This post is courtesy of Stefan over at Stefan’s Gourmet Blog. It’s really an incredible blog and this dish is absolutely fantastic. We even ate it as leftovers the next day. In fact, we thought it was better the next day which is really tough because it was soooo good the first day. 😉
I seriously got behind on my blogging and have been trying to catch up. Blogging, however, involves so much more than simply posting recipes, creating stories, taking and editing photos, etc. Part of blogging is reading all of the wonderful blogs out there. There are some really talented people in the world who never truly get recognized for their wonderful talents, but they’re out there selflessly sharing their passion, their experiences and their souls. So, when I fell behind, posting, I also fell behind on my reading. Sadly, life isn’t always full of our little pleasures. 😦 So, when I finally got some time I had a whole lot to catch up on. I’m still not caught up 😦 but I am trying. 🙂
One of the blogs I read regularly is Stefan’s Gourmet Blog. Stefan is an incredibly talented kitchen wizard. He loves to cook and seriously loves authentic Italian food. He also is a serious practitioner of sous vide technique. If you are ever looking for sous vide expertise and assistance, go to his blog. He has an abundance of knowledge. In fact, if you like food, go to his blog because he has an abundance of knowledge. He really knows the ins-and-outs in a kitchen and has some wonderful insights. So, when I started catching up on blogs I had to read Stefan’s blog. Now, some people think I post a lot but I don’t post anywhere near the number of posts Stefan posts. As a result, it took a while just to catch up on his blog alone. 😮 So, if I haven’t gotten to your blog yet, blame Stefan. Yah, that’s right. It’s ALL Stefan’s fault. 😉 Hmmm…I digress. As I was reading Stefan’s blog I came across his recipe for Lasagne alla Genovese. This looked and sounded soooo gooooood!!!!! You see, we love pesto. We love pesto with pasta and this had more cheese and zucchini slices, as well. How can you possibly go wrong with a meal like this?????
I immediately called Baby Lady and began discussing dinner arrangements. Quickstep was coming over for dinner so I knew we wouldn’t be eating this alone and he could take some of the leftovers with him when he left (my idea of dieting – give it to Quickstep when he leaves 🙂 ). I just didn’t feel like making homemade pasta. Remembering that fantastic Eggplant & Zucchini alla Parmigiana we had fixed the first of the year, I was curious how it would go with Stefan’s beautiful sauce. So, I decided we would find out. The net result was wonderfully delicious and needed to be shared.
This dish is so good, it’s hard to put into words. It’s rich and unctuous, with an umami character and beautiful aroma that is filling and soul satisfying. Because of its richness, sliced fresh tomatoes with a little salt and pepper forms the perfect foil for this dish. Although it takes a while to prepare, you can make the pesto béchamel sauce a day in advance. Put in tightly sealed storage containers and refrigerate. Now, mind you this is going to make 12 cups of sauce. So, make sure you have the storage capacity. Another nice thing about this dish is that it refrigerates well and is ideal for entertaining guests. You will be able to feed 12 people with this recipe. Just make sure you have a deep dish lasagna pan. My lasagna pan is 15″ x 11″ x 4 1/4″ and it’s 3/4 full with this recipe. I’ve already told you about the leftovers.
Now, as a final matter, I need to explain the title of this dish. You see, at first I was going to call it Eggplant & Zucchini alla Genovese. The recipes for Eggplant alla Genovese, however, have tomatoes. Hmmm…Next, I thought about Eggplant & Zucchini all Pesto Genovese but that just made you think of a simple side dish with a basic basil pesto. Hmmm…Finally, I just decided to call it Eggplant & Zucchini alla Stefan because I got the inspiration for this dish from him. Anyway, this is a dish you really need to try. 🙂
For the Eggplant & Zucchini
- 2 Aubergine eggplant, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 3 cups grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
- 14 ounces fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
- 1.25 lb dry mozzarella cheese, grated
- 1 Tbsp sea salt
For the Crust
- 5 cups seasoned dry bread crumbs
- 5 cups Panko
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1½ cups All-purpose flour, for dredging
For the Béchamel Sauce
- 7 cups milk
- 1/2 cup flour
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
For the Genovese Pesto
- 9 oz fresh basil, leaves only (roughly 6 cups)
- 12 cloves garlic
- 5 cups parmesan cheese, grated
- 1-1/2 cups good olive oil
- 4 pinches sea salt
- 1/2 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes (I know Stefan – I couldn’t resist) 😀
Salt eggplants all over with 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Layer in a large colander set in the sink.
