There are few recipes that combine two features: I brought them home to Italy from New York City, *and* my family likes them. From the point of view of my family I have sold my soul to the propaganda of ‘healthy eating,’ a notion they can only use with very audible citation marks. So, how come that I am cooking a dish for them, one that is, according to the standards of healthiness that I have come to adopt, very healthy? I have no explanation, but I report that my hypercritical mother has become a fan of this super-light lasagne. After years of juggling between two cultures (a battle that Italians fight in the kitchen), this is a heart-warming success. I invited Jens when I cooked my lasagne the second time this summer. Since he is happy to document the traumas of the expatriate, he agreed to take some pictures.
The cultural consensus is brought about by a trick. My lasagne is neither the abhorred “Vegetable Lasagna” that, from the point of view of my family, only weaklings will eat. But it is also not the heavy, meat-and-pancetta dish that makes you feel like you have to go on a diet for the next three weeks. It is a miracle consisting entirely of fresh lasagne sheets, tomato, and béchamel sauce (my version).
Buy fresh lasagne, or make it yourself (I don’t bother), but don’t get the dried variety – it will lie for years in your cabinet, for as much as you plan to prepare it, as it happens you will never have the time to first cook it is a pot, lay it out nicely on kitchen towels, then make the lasagne, and then wait for it to be done in the oven… Put a large tin of very good Italian tomatoes in a pot and cook it, adding lots of basil at the end (the basil should not actually cook, just give off its scent; some olive oil goes into the pot first, then some salt and pepper; don’t do this in a pan: the acidity of tomatoes ruins the surface of pans and soon all the bad things that presumably are in these surfaces will be in your food). Take a second pot, some butter and flour into it, mix it up into a nice batter, add milk, stir it, more and more milk, until you have a nicely reduced, but still large quantity of milk. Now add lots of parmiggiano, and start layering. (I know, this is not real béchamel sauce. But it’s a fabulous variant.) First some tomato in your lasagne pan, then pasta, then béchamel sauce, and so on, always adding lots of fresh basil leaves in between.
Even with the largest quantity of parmiggiano you can possibly dare to take, this will be super light and fragrant!