Three-Cheese Pesto Lasagna

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Photography Credit: Elizabeth Stark

As classic as lasagna is, it’s not top of my mind during the summer. But summer ingredients like fresh herbs and dark, leafy greens make for such a tasty lasagna, you may want to rethink it as a summer dish.

This three-cheese lasagna with pesto and greens is not only a great way to use up a lot of summer produce you’ve been hoarding, it also keeps and reheats incredibly well throughout the week.

Three Cheese LasagnaThe richness of three kinds of cheese – Parmesan, ricotta, and mozzarella – contrasts beautifully with a creamy basil pesto and supple greens in this lasagna. Sautéed mushrooms provide a meatiness that still feels light, and a healthy bit of garlic keeps things lively.

This recipe comes together in several steps, and you’ll need to prepare each layer before you can cook the lasagna. This makes it more of a weekend recipe than a weeknight recipe, but the leftovers are great all week long.

Three Cheese Lasagna

Three-Cheese Pesto Lasagna Recipe

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  • Prep time: 45 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

For the pesto (makes about 1 1/2 cups):

  • 4 cups lightly packed basil leaves (about 4 ounces)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan (about 3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or slightly less this amount of table salt)

For the sautéed mushrooms:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cup sliced crimini or brown mushroom caps (about 6 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or slightly less this amount of table salt)

For the greens:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups loosely packed spinach
  • 4 cups loosely packed kale leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or slightly less this amount of table salt)

For the cheese sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan (about 3 ounces)

For the ricotta mixture

  • 2 large eggs
  • 15 to 16 ounce tub ricotta

To assemble the lasagna:

  • 1 pound lasagna noodles
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, sliced and torn into rough half moon pieces

Method

1 Make the pesto: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse to combine the basil leaves, garlic, and pine nuts. Scrape down sides as needed. With the food processor running, and add the Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Spoon into a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside. (This makes about 1 1/2 cups of pesto.)

2 Prepare the mushrooms: Set a large, deep-sided skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, and then garlic, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Cook 1 minute, turn heat to medium, and add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sauté mushrooms about 4 minutes, until they begin to release their water. Transfer to a bowl.

3 Prepare the greens: In the same pan used to cook the mushrooms, over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stirring often, add the spinach and kale in 4 batches, salting each as it goes in the pan. Cook until greens have cooked down completely, about 5 minutes. Squeeze to remove excess water and set greens in a bowl.

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4 Prepare the cheese sauce: In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour and then cook, whisking constantly, 3 minutes. Next, gradually whisk in milk, adding a splash at a time, allowing mixture to thicken between additions; this should take 5 to 7 minutes. Once all milk has been added, cook mixture, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in 1 cup grated Parmesan.

5 Prepare the ricotta mixture: Lightly beat eggs. Fold in ricotta. Set aside.

6 Cook the lasagna noodles: Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Generously salt water and cook noodles until they are pliable but still have plenty of bite. Toss noodles with remaining teaspoon olive oil and set aside.

7 When ready to assemble and bake the lasagna: Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a 9x13 baking pan with 1 teaspoon olive oil.

8 Assemble the lasagna: Arrange 4 cooked noodles lengthwise on the bottom of the baking dish. Spread half the ricotta mixture over noodles. Scatter half the greens over ricotta. Spoon 1 cup of cheese sauce over greens, scatter half the mushrooms, and dot with 1/2 cup pesto. Add another layer of noodles, and repeat layering.

Add a final layer of noodles and top with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese sauce, dot with remaining 1/2 cup pesto, scatter mozzarella slices. Finish with a pinch each of salt and pepper.

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9 Bake the lasagna: Set the lasagna on a tray to catch any drips and slide into hot oven. Cook 30 to 35 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling vigorously and the mozzarella is bubbly and golden brown in spots. Cool 15 minutes, slice, and serve.

Reheating leftover lasagna: Cover with foil and reheat in a 350F oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until piping hot.

Freezing and reheating whole lasagnaCook and cool the lasagna complete. Cover the dish with a piece of foil pressed against the surface and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, peel away the foil from the frozen lasagna and recover the pan (so the foil is no longer touching the lasagna but the pan is covered). Warm in a 350F oven for 70 to 90 minutes until the cheese has melted and the center is piping hot. Uncover in the last 10 minutes if you'd like a browner crust.

Freezing and reheating individual portions: Cook and cool the lasagna completely. Tightly wrap individual portions in aluminum foil, transfer to a sealable freezer bag or container, and freeze for up to 3 months. To reheat, unwrap the portions, transfer to an oven-safe dish, and cover with foil. Warm at 350F for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cheese has melted and the center of each portion is hot.

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Elizabeth Stark

Elizabeth Stark, along with her husband Brian Campbell, shares her passion for simple, seasonal recipes on the award-winning food blog, Brooklyn Supper. Though Brooklyn will always have a place in her heart, she now lives with her family in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

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Three Cheese Lasagna

Showing 4 of 13 Comments

  • Adrian

    This was amazing. Followed the recipe exactly and it was delicious! My picky husband and two year old gobbled it up!!

  • Kim

    I made this last night and it was well received by my crew here!

    Also, I take my dry noodles (just the regular ones, not the no-boil kind) and place them in a pan and cover them with boiling water and let them sit while I am making the rest of the lasagna. You will have to check on them after a few minutes to make sure they aren’t sticking together, but by the time you are ready to assemble, they are hydrated and ready to use.

  • Kris

    I made this tonight, and it was amazing!!

  • Alison

    You had me at ‘pesto’! ;)

  • Terry Brancato

    I’m always looking for a new lasagna recipe, but need to shave off a little time. Have you ever made this with no-cook lasagna noodles, to skip the boiling step?

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