Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lasagna al Pesto: Part I of a Belated Series

I'm woefully embarrassed that I only had one post in October, and I'm hellbent to improve my posting ratio in November, the month of plenty and giving gratitude. Sure, there are legitimate hold-ups from last month and even a real-life tragedy of a friend of mine and Dave's who died suddenly last month. I also have been working my booty off at two jobs I love, travelling to see family (Dad's 55th birthday, Grandma's impending sojourn to Arizona to escape another Missouri winter), caring for my new kitten Zelda (I'm officially the "crazy cat lady" with three cats), and figuring out how to plan for a wedding. Did I mention starting another Master's in January 2010? Yes, there's that too.

So, despite all of these very real, very good commitments, I've missed my blog, my writing schedule, my humble little audience, and also my creative outlet: the kitchen. I've kept cooking and baking last month, but I didn't feel up to the challenge of posting pics and then writing about what worked, and what didn't, until now.

There's something to be said about fallow periods. Just resting, recuperating, taking a deep breath, maybe a nap and then pouring a cup of Harney & Sons organic passion plum tea with a smidge of honey. One of my favorite essays of all time is "Quitting the Paint Factory" by Mark Slouka, an article I read in Harper's when I was living in Tucson, Arizona for a couple years. I love what Slouka says about the beauty of being idle: "By allowing us time to figure out who we are, and what we believe; by allowing us time to consider what is unjust, and what we might do about it. By giving the inner life (in whose precincts we are most ourselves) its due."

I sometimes forget that we need to give pause, say grace in silence, offer up space and time before grand ideas and actions are realized. I feel like many other cultures and people understand this. They're not in an all-fire hurry to get to work, to take the requisite grab-and-go lunch, to beat rush hour, to grab the kids, to make dinner in 30 minutes or less, and to slump into the recliner or bed before a TV after an exhausting day of to-dos.
In many ways, I'm less busy than my counterparts. I have no children. I work from home at a job I adore. I can walk to the grocery store or lunch at Winslow's Home (thanks, Amy!) and pass a sweet gum tree that's turned a blazing, golden yellow. I definitely breathe and pause despite my reputation for being a caffeinated go-getter and Type-A planner who sometimes forgets about the almighty present.

So, I think lasagna is one of those meals that embodies the art of letting go and letting the oven do its part while I read a book (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) or drink some wine. So, to all of you who are over-worked, in a hurry, feeling the approaching winter doldrums, or simply need a comforting dish to remind you why it's okay to slow down and breathe, I present an adapted recipe from Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest: Lasagna al Pesto.

Time frame to bake
30-40 minutes to prepare
50 minutes to bake (assuming you have pesto on hand, be it bought or homemade)

a little olive oil for the pan
about 16 lasagna noodles (I used no-boil noodles when I made this, I recommend not doing that)
1 lb. fresh spinach
2 lbs. ricotta cheese
2 cups pesto
1/2 tsp. salt
fresh black pepper to taste
1 cup grated parmesan
2 lbs. mozzarella cheese, grated

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9 x 13" baking pan.
  2. Bring a large potful of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook for 4-5 minutes. They should be undercooked. Drain noodles and lay them flat and straight on a table, counter or tray.
  3. Thoroughly wash and dry the spinach. I never discard the stems, though Mollie Katzen recommends that you do. I think she says this to prevent bitterness, but I honestly cannot tell the difference, so I leave the stems alone. Finely mince leaves or seriously, just leave the whole leaf alone. It will work out just fine without mincing or stemming (tastes delicous, too!).
  4. Place the ricotta in a large bowl and stir in the spinach, pesto, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup of the parmesan. Mix well. 5) Place a layer of nooddles in the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread about 1/3 of the filling over the noodles and don't stress if it's uneven. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the mozzarella on top. Follow with another layer of noodles, another 1/3 of the filling, and another 1/3 of the mozzarella. Repeat this pattern one more time with a third layer of everything (your pan will be mighty full). Top lasagna with one final noodle layer and the remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan on the very top.
  5. Bake for 50 minutes and if the top is browning too fast, simply cover loosely with foil.


Hugs and high fives,



Sarah Day said...

Looks scrumptious.

I dare say the present moment is the sanest moment. Good luck on your MA endeavor!!

Kella said...

Thanks, Sarah! I think you're so right. I'm going to repeat this to myself right now: The present moment is the sanest moment. I love that line. It's my new mantra.

Also, thanks for the good luck. I'm getting your degree: M.Ed in educational technology. Do you have tips for me?

When can we make a celebratory dinner for you too? I'm so psyched about your new job. You go, girl!


Elie said...

Nice post...I love when you take your food/recipe ideas and tie them to the grander scheme of life. Can't wait for a post about...brownies! ;)

Taking Sarah's advice too...staying sane!

Kella said...

Awesome, Elie! I just posted about brownies, but your picture is forthcoming in the little photo-slide movie I'm making tomorrow. You'll be in a cool little Animoto video soon. Thanks for being my brownie buddy. Let's do that again real soon, okay?

Hugs and TGIF,