Before I started this blog, I never would have thought I liked courgette. I always ate it, but it would never have been a favourite. Judging by the amount of courgette recipes I have put up in the past few years, it seems that I subconsciously love it. Apologies if you don’t, I will try and tone it down after this one.
I first tried courgette lasagne in a restaurant in Venice as a teenager. We stopped outside a place on an empty square with tables in the sunshine, and examined the pro-forma red and white Italian restaurant menu. As soon as the owner came out, it was clear that the menu was a fiction. The restaurant was run by a husband and wife team. He did the cooking, and she did front of house. He cooked whatever he felt like, and so you sat and waited and something would be presented to you by his wife. This could be absolutely anything. We received a minestrone soup and this lasagne. A table after us received fish. It depended entirely on the whims of the chef at the moment you sat down. I was an incredibly fussy eater as a teenager, and we were lucky since the lasagne was about the only thing we spotted during our time there that I would have willingly eaten. It ranks in my memory as one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten. At least part of that is probably the memory of the relief at being presented with something suited to my taste against the odds. Unfortunately, the restaurant is long gone now and has been replaced by a chain restaurant.
I found a similar recipe in the Ballymaloe Cookbook years later, and have been making it ever since. Serves 4.
- 1 pack of dried or fresh lasagne (how much you will use depends on size and shape of dish)
- 1kg courgettes
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
- 25g butter
- 25g flour
- 500ml milk
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 40g grated parmesan
- 30g grated pecorino (or just do 70g parmesan)
- Wash and trim the courgettes.
- Slice them lengthways, and then start slicing each half into thin semi circular shapes.
- If you are using dried lasagne, blanch each piece individually (they’ll stick together if you do more) in a pot of boiling water for a minute or two to soften, then refresh with cold water and set aside.
- Unless you have a really big pan, you’ll probably have to cook the courgette in batches.
- Heat some olive oil in over a medium heat and saute the courgette for five minutes.
- Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
- Add some garlic (if cooking in batches) and cook for another five or so minutes, until the courgette is meltingly soft.
- Repeat with the remaining batches.
- Toss the cooked courgette with fresh parsley.
- To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
- When the butter is fully melted, stir in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes to form a roux.
- Gradually stir in the milk until it is fully combined with the roux.
- Cook while gently stirring until the sauce is thickened to a slightly liquid paste – this can take up to fifteen minutes.
- If there are lumps of roux at the start, don’t worry, they’ll usually melt away and if they don’t, strain them out at the end.
- Season the bechamel heavily with salt, pepper and nutmeg (it will take much more than you think, but taste throughout).
- Stir in 3/4 of the cheese.
- Butter the dish and spread a little bechamel over it.
- Reserve about 1/4 of the bechamel to spread on top.
- Mix the courgette and remaining bechamel.
- Layer the lasagne and courgette.
- Spread the bechamel on the top piece of lasagne, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.