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Lemon Ricotta Lasagna with Pan Roasted Baby Artichokes and Basil Pesto

Lemon Ricotta Lasagna with Pan Roasted Baby Artichokes and Basil Pesto

Wow, I can't believe it's already Sunday! This week has seriously flown by. I spent Friday attending a conference at my alma matter, Babson College. It's been a few years since I graduated, but it feels like just yesterday I was in the glorious bubble known as college. I had a reality check the following day after spending a few hours on dreaded taxes. stuff. 

Anyways, I believe I mentioned in my previous post that I still get excited by snow even though I've been in New England for over a year now. Well, I'm ready to take it back and admit that I'm now sick of snow. It snowed here yesterday making it the 10th straight weekend it has snowed. I'm so ready for spring and I believe that comes through with my recipe today!

This lasagna is truly a springtime dish. Every bite has the fresh flavors of basil, lemon, fresh baby artichokes and spinach. I think this would be a great Easter dinner option for any vegetarians. If you are a fan of artichokes and have never tried baby artichokes, I highly recommend picking them up the next time you are at the supermarket. Unlike regular artichokes, there is no choke and most of it is edible. They only require a little prep work of removing the outer leaves and chopping off the tops and bottoms. You'll want to have a large bowl of water with lemon juice nearby to throw the pieces into because they turn brown very quickly once cut. 

Lemon Ricotta Lasagna with Pan Roasted Baby Artichokes and Basil Pesto

4 - 5 sheets fresh lasagna noodles
1/2 - 1 cup shredded mozzarella

Basil Pesto
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 tablespoon freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, for seasoning

Vegetable Filling
2 pounds baby artichokes
6 cups fresh baby spinach
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, for seasoning

Cheese Filling
2 cups part skim ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
Salt and pepper, for seasoning

Béchamel Sauce
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup milk, warmed
2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt, for seasoning

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. First you are going to prepare the artichokes. Fill a large bowl with cold water and stir in 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. This is to prevent the artichokes from browning too quickly. Remove the outer layers from the artichoke until the leaves are soft and yellow.  You will have to go through a few layers until you get to these yellow leaves. Now trim the stem either completely off or leave about a 1/4 of an inch. Also remove approximately 1/2 inch off the top of the artichoke. Using a pairing knife, remove the uneven top layer from where the leaves were removed and the top layer of the stem. You can find pictures of this process above. Cut the artichoke in half lengthwise then half the two pieces so you have 4 even pieces of artichoke. Throw the pieces in the lemon water as soon as you finish cutting. 

Drain the water from the artichokes and pat dry. Toss the artichokes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the juice of one lemon, and minced garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add the artichokes to a large skillet over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until tender. This took approximately 10 minutes for me. When the artichokes are just about done cooking, add the spinach and cook until wilted, approximately 1 -2 minutes. Season again with salt and pepper and set aside.

Now prepare the pesto. Add the spinach, pine nuts and garlic to a food processor. Pulse a few times, scrape down the sides of the processor with a spatula, and pulse a couple more times. Add the lemon juice and parmesan cheese and pulse a couple of times. Slowly stream the olive oil into the pesto. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

To prepare the béchamel, heat the butter in a medium saucepan until melted and foamy. Whisk in the flour and continue to whisk the paste for about 2 minutes. Add the milk and stir to combine. Raise the heat to medium high and let the mixture thicken and come to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer for a couple more minutes. Add the nutmeg, cheese and salt. Stir to combine and remove from the heat once the cheese is melted and desired thickness has been reached. 

Add the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, juice of one lemon and the lemon peel to a small bowl and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper. 

It's now time to assemble the lasagna. Spray your pan with non-stick cooking spray. Depending on the size of your pan, you will be able to get 3 or 4 layers of filling.  Spoon a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan and place a noodle on top. Layer either 1/3 or 1/4 of the vegetables over the noodles and 1/3 or 1/4 of the cheese over the vegetables. Drizzle some of the béchamel and pesto over the cheese. Most of the béchamel will be used on the top layer of the lasagna but the pesto will be be evenly divided in the layers.

When the top noodle is placed on the lasagna, cover with the remaining bechamel and sprinkle over 1/2 cup to 1 cup shredded mozarella cheese depending on how cheesy you would like it to be.

Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!



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