoes may not look exciting but they are very versatile.

To make smooth, creamy mashed potatoes, here are a few tips that will ensure success:

  • Choose starchy potatoes such as Russets (also known as Idaho or baking potatoes).  Yukon Golds also work well and have a nice buttery interior.  Avoid waxy ‘boiling’ potatoes such as fingerlings or red potatoes.
  • Cutting the potatoes into chunks will speed the cooking process.  You can peel them before cooking for a nicer presentation but sometimes I leave the skins on for texture and nutrients.
  • Use a potato ricer to ensure smooth, lump-free potatoes.  A potato ricer looks like a giant garlic press and you push the cooked potatoes through tiny holes, resulting in potato strands that look like rice.  Ricers are available at most kitchen stores.  Do not use a mixer to beat them – they will become gluey.
  • Season well! Potatoes can handle a lot of salt and seasonings such as garlic, horseradish or chopped herbs (see below for more ideas).  Be sure to add butter and dairy while the potatoes are still hot so everything melts and combines easily. Add seasonings gradually and taste as you go.

Preparing Mashed Potatoes in Advance

Trying to drain and mash potatoes when you have guests waiting for dinner can be messy and cumbersome. Luckily, mashed potatoes can be prepared in advance and kept warm or re-heated. There are two methods that work well:

  1. Place mashed potatoes in a metal bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Cover loosely with foil. Stir occasionally and check moisture and seasoning before serving.
  2. Cooked mashed potatoes can be kept warm in a slow cooker set to ‘Low’. Check and stir on occasion, as they can become dry around the edges.

Optional Additions

While plain mashed potatoes are a delicious on their own, they can be further enhanced with some of the following (measurements are approximate – add to taste):

  • Grated horseradish – 2 to 3 Tablespoons or to taste
  • ¼ cup of sour cream plus ½ chopped green onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 head roasted garlic, squeezed out of its skin
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Mashed Potatoes

Evaporated milk or regular milk can be substituted for the cream but the results will not be as creamy and rich.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

(VEGETARIAN)

  • 6 large russet potatoes (about 2-1/2 lbs.), peeled and cut into thirds
  • ½ cup heavy cream (whipping cream), heated
  • 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into pieces
  • Salt, to taste
  • A large stockpot with a lid
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • Water, to cover potatoes
  • Potato ricer
  1. In a large stockpot, add potatoes, 1 Tablespoon salt and enough water to just cover the potatoes. Cover and bring water to a boil.
  2. Remove cover and reduce heat to medium-high. Gently boil until potatoes are very tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Check with a sharp knife periodically to determine tenderness.
  3. Drain cooked potatoes. Place two or three potato chunks in the potato ricer. Working over a large bowl, press potatoes through ricer. Repeat with all potatoes.
  4. Quickly add butter and cream to hot potatoes. Stir until combined and the potatoes are creamy. Add salt to taste. Add any optional seasonings and mix until incorporated.
  5. Serve with your favourite dishes such as braised short ribs, roast chicken or turkey with gravy.

Copyright Trish Coleman. Please contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Bon Appétit and Enjoy!

This article first appeared on Suite 101.com.

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