...more like "spring/summer vegetable lasagna", but that doesn't roll off the tongue as easily. Anyways, back in May I went to the Union Square Greenmarket and was thoroughly unimpressed. It was still early in the year, so I had high hopes for a few months down the road. I went back last weekend and it was AH-MAZING. Vegetables, fruit, bread, meat, seafood, everything! Overwhelming! I saw a box of beautiful squash blossoms and knew it was meant to be. My first experience with squash blossoms was stuffed and tempura fried at Stephanie Izard's Girl & The Goat, and I still remember how yummy they were.
This lasagna had been on my to-do list for a while, and now I had the perfect opportunity to make it again. I thought it would be great topped with the squash blossoms I just purchased, and thankfully it turned out even better than I imagined.
I love this lasagna because it is really fresh and light, but at the same time it tastes heavenly and doesn't feel like you're eating as many vegetables as you actually are. I imagine it's a good way to sneak vegetables to family & friends who don't like them, wink wink.
One of the best things about cooking for other people is when they tell you, "hey, you know I never liked this veggie or that fruit, but this [dish with said veggie or fruit] is delicious!" I like to think that for the majority of foods out there, people don't like them because they've never had it prepared well, and all you have to do is show them the light.
Inspired by Sass & Veracity
If you have the time, I recommend you make your own ricotta as it has a far superior texture. When I make this lasagna, I alternate between homemade and store bought depending on how much time I have on my hands.
Serves 6 to 8.
For the béchamel:
2 lb heirloom tomatoes, stems removed, quartered
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk, heated
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
For the rest of the lasagna:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium white, yellow, or sweet onions, thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt, divided, plus more to taste
2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/8 inch strips lengthwise
1 pint fresh, shucked english peas
1 & 1/2 cups ricotta
1 tsp lemon zest
3 scallions, thinly sliced
12 lasagna noodles
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella
8 to 10 squash blossoms, stamens removed
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano, packed
To make the béchamel, place tomatoes in a blender and purée until smooth. Strain the purée through a fine mesh sieve to remove any skin and seeds. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour, whisk to combine, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add milk 1/2 cup at at a time, whisking well after each addition. Add tomato purée 1/2 cup at a time, again whisking after each addition. Add salt and nutmeg, bring sauce up to a simmer, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes until slightly thickened. If the sauce is grainy due to the tomatoes, use an immersion blender to smooth it out.
In a large, heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan, add olive oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add onions, garlic, and 1/2 tsp salt. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes until translucent and light brown. Transfer to a clean bowl and set aside.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until vibrantly green and just starting to get tender. Drain and transfer to a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place zucchini strips on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tsp salt. Place in oven and roast for 10 to 15 minutes until the edges are slightly brown and crispy. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F.
Combine ricotta, lemon zest, and scallions in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles and cook according to instructions (I par-boiled mine for 4 minutes, then they finished in the oven). Depending on the size of your pot and how quick you are at fishing the noodles out, you might want to boil them in batches so they don't stick to each other. Remove noodles from the cooking water and place them in one layer on a clean baking sheet.
To assemble, place a quarter of the béchamel on the bottom of a 3 & 1/2 to 4 quart lasagna pan. Place a third of the noodles on top. Spread half of the ricotta on the noodles, sprinkle half of the onion/garlic mixture, layer half of the zucchini strips, and sprinkle half of the peas on top. Add another quarter of béchamel and another layer of lasagna noodles. Repeat with the rest of the filling, another quarter of béchamel and the final layer of lasagna noodles. Top with the remaining béchamel and mozzarella. Cover with a lightly greased sheet of aluminium foil, place in oven, and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Remove from oven and turn the temperature up to 425 degrees F. Uncover lasagna, place squash blossoms on top, and sprinkle pecorino all over in one even layer. Return to oven and bake for 15 more minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.