A bubbling, creamy pasta dish of decadence… send off 2021 with flare. White lasagne, austere and beautiful, flavored with fresh parmigiano, nutmeg and a thick bechamel sauce. Yes, it’s as delicious as it sounds!
As I walked into the crowded apartment in Washington, D.C., the theme of the party became immediately evident. It was New Year’s Eve, sometime in the early 2000’s, and the place was all decked out in white. White balloons, white streamers, silver accents… but most memorably, all white food. White Christmases, sure. But a white-themed New Year’s Eve? This was going to be fun!
It was a beautiful and festive way to say goodbye to the old year, and ring in the new. Of all of the delicious and inventive dishes served that night, one I will never forget – soft cubes of angel food cake and pillowy bowls of whipped cream for dipping. A perfect cap to a perfect evening.
That party left an indelible impression on me, and many times since I’ve done my own scaled down white-themed NYE, with my own menu of white-ish food (see ideas below). The menu changes, but one dish that I keep coming back to is this white lasagne.
I first came across the recipe in Gourmet magazine over ten years ago, though of course I have made several tweaks and adjustments to get it exactly the way I like. Along the way, at times, I’ve added sauteed button mushrooms between the layers for a hit of extra of flavor, but this base recipe doesn’t call for it, and it’s delicious as is. Not all substitutions work, as I recently learned. I swapped the marsala for dry sherry and didn’t love the results. If you don’t have marsala on hand, I’d suggest a dry white wine or simply add more chicken broth.
Cheers to you and to a happy, healthy New Year!
What should I serve with this?
- A crisp, refreshing shaved fennel salad will be excellent, and works perfectly with the white theme. A mandolin works best for getting the fennel super thin, but if you don’t have one, slice as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife. Similarly slice two celery stalks on a bias, and a small, peeled apple. Lay on a platter and top with shaved pecorino cheese, or if you prefer, fresh mozzarella. Dress with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and flaked sea salt.
- My Whipped Feta Dip from the new cookbook will be an excellent starter!
- Possibilities abound for dessert. I love the idea of cloud-like bowls of whipped cream served alongside angel food cake. Or perhaps white chocolate fondue with pound cake for dipping. Or poached pears with vanilla ice cream.
Any tips or tricks when making this white lasagne?
- The dish can be made in advance. Assemble and refrigerate, covered, for 8-10 hours ahead.
- There are two things to pay attention to when boiling lasagna noodles:
- First, make sure to not overcook them. They will continue to cook in the oven, and you don’t want mushy pasta. Cook to al dente, according to package directions.
- Second, they are prone to sticking together. To keep this from happening, pour olive oil in the pot of boiling water. Rinse them immediately after draining, and then lay them out individually on a layer of paper towels.
Are there substitutions?
- You can use no-boil lasagna sheets if you don’t want to boil the noodles yourself, but you’ll need to add more liquid to the bechamel sauce. I recommend doing so in the form of the broth, which you’ll need to increase by about ¾ of a cup.
- ½ cup chopped shallots
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- ½ cup flour
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 ¼ cups low-sodium chicken broth
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup dry marsala, dry white wine, or more broth
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano divided use
- 1 pound flat lasagne noodles
- Combine the milk and stock in a microwavable container, such as a 4 cup pyrex measuring cup. Microwave for 2 minutes, until warm. Set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the shallots. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until softened. Add the flour and cook over the lowest heat for another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Slowly pour in the milk/stock mixture while whisking. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Be careful, as if the heat is too high it could scorch on the bottom, and if you stop stirring for too long, it could get lumpy. As soon as it simmers, reduce the heat and let it cook, without stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the masala, nutmeg, white pepper and salt.
- Let the bechamel sauce cool to barely warm, it can help to transfer it to another bowl, and then whisk in the eggs and ¾ cup parmigiano. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed.
- Preheat your oven to 350 F.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Pour a little olive oil in the water, and add the lasagne noodles, stirring to make sure they don’t stick together. (Note, this is the only time I ever add oil to pasta cooking water - it helps prevent sticking). Cook until al dente, drain and rinse. Lay the noodles out onto paper towels.
- Ladle enough sauce to cover the bottom of a 9 x 12-inch baking dish. Place a single layer of noodles on top of the sauce, then ladle more sauce to cover the noodles. Continue layering until all of the sauce and noodles are used, ending with a generous amount of sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and place in your preheated oven.
- Bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly around the edges, remove and serve warm.