artichoke leek lasagna

by Stevie on April 2, 2012

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Is lasagna elegant enough to serve at a dinner party? That is the question that I have been pondering for the past couple weeks. I had invited about six friends over for a Saturday meal, including two, Jocelyn and Devin that we hadn’t seen in months. So I wanted to impress but also not be stuck in the kitchen all evening in order to have time to catch up. Naturally, in these situations, I always think: casserole!

artichoke leek lasagna

artichoke leek lasagna

My favorite “casserole” from childhood has to be lasagna. I like it even more than macaroni and cheese if you can believe it. (Maybe I’m exaggerating. What do you think, Mom?) But if you’ve read this far, you’re probably already wondering, “He’s talking comfort food here. Where’s the wow-factor?”

I made an absurdly fancy multi-step lasagna from Fields of Greens, a cookbook “from the Celebrated Greens Restaurant” in San Francisco. So there! The dish requires a tomato sauce, a ricotta “custard,” an herb béchamel, fresh artichokes, provolone and of course the lasagna noodles. With all the separate steps, to get the tray ready for the oven took me almost two hours. It smelled and tasted deliciously. But somehow, sadly, the pictures look just like any old lasagna.

I served it family style at the table, so everyone could help themselves and I wouldn’t have to be running around constantly. People loved it and ate almost everything.

The following afternoon, Hegui and I went to see Jocelyn and Devin at their place downtown. We talked about the meal. She said something along the lines of “I’d never thought to serve lasagna at a dinner party. It was really good.”

Hmmm…

So I ask you once again: is lasagna elegant enough to serve at a dinner party?

artichoke leek lasagna

for the veggie filling:

2 leeks, whites only, sliced thin and thoroughly rinsed
4 artichokes, cleaned with hearts and stems sliced (for cleaning instructions, click here)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice from half a lemon
¼ cup dry white wine
3 tbsp chopped fresh herbs: I used lemon thyme, parsley and oregano

for the ricotta custard:

3 to 4 cups ricotta (I doubled the recipe here—naughty)
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup grated parmesan
A few pinches fresh nutmeg
½ tsp salt
Pinch black pepper

for the herb béchamel:

2½ cups whole milk
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
¼ tsp salt
Pinch black pepper
Sprigs of fresh herbs: I used parsley, lemon thyme, sage and oregano

for the tomato sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, chopped fine
¼ tsp dried thyme
6 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup red wine
2 large cans chopped tomatoes with juice
1 bay leaf
Salt and black pepper to taste

for the lasagna:

1 box lasagna noodles (not the no-boil kind—they get too squishy)
1 cup parmesan, grated
1½ cups provolone, grated
…and items prepared above

Start by making the tomato sauce. This is fairly straightforward. Sauté onions in olive oil until they become translucent, then add garlic, herbs, salt and pepper. Sauté a bit longer. Add red wine and cook until liquid evaporates. Add tomatoes, bay leaf, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook at least 20 to 30 minutes. Adjust flavors with salt and pepper as desired.

Prepare the veggies by sautéing leeks in olive oil with salt until they become tender and translucent. Add dried herbs and pepper. Add artichoke slices and garlic. Continue cooking, covered, until artichokes are tender. Add lemon juice then white wine. Fold in fresh herbs. Adjust salt and pepper. Set aside.
Quickly make ricotta custard be mixing all ingredients together.

Prepare béchamel much like any roux. Add butter to a saucepan on high. As it begins to melt, sprinkle with flour and mix together. Once fully absorbed, slowly add milk while stirring constantly. Add sprigs of fresh herbs (tie them together to make fishing them out later easier.) Once it thickens, add salt and black pepper to taste.

the veggie layer for artichoke leek lasagna

the veggie layer for artichoke leek lasagna

Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare lasagna noodles following package directions. In a large baking dish, scoop some tomato sauce on the bottom then a layer of three noodles side-by-side. Pour some more tomato sauce over the pasta. Then add sautéed veggies. Sprinkle half the cheeses. Add another layer of pasta. Spread ricotta custard over that then more pasta. Add another layer of tomato sauce, the remaining cheese and another layer of pasta. Spread béchamel over that final layer (after removing the herbs). Cover and bake about 20 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 10 to 15 minutes.

That’s it! Simple…

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sara April 2, 2012 at 6:31 am

When you have these ingredients, why not? This sounds really nice, and after all if you want to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a long time you don’t want to be spending the whole time in the kitchen (or be too tired to enjoy your time with them while they are there, either).

Barbara April 2, 2012 at 8:14 am

I don’t know why not. It can be done ahead and it’s a favorite with everyone. Love your combination, Stevie.

cmichaelsny April 3, 2012 at 2:16 am

I’ve tried all three and they are great! You can modify any of them to include the your prefered ingredients, too!

Krista April 3, 2012 at 3:59 am

A lasagna like this? Absolutely!!! I’d tuck into this with gusto. :-)

Tom @ Tall Clover Farm April 3, 2012 at 6:28 am

Wow Stevie, what an assembly of delicious ingredients. I’m always looking for recipes that celebrate the garden and the fresh, and dear sir this is a keeper. I can see this recipe morphing into delicious variations based on the season and what’s available. Thank you so much.

Magic of Spice April 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Now that is what I call lasagna! This baby would be well received at the fanciest of occasions…great recipe! I’ll be expecting some when I make my way up to your area :)
Hope you guys are having a great week…

Devaki @ weavethousandflavors April 5, 2012 at 8:20 am

Damn straight it is especially when you do this with it – It’s elegant and flavor-fully fantastic. I think this is complete dinner party material with the right balance of gourmet and comfort. Do you have any idea how envious I am that I can’t be there for one of your dinner parties??

You rock Stevie and Hegui (BTW Stevie your new beard is awesome – very ascetic indeed)

chow :) Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

tasteofbeirut April 7, 2012 at 7:59 am

Are you kidding? Lasagne is usually the fruit of titanic labor and I ONLY want to serve it at a party! Why waste all this work and the delicious result on poor old-me . I cant think of a better lasagne, either! (the photo of pasta is so tricky)

OysterCulture April 7, 2012 at 10:43 am

Holy cow! What an amazingly fantastic, stupendously delicious sounding lasagna. I have got to make this soon. I love artichokes and leeks and you’ve combined them in an incredible way. I love the lemon seasoning.

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