Garfield was obviously onto something. Lasagna has an innate ability to cure many of life’s ills, and it’s rare to find a variation we don’t agree with. We love them all, from the classic alla Bolognese, to a skillet version that embraces weeknight-friendly no-boil noodles, and one that skips the ricotta in favor of roasted eggplant and sautéed greens.
The most recent incarnation to capture our attention is a vegetarian lasagna hailing from Milan, via the editors of Slow Food, an organization founded in Italy celebrating the foodways of its country and those around the world. Their latest book, Vegetariano: 400 Regional Italian Recipes, is a love letter to vegetarian Italian cooking, from the northernmost Alps to the bottom tip of the boot, and the islands beyond. This lasagna features golden raisins, pine nuts, fontina, spinach, and (wait for it...) curry powder! Apparently, this should not come as too much of a surprise.
“The inclusion of curry is a modern twist, but it does have some historical grounding,” says Natalie Danford, the translator of Vegetariano. “The Republic of Venice was a major player in the spice trade, and many recipes from the Veneto region (this recipes hails from neighboring Lombardia) do feature spices such as cinnamon and cardamom. Also, this recipe came from Milan, which is a big city with an international population. In general, vegetarians in Italy tend to be a little more adventuresome than your average Italian and like to incorporate flavors from other cultures.”
Danford went on to explain that the lasagna Americans know (and love) is often “overstuffed with everything but the kitchen sink,” an approach largely unknown to Italians. “Traditional lasagna doesn’t include much cheese and incorporates béchamel as a binder, and a ‘white’ lasagna like this one (i.e., without tomato sauce) is common.”
What results is a beautiful baked pasta that would work well for any gathering. In fact, you should make it ahead of time, because it tastes even better the next day! The plump golden raisins add a subtle sweetness, and the curry adds a wonderful warming quality to the silky smooth béchamel hugging both the spinach and the thin, but not too thin, pasta sheets (which we rolled to notch 5 on our hand-crank pasta machine, by the way).
This recipe can be followed as is, or tweaked to your climate. Our dry test kitchen, for example, had our chef increasing the eggs called for until the dough just came together. Danford also encourages readers to adjust all recipes in the book as they see fit. “Italians are very ‘loose’ with recipes. Adjusting on the fly is certainly in the spirit of the book and Slow Food.”
Try this recipe the next time you’re looking for a weekend project or when Monday’s got you feeling down.
- 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
- 4 large eggs (plus more, as needed)
- Salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon golden raisins
- 1 1/2 pounds spinach
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts
- 7 ounces fontina
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to taste
Are you a fan of white lasagna? Tell us below!