Eggplant Lasagna with Pesto

Eggplant Lasagna with Pesto

Ingredients

For the Bechamel Sauce:

  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper

For the Pesto and Ricotta Mixture:

  • 1 and 1/3 cups hazelnuts (5 and 1/2 ounces), toasted and loose skins rubbed off in a kitchen towel
  • 4 cups loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (from 3/4 lb)
  • 3 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (1 and 1/2 cups)
  • 2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta

For the Lasagna:

  • 4 lbs medium eggplants (4), cut crosswise into 1/3-inch thick slices
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 9 (7 by 3 and 1/2-inch) oven-ready or “no boil” lasagne noodles; 6 oz
  • 1 and 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions

Prepare the Bechamel Sauce:

  1. Cook garlic in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, 1 minute.
  2. Add flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes.
  3. Add milk in a stream, whisking.
  4. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about 4 cups, about 10 minutes.
  5. Whisk in salt and white pepper, then remove from heat and discard bay leaf.
  6. Cover surface of sauce with wax paper until ready to use.

Prepare the Pesto and Ricotta Mixture:

  1. Coarsely chop 1/3 cup hazelnuts and reserve for sprinkling over lasagne.
  2. Puree parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 2/3 cup olive oil, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and remaining cup hazelnuts in a food processor until pesto is smooth, about 1 minute.
  3. Whisk egg in a bowl, then stir in ricotta, 1 cup parsley pesto, remaining teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper until combined well.
  4. Stir together 1/4 cup pesto and remaining 1/4 cup oil in a small bowl for drizzling over lasagne.

Prepare the Eggplant for Lasagna:

  1. Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Oil 2 large baking sheets.
  3. Brush eggplant with olive oil on both sides, then arrange in 1 layer on baking sheets and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake eggplant, switching position of sheets halfway through baking and turning slices over once, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes total.

Prepare the Lasagna:

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and reduce oven temperature to 425°F.
  2. Lightly oil a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass or ceramic baking dish (3 quart) and line a larger shallow baking pan with foil.
  3. Spread 1 cup bechamel in baking dish and cover with 3 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets.
  4. Drop 1 cup ricotta mixture by spoonfuls over pasta, spreading evenly (layer will be thin), then top with 1 layer of eggplant, cutting rounds to fit if necessary.
  5. Make 1 more layer each of bechamel, pasta, ricotta, and eggplant.
  6. Spread with 1 cup bechamel and cover with remaining 3 pasta sheets.
  7. Spread remaining cup ricotta mixture over pasta, then spread ricotta with remaining cup bechamel and top with remaining eggplant in 1 layer (you may have a few slices left over).
  8. Sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over eggplant and scatter with reserved chopped hazelnuts.
  9. Tightly cover baking dish with oiled foil (oiled side down), then set dish in foil-lined pan (to catch drips) and bake lasagna 30 minutes.
  10. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes more.
  11. Let lasagna stand 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
  12. Serve lasagna drizzled with pesto. Makes 8 servings.

Notes: Lasagna can be assembled 2 hours ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before baking.

Lasagna can be baked 1 day ahead and cooled completely, then chilled, covered. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, then heat in a preheated 350°F oven, covered, until hot, 30 to 40 minutes.

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