A Creamy Lasagna with a Surprising Boost of Flavor

March 16, 2018

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.”

A white lasagna is one that uses a béchamel, rather than a tomato, sauce. Photo by Jenny Huang

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.”

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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).

Come to mama. Photo by Jenny Huang

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.

Are you a fan of white lasagna? Tell us below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Nicole
  • AntoniaJames
  • Hana Asbrink
    Hana Asbrink
Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.


Nicole March 26, 2018
is there another fruit or "sweet note" that could be substituted in place of raisins? Family not a big fan of them in hot dishes.
AntoniaJames March 21, 2018
Curry powder, just a tiny bit, transforms mushrooms as well (a tip I picked up in something I read about Michel Richard, years ago) . . . as in these recipes: ;o)
Hana A. March 21, 2018
Sounds like a great pairing! I can totally see how those two ingredients would get along, especially in those earthy fall/winter dishes... hope all is well, AntoniaJames!