Vegetable Lasagna with Handmade Pasta

Vegetable Lasagna with handmade noodlesI’m counting down the days until I can rip that final calendar page from the wall, burn my yearly journal and start fresh. While I’m convinced I haven’t suffered the doldrums for all of 2015, it sure feels that way. To help pull myself out of it, I decided to write a list of 101 things that I’m grateful for. Over three days, I’ve managed to come up with a mere 11, which I have now somehow lost. I know this funk is as much a result of my attitude towards my circumstances as the actual circumstances themselves, but a self-imposed adjustment isn’t currently on the menu. As the year draws to a close, I envision a 2016 of alarming similarity – same walls, same managers, same late hours, same insane travel schedule, same inane shows on TV, same to-do list, same workout, same treadmill…ugh, same treadmill.

I’m reminded of Moonstruck when Cher slaps Nicolas Cage across the kisser, ordering him to “Snap out of it!” My only hope for the new year may be a cosmic smack across the face.

Now, on to the food.   Much to my chagrin, my finest dishes from the holidays were the devised concoctions from leftovers. This lasagna with handmade pasta was constructed from the scraps of Thomas Keller’s Confit Byaldi (a.k.a. Ratatouille’s Ratatouille). The dish was good; the lasagna, excellent.

Vegetable Lasagna with handmade pasta
Inspired by Thomas Keller’s Confit Byaldi
Makes 8×8 or 9×9 dish

Piperade
2 Red bell peppers
2 T. Olive oil
1 t. Garlic, minced
½ c. Onion, finely minced
18 oz. Tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced
1 sprig Fresh thyme
½ Bay leaf
Salt
Pasta
1 ½ c. All-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ t. Salt
2 Large eggs, room temperature
Filling
1 Green zucchini, sliced about 1/8”
1 Yellow squash, sliced about 1/8”
1 Japanese eggplant, sliced about 1/8”
2 t. Olive oil
½ t. Fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
15 oz. container Ricotta cheese
½ c. Parmesan cheese, shredded
Béchamel
2 T. Unsalted butter
2 T. Flour
1 ½ – 2 cups Whole milk
1/8 t. Ground nutmeg

 

Make Piperade
To remove the skin, roast peppers over a gas flame until charred on all sides, place in a paper bag for 5 minutes, then peel skin, remove seeds and ribs and chop. Sauté onion until very soft, but not brown. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Add tomatoes with juice, thyme and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat until very soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes. If you draw a wooden spoon through the middle, liquid should not fill the channel. Don’t brown. Add peppers and simmer until softened. Discard herbs and season with salt. Set aside.

Make Pasta
Whisk flour and salt together, make a well in the center and crack eggs into the well. Mix eggs with a fork, then slowly mix in a bit of flour at a time until a shaggy dough forms. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator while you make the filling (see below).

To finish the pasta, using a pasta machine, roll out pasta into 4-5 long noodles following your machine’s instructions.  Begin at the thickest setting, pass dough through machine twice, adjust machine to the next setting and pass dough through twice until you have reached setting 5. Pass the dough through twice on setting 5 and set aside. Boil well-salted water in a large pot, boil each large noodle for about 3 minutes and then set aside flat to drain (if noodles touch, they will stick).

Make Filling
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss zucchini, squash and eggplant with oil, thyme, salt and pepper. Spread on a sheet pan and roast until vegetables are softened, but not mushy. Set aside.

Make Béchamel
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle flour over butter and whisk for 1-2 minutes to make a roux. Slowly add 1 cup milk, constantly whisking to remove lumps. Add additional milk as needed until béchamel is the consistency of ranch dressing. Cook for 1-2 minutes more. Remove from heat and add nutmeg. Set aside.

Assembly
Place about a 1/3 cup of piperade on the bottom of the dish. Cover with noodles, cutting noodles to fit. Spread noodles with a third of the ricotta cheese and a fourth of parmesan. Cover cheeses with one layer of vegetables. Repeat with noodles, cheese, vegetables two more times (3 layers of vegetables). Finish with a layer of noodles. Cover noodles with béchamel and remaining ¼ parmesan.

Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven until bubbling and brown on top, 50-60 minutes. If the top browns too quickly, cover with foil. Remove from oven and let lasagna rest for 45 minutes.

Each recipe component can be made ahead. Rewarm sauces before using. Let pasta dough sit 30 minutes before using if it’s very cold. Lasagna can be assembled a day ahead. Let sit at room temperature 1-2 hours before baking.

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