Lay a plate over the eggplant and weight the top with cans to help press out excess liquid. Let drain about ½ hour, then rinse and pat dry.
In a large vessel, toss together the breadcrumbs, panko and olive oil. Mix together.
Set up your assembly line. Dredge the eggplant slices in flour
then the egg wash
then the breadcrumbs.
Gently shake the excess breadcrumbs off the zucchini and lay the eggplant slices on parchment lined sheet pans, without touching.
Repeat the process with the zucchini.
Bake eggplant and zucchini, rotating the sheet pans halfway through baking, until cooked through and crumbs are crisp and golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add smashed garlic and sauté until just golden, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the spinach with any water clinging to the leaves, season with remaining ½ teaspoon salt, cover and cook until wilted, about 3 to 4 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure the bottom of the pan is not dry, adding water a tablespoon at a time if necessary. Once the spinach is wilted, uncover and cook until spinach is tender and excess water is gone, about 4 minutes.
For the Pesto Genovese
While the eggplant are draining, make the pesto. Now, there are all varieties of pesto; however, pesto alla genovese is made with Genovese basil, salt, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan cheese, grated. Traditionally, it is made with a mortar & pestle because rather than having the juices of the basil released by the crushing action of the wooden pestle, the metal blade of the blender will chop the leaves which they say will compromise the flavor. Given I am comfortably lazy and own a lot of kitchen toys, I use a food processor as do most people. 🙂 Also, this recipe requires a lot of pesto and making it in a mortar and pestle would not only be time consuming but my arms may have fallen off. 😮
Because this makes a lot of pesto, I processed it in stages. So, add the garlic, basil, salt and olive oil to the food processor.
Coarsely chop the basil and add pine nuts, red pepper and parmesan cheese.
Process until smooth and creamy, cover with plastic film and set aside until ready to use.
For the Béchamel Sauce
Again, while the eggplant is draining, make the béchamel sauce. Béchamel sauce is one of the 5 basic “mother sauces.” It is commonly called cream sauce or white sauce and is ridiculously easy to make.
Make a white roux by melting butter in a pot over medium heat and adding the flour.
Stir to incorporate and cook over medium heat stirring frequently (being careful not to let it burn or scorch) until you smell a gentle hazel nut aroma.
Now, notice the roux is thick as opposed to thin and creamy. This is because there is more flour than butter. Also, inasmuch as it is not clarified butter, the milk solids are absorbed into the flour. Because this dish is going to have a lot of oil and fats from the pesto, milk and cheese, you simply don’t need as much butter in the roux and a thicker roux won’t alter the taste or mouthfeel.
Add the milk.
Increase heat to medium-high and stirring frequently, cook the liquid until the flour “cooks out” and the sauce thickens. Add the nutmeg.
Now combine the pesto with the béchamel sauce, cover and set aside until ready to assemble.
Spoon some of the sauce into the bottom of your lasagna pan or really large baking dish to form a thin layer on the bottom.
Now, add a layer of eggplant.
Cover with sauce.
Now, sprinkle with parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
Repeat with another layer of eggplant, sauce and cheese then add the spinach.
Now place a layer of zucchini on top.
Cover with sauce
Sprinkle with cheese
Put another layer of eggplant
The rest of the sauce
and finally the rest of the cheese
Tent with foil so it doesn’t touch the cheese.
Place in a 375 F oven and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Then remove foil.
Bake until golden brown, roughly another 10 – 15 minutes.
Let rest for 15 minutes. Serve