Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lasagne in Bianco

I stumbled across this recipe while flipping through a stack of food magazines at Barnes and Noble, and I felt like it might be a personalized message from the universe for me to make this recipe.  It is deceptively simple lasagna with just two principle components layered together: a simple, but thoughtgully flavored Parmesan cheese sauce and “no-boil” lasagna noodles.  The sauce is a basic roux-based bĂ©chamel sauce, flavored with shallots, nutmeg, dry Marsala wine, and Parmesan cheese. 
I followed the recipe and went for the real deal, authentic Parmegiano Reggiano.  Parmesan cheese is the star of this recipe, and nothing but the finest would do.  After all, Parmegiano Reggiano is called “the king of cheese” for a reason.  The sauce is also amplified by the addition of eggs, which allows the otherwise dense lasagna to puff up a little.  The resulting product resembles a cross between lasagna, macaroni and cheese, and a savory soufflĂ©.  I just barely adjusted this recipe (I toned the butter a touch and amped up the cheese a little.  A half-cup of cheese in the sauce would simply not do).  After I put the lasagna together, I was a little bit nervous.  It looked like a few dinky lasagna noodles swimming in a huge puddle of sauce.  The noodles floated in the middle of the pan, not even reaching the sides.  I proceeded to bake it anyway; about an hour later, it emerged from the oven, puffed, golden, and fragrant.  The noodles had expanded to the full size of the pan, and had lost any hint of a dinky quality.  And on top of its impressive physique, it was so delicious, with the fully bodied flavor of the Parmesan perfectly balanced by the sultry sharpness of the Marsala wine.  Leftover only improved in flavor, either cold or reheated.

Lasagne in Bianco (from

            3/4 cup minced shallots (about 6)
            6 tablespoons unsalted butter
            1/3 cup all-purpose flour
            1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
            3 3/4 cups whole milk
            1 cup rich chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
            2 large eggs, lightly beaten
            1/2 cup dry Marsala
            1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
            1 1/2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided
            12 (7- by 3-inch) Barilla no-boil egg lasagne sheets

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Cook shallots in butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 4 minutes. Add flour and cook over low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, 3 minutes. Add nutmeg, then slowly whisk in milk and stock.

Bring to a boil, whisking, then simmer, stirring occasionally, just until sauce lightly coats back of spoon, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool to warm, stirring occasionally. Stir in eggs, Marsala, sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and 3/4 cup cheese.

Spread about 1 1/4 cups sauce over bottom of an 11- by 8-inch baking dish. Cover with a layer of 3 lasagne sheets. Repeat layering 3 more times, then top with remaining sauce and remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, until browned, 45 to 55 minutes.