Food combined with memory is a powerful thing. We’ll often make dishes to remind us of people we love and places we miss, each bite bringing us back to the feeling we’re chasing. But what if the memory was never yours?
"My papou and yiayia had a small pistachio farm on the island of Aegina, where my Greek family still lives to this day. My aunts, uncles, and cousins maintain the farm now, and on my most recent visit to Greece, it was the first thing I wanted to see. I’d heard many stories about this place, so being able to see it in person was surreal. The vegetable garden still had some of the plants growing in it that my yiayia had planted, like a persimmon tree, grape vine, and a planter full of succulents. I have an old picture of her standing in her garden, leaning on her rake, smiling, with her chickens foraging at her feet and giant tomato plants all around her. For me, this photo has become an embodiment of who she was: a kind, loving, and hardworking woman. Standing in that exact spot decades later left me feeling warm and loved."
"Even though I’ll never be able to see her or touch her or tell her how much she’s inspired me, I’ll always be able to connect with her through food through making her recipes or making recipes with the ingredients she knew and loved, like this one."
The lasagna begins with a bold, herbaceous pesto, blending fennel, pistachios, basil, and tarragon, until smooth. What's notable about this recipe is that it uses parts of fennel you might be tempted to toss.
"I really like that the recipe uses the stalk and fronds," says Food52 Test Kitchen Chef Josh Cohen. "It's the part of the vegetable you usually throw away, so it's a smart way to cut down on kitchen waste."
Combine the pesto with ricotta and cream, then follow the familiar lasagna formula: pasta, sauce, cheese, repeat until your dish is full. Finally, bake at 375° F until golden and bubbly—about half an hour.
Cooking and eating connects generations, giving insight into who we are and where we came from. This recipe bridges the gap of time between Kosmas Flores and her grandparents, bringing her a little bit closer to cherished memories.
For the fennel-pistachio pesto
- 3 cups (228 g) coarsely chopped fennel stems and fronds
- 1 cup (120 g) shelled, salted, and roasted pistachios
- 1/2 cup (20 g) fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup (13 g) coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
- 3/4 teaspoon flake kosher sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (135 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
For the lasagna
- 1/2 pound (225 g) lasagna noodles
- 2 cups (480 ml) fresh full-fat ricotta
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
- 4 cups grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup (115 g) grated white cheddar cheese
Do you have a dish that connects you to your past? Share in the comments below!