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Creamy bechamel sauce, fragrant pesto, gooey mozzarella, repeat.

| By Rachael Thompson | Recipes

Jessica Nguyen's Cheesy Lasagne Alla Portofino

Creamy bechamel sauce, fragrant pesto, gooey mozzarella, repeat.

Welcome to Put on a Spread, a recipe series that takes you inside the kitchens – and dining rooms – of some of our favourite home cooks. For this instalment, Melbourne-based home cook and influencer Jessica Nguyen, shares her recipe for a lasagne alla Portofino.

Ingredients

For the lasagne sheets

  • 3 eggs
  • 300g tipo 00 flour, sifted

or

  • 10 pre-made fresh lasagne sheets

For the bechamel sauce

  • 100g butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 4 cups (1 litre) milk
  • 2 bay leaves, optional
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg, optional

For the pesto sauce

  • 1 bunch basil, leaves picked and stalks removed
  • Approx 280g spinach
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, pecorino, or grana padano cheese
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup olive oil, plus extra to thin out the sauce

Other Ingredients

  • 2 x 450g mozzarella balls, cut into thin round slices

Method

If you’re making lasagne sheets from scratch, start by making a well in the centre of your flour, add the eggs and begin whisking the eggs with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour into the eggs.

Once the egg mixture is no longer liquid, use your hands to incorporate the rest of the remaining flour until you have a shaggy ball of dough.

Cover and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to rest.

Meanwhile, prepare your pesto by boiling a pot of salted water and blanching your basil and spinach for 2 minutes. Refresh in a bowl of ice water.

Drain in a colander and use your hands to squeeze any excess water out. You should be left with a small ball of leaves.

Place the leaves and the rest of the pesto ingredients into a food processor and blitz until smooth and creamy.

Add more olive oil as necessary to create a sauce-like consistency.

Set aside.

For the bechamel, melt the butter in a pot and then add the flour stirring until you get a doughy mixture.

Whisk in the milk and bring to a boil. Add the nutmeg and stir continuously until it begins to thicken and reduce the temperature to low.

Remove your pasta ball from the fridge and begin cutting into smaller sections (I cut mine into ⅛ sections). Roll it out with a rolling pin, dust with flour, and then feed through your pasta machine on your widest (normally 1) setting.

Laminate your dough by folding the dough into thirds, flatten slightly with a rolling pin and then roll it through your pasta machine again but flipping the dough 90 degrees so it gets rolled on its other edge. Repeat this process one more time.

Begin rolling out the dough through the machine once on each setting (1-8), dusting with flour a little each time to prevent the dough from sticking.

Roll out until you get a thin long sheet and then use a knife to cut into 3-4 pieces, to cover and fit the length of your lasagne dish. Repeat for the remaining dough.

Boil a pot of salted water and cook each lasagna sheet one at a time for about 30 seconds and immediately transfer into a bowl of ice water.

Transfer the sheets to a tray to rest, lined with baking paper in between each layer of lasagna sheets to prevent the sheets from sticking to one another.

To assemble the lasagne, get a large baking dish (I’ve used a 30cm x 20cm rectangle baking dish) and grease the bottom and sides with some olive oil.

Begin by placing a ladle of the bechamel to the bottom of the dish. Then cover with a layer of lasagna sheets, a ladle of the bechamel and pesto sauce and then a layer of mozzarella slices. Repeat until you have no ingredients left.

For the top layer, finish with a layer of lasagna sheets, a bit of bechamel and then a full layer of mozzarella slices, so the top layer becomes gooey, golden and crunchy once it’s baked.

Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees celsius for at least 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 25 minutes at 220 degrees or until the top has fully melted and is golden.

Remove from the oven allowing it to rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

For more from Jessica, follow her at @jessica_nguyen_

Photography Hannah Blackmore. Styling Jackie Brown.

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