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Leek and Artichoke Lasagna

April 4, 2009

artichoke and leek lasagna

A few days before I was planning to have a dinner party, I heard from a friend I had assumed was not coming.  Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be a big deal; however, her planned appearance at the party had me re-thinking my entire meal.  The problem? She’s vegetarian.  I had a wonderful chicken dish all ready to go, but clearly that wouldn’t work.

After purusing many recipes, I hit upon an artichoke and leek lasagna.  Of course, I’ve heard of vegetarian lasagnes, but I’ve never heard of one with artichokes and leeks!  I was intrigued.  So with that, I had a new menu plan.

artichokes

Preparing the artichokes for the lasagna was a bit of work at first, but once I got the technique down, it went quickly.  All and all, this isn’t that much more work than a regular lasagna — just a bit more chopping (leeks and artichokes).  Additionally, the sauce for this is a bit more touchy than your typical red sauce.  But even that isn’t too hard.  You start with a simple roux and then add the hot milk and cook until it thickens.  Then just season it.  Pretty easy!

leeks

It’s currently sitting on top of my stove cooling so I can stick it in the fridge to be ready to heat up and serve this evening when my guests arrive.  It looks delicious. I’m so tempted to cut into it now!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. dried semolina lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 large leeks, including 1 inch of green, rinsed well and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 large artichokes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 lb. whole-milk mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preparation:

  1. Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook until al dente, 8 to 12 minutes. Drain, immerse in cold water to cool and drain again. Lay the noodles on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap to use later.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper; set aside.
  3. In a frying pan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leeks and sauté until very soft and lightly golden, about 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with water and add the lemon juice. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, cut off the top half and remove the tough outer leaves down to the pale green leaves. Cut off the base of the stems and peel away the dark green outer layer (see photo). Cut in half and scoop out the prickly center. Cut the artichokes, lengthwise into thin slices. Add the slices to the lemon water (or if the leeks are ready, directly to the pan of leeks).
  5. Drain the artichokes (if you had them in water) and add to the fry pan along with the 1/2 cup water and a large pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat until the liquid evaporates and the artichokes are tender, about 15 minutes.
  6. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  7. Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to just below a boil.
  8. In another saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Stir the flour into the butter and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the hot milk.
  10. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until sauce thickens — 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the sauce from the heat.
  11. Position a rack in the upper third of an oven and preheat to 375°F. Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
  12. Assemble the lasagna: Cover the bottom of the prepared dish with a layer of the noodles. Spoon one-third of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Top with one-third of the leek-artichoke mixture and then with one-third of the sauce. Repeat the layering twice. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the top. Bake until golden and bubbling, 40 to 50 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes, then cut into squares and serve. Alternatively, you can do what I’m doing which is to make it ahead of time and then simply stick it in the oven with aluminium foil over it to warm it back up.
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