Lasagne di Bietole

Swiss Chard Lasagne

To make this dish properly you really need to make fresh pasta. ‘No-need-to-boil lasagne’ sheets are an excellent product and fine for conventional uses, but in this one the pasta forms a crisp crust on top and only fresh dough will achieve this. You will need a lasagne dish, i.e. a deep heatproof rectangular dish: ceramic or earthenware dishes produce a better result than metal ones.

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Regular Pasta Dough
  • 1 recipe Béchamel Sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • semola duro
  • 150 g butter
  • 150 g Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 150 g Fontina cheese
  • nutmeg
  • 2 bunches Swiss chard or 2 kg big-leaf spinach (both need destalking)

Method

The 500 g packets of pre-made salsa besciamella available in Italian delicatessens are really rather good; you will need two packets for this recipe. You will also need a buttered lasagne dish about 25 × 55 cm and 5 cm deep.

Make the pasta dough a minimum of 1 hour before use.

Bring a large pan of boiling water to a boil, add some salt and prepare a bowl of cold water. While this is coming to the boil, roll out the pasta. Divide the dough into four and pass through rollers. When rolled through the narrowest setting, cut the pasta strips into 10 cm rectangles. Dust with semola and lay aside until you have prepared all the pasta dough. By this time the water should be boiling furiously. Individually drop the lasagne sheets in, doing them in two batches. They need 3 minutes’ cooking, then fish them out with a spider and plunge into the cold water to refresh. Drain and pat dry with kitchen paper and lay out, slightly overlapping, round a tray. Do not stack too high or they will stick together.

Heat up the béchamel sauce carefully (it has a strong tendency to scorch). Off the heat add one-third of the butter and the cheeses. Check the seasoning then grate in a little nutmeg. While you are doing this return the pasta water to a rolling boil and prepare a fresh basin of cold water. Add more salt to the pasta water. Blanch the chard or spinach for 1 minute, pushing it under the surface of the water with the spider. Then drain and refresh in the cold water. Drain as soon as it is cold and squeeze out as much water as possible. Now gently pull the squeezed balls of greens apart so you can find individual leaves. Put on a tray in a similar manner to the drained pasta.

Line the buttered lasagne dish with the sheets of pasta, first the base, then slightly overlapping the sides. Arrange the sides so the sheets hang over the edge of the dish. Now ladle in approximately one-quarter of the cheesy béchamel sauce. Cover this with chard leaves, again approximately one-quarter of them, then a layer of pasta, just enough to cover the chard. Repeat the béchamel, then the greens and then the pasta. Do this process two more times ensuring that you save at least 8 good sheets of pasta for the top. Arrange these carefully and then fold over the flaps of overhanging pasta from the sides. The dish can now be cooled and kept refrigerated for up to one day.

To reheat the lasagne, preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6. Dot the lasagne with the remaining butter and put it into the oven to bake for 25 minutes. The béchamel should start to bubble and seep through the pasta crust which should be crisp and golden brown. If the top crust browns too much before the béchamel is hot turn the oven down to 150°C/300°F/Gas 2, cover loosely and then continue. Serve in the dish at the table, allowing 5 minutes for it to cool down a little.

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