If there is one country I want to visit, it is Italy. For its wine, its food and the culture. La Cucina Italiana…I find beauty in this food. The vibrant colours, flavours that burst in your mouth tantalizing your taste buds, the freshness of simple ingredients like a raw tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese and locally extracted olive oil, just writing about these is making my mouth water. And how can I leave out Basil? There is NO aroma dearer to me that that of a freshly plucked sweet Italian basil leaf crushed between my finger tips. It transports me to the romance of that far off land.
Needless to say, when I got the chance of growing my own little vegetable and herb garden, I pleaded, blackmailed, sweet-talked friends into getting me basil seeds when they were coming from abroad. This was the first thing I wanted to grow. And now, I have 4 Indian varieties and 3 other varieties for cooking purposes (Sweet, Thai Lemon Basil) For those who don’t have generous friends like mine, Namdhari’s in Bangalore sells freshly packed sweet basil, so fresh that when i get back home from the shop with a packet of basil in my shopping bag, the car smells like i’m in a basil field. Namdhari’s also sells basil saplings at very reasonable costs. The kind of sunshine we get in India, it is not a tough one to grow at all.
Coming back to this recipe, lasagna was one of the things I was always scared to make. While I make regular pasta almost twice a week, this was more of a fear of the unknown or the mental block to cooking a dish that has a number of steps. This was my second attempt and except for the pasta sheets which could be more cooked that they were, the tastes in each bite were quite beautiful. Next time, I want to roll out my own pasta sheets. Lasagna sheets should be the easiest pasta to make by hand, given that we are good at rolling out the thinnest of rotis!
The number of steps can seem intimidating, but the sauce can be made ahead, the vegetables roasted ahead of time. What remains is the grated cheese and the assembly, which is hardly time consuming.
This for me is a perfect weekend dinner paired with a very simple salad and a glass of red wine. I made this for our little impromptu dinner with Nandini Ajit and they offered me constructive feedback like starting the layering with some watery sauce at the bottom of the pan so the steam from it will cook the upper pasta layers as it bakes in the oven. I have incorporated in the recipe.