Pesto lasagna is one of my favorite fancy make ahead entrees. Once you have the pesto (which we make in large batches in the summer, when we harvest basil 3 lbs at a time), everything else is fairly straightforward.
The pesto recipe is from The Intimate Vegetarian by Nancy Mair. She has amazing recipes, and they’re portion controlled for one or two people. If you’re vegetarian and like cooking, you should buy her book (and her other book Simply Vegetarian as well). Unfortunately, they’re out of print (and there’s a story about that).
- 4 cups of fresh basil leaves (about a 4 oz pack)
- 1/2 cup of olive oil (get the nice kind)
- 1/4 cup of pine nuts (we get this from Costco)
- 4 cloves of minced garlic if you’re using it fresh, 6 cloves if you’re freezing and then using it later
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1-1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan
- Blend basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt in a food processor or blender until finely ground.
- Place mixture in a bowl and stir in Parmesan. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap, laying wrap directly on the surface of the Pesto (so it doesn’t oxidize and darken). Or vacuum seal and place in freezer.
Shanti found the ricotta mix originally, and I don’t know where from. I think he found several different versions and just whatever seemed good to him. Anyway, this is what we have:
- 2 pounds of ricotta cheese
- 2 cups of freshly grated Parmesan
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup parsley
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
Mix it all in a giant bowl and you’re done.
So this “recipe” is from Shanti’s dad, but Shanti’s dad isn’t really a precise note taker when it comes to recipes, which is really too bad because he’s such a good cook. When Shanti called his dad to get this recipe, the notes literally read: oil, noodles, pesto, ricotta, mozz, repeat, repeat. It had no numbers or ratios. I looked at Shanti and went, “That’s it?” And so we had to experiment to get the ratios right.
We make our pesto lasagna in a 9×13 glass pan. We consider it to be 12 servings, but most people can easily eat a piece and a half or two pieces, depending on how big they are and how much they like pesto. For larger parties, we actually make two trays. This recipe is enough for one tray.
- 1 batch of pesto, fresh or thawed
- 1 batch of ricotta mix
- 2 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1 pound of grated salted mozzarella (i.e., not the fresh one in water)
- 9 pieces of lasagna noodles (1 pound usually has 24 pieces, so it’s about 6 ounces)
- 1 cup of freshly grated Parmesan
- Follow the directions to cook the lasagna noodles. You probably need to boil a large pot of water, so this takes some time. (I usually do this at the end of prepping dinner and just wait for it to boil as I eat dinner and maybe even do some cleanup.) When the noodles are done, strain them and run cold water over them. Then lay them flat on a large plate or large cutting board.
- Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. I just pour the oil in and use a pastry brush to brush it around.
- Lay down a layer of lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. We use three pieces and they don’t really overlap.
- Scoop 1/3rd of the ricotta mix and spread it in a even layer on top of the noodles. Be careful not to disturb the noodles. You’ll want to make sure to bring the ricotta mix all the way to the edge of the tray. If you’re like me and you don’t like touching food with your hands, you can use a stiff spatula to spread it around.
- Spread 1/3rd of the pesto on top of the ricotta mix. I used thawed pesto, so I just cut a corner from my bag and used it like a pastry bag to squirt tubes of pesto all around, and then used the spatula to spread them evenly.
- Spread 1/3rd of the grated mozzarella on top of the pesto. It won’t cover everything, but it’ll look fairly spread out.
- Repeat steps 3-6 two more times, so that you have three layers and use up all the ingredients. For me, this brings it almost all the way to the top.
- Spread the grated Parmesan on top.
- Cover with foil. If you’re not cooking it right away, store in the fridge.
- When you are ready to cook it, put it in an oven at 350 degrees. Make sure you put a tray underneath in case there are oil drips. Bake it uncovered for about 1.5 hours, until the top is brown. Then put the foil back on to cover it and bake for another 20-30 minutes.
- Serve while it’s hot and delicious!
So I got so excited for the dinner (and for having friends over) that I completely forgot to take pictures, both of the lasagna and of the souffle (and everything else). So I only have a fairly bad picture of the leftovers, in a much smaller glass pan (for reheating).
(Oh, I am getting a proper camera again soon. So maybe I’ll have better pictures.)
Like I said, the lasagna is kind of a calorie bomb. Each serving is about 600 calories, with 30g of protein. But like I said, I ate 1.5 slices for dinner, so yes, I went over my planned calories today but it was super, duper delicious.