We print out their recipe and head out for the supplies. obtaining fresh egg pasta sheets from the Pasta Shop on 4th Street in Oakland, lots of basil (several cups) from our basil plants in a pot in the backyard, and fresh Parmesan-Reggiano and Pecorino-Romano cheeses from the Pasta shop and Encinal Market.
First, we make a bechamel sauce (besciamella), which is a white sauce made from a roux (basically flour and fat, butter in this case, cooked together, often used as a thickener in other recipes). We melt 1/2 cup of butter in our pan and stir in 1/2 cup of flour, carefully avoiding burning the mixture. We then warm 4-5 cups of milk and slowly add it to the butter-flour mixture, continuously whisking while bringing it to a boil After 15 minutes or so, we season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper
Making the besciamella
While Laura whisks away at the besciamella, I make pesto the easy way. I've made pesto with mortar and pestle and it takes a lot of armwork to turn 4-5 cups of basil leaves into a pesto. Today, I'll save my arm (and take a lot less time) by using a food processor. I toss the basil leaves in the food processor, along with some pine nuts, garlic, 1/4 cup each of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino-Romano, and 1/2 cup of olive oil, with a little salt and pepper. I process away and, in a few minutes, have pesto. In addition, we add a small jar of pesto from Monterosso al Mare, Liguria, Italy that we've been hanging onto for the right use. We combine the two in this dish.
Here are the ingredients (without the besciamella): pasta sheets, pesto (homemade and from the jar), Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and a buttered baking dish.
We first put a thin layer of besciamella in the baking dish, cover with a pasta sheet, then another thin layer of besciamella on top. Next, we add a thin layer of pesto and a few tablespoons of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat for as many layer as you like (we did 4 layers). On top of the final layer, we add more besciamella, pesto, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a little butter and olive oil.
Doing the first layer
Done, going into the oven
Coming out of the oven, resting
Serve and enjoy!
Served, just before enjoying