"In Italy, lasagne is always made with meat, but I often swap it for romanesco, Roman cauliflower, which I cook beyond the point of doneness," says Sarah Cicolini, head chef and co-owner of Rome's Santo Palato. "The longer cooking time pushes the romanesco past its natural sweetness and pulls out all these savoury flavours. It's a complex dish with layered flavours to the salt coming from the anchovies and Parmigiano-Reggiano."
- 165 ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
- 180 gm white onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 5 small anchovy fillets
- 900 gm (2 large heads) romanesco (see note), florets and stalks separated and chopped
- 400 gm (½ head) cauliflower, florets and stalks separated and chopped
- 400 gm (5 cups) Parmigiano- Reggiano, finely grated
- 400 gm smoked provolone or scamorza, cut into 2.5cm cubes
- 500 gm (3⅓ cups) "00" flour
- 180 gm (about 3) eggs
- 100 gm (about 5) egg yolks
- 120 gm unsalted butter
- 90 gm "00" flour, sifted
- 1 small nutmeg, finely grated
- 1 litre (4 cups) milk, at room temperature
- 1For pasta dough, place flour on a work surface and form a well in the centre. Place eggs and yolks in the centre and gently beat together with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour to form a dough, then knead vigorously by hand until smooth and elastic (10 minutes). Wrap dough in plastic and rest for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Feed dough through pasta machine, starting at the widest setting, reducing settings notch by notch until the second-last setting. Cut pasta into twelve 35cm x 12cm sheets, then place on floured trays and cover with tea towels.
- 2For besciamella, whisk butter, flour and nutmeg in a cold saucepan over low heat until beginning to brown (4 minutes). Gradually add milk, whisking constantly until smooth, then bring to a simmer. Remove from heat, season to taste, and continue stirring for 2 minutes until besciamella is thick but still a bit liquidy.
- 3Preheat oven to 180°C. Heat 150ml oil in a large saucepan over low heat. When oil begins to shimmer, add onion, garlic and anchovies, and stir occasionally, until onion is translucent (15 minutes). Add romanesco and cauliflower florets and 250ml of water, then season to taste, cover, and cook until tender (25-30 minutes).
- 4Meanwhile, add stalks to a saucepan and cover with cold water. Lightly salt water, bring to a boil, then cook until stalks are tender (20 minutes). Drain, then return stalks to pan with remaining oil. Purée with a stick blender and season to taste.
- 5Blanch pasta sheets two at a time in salted boiling water (2 minutes). Drain and set aside on sheets of baking paper.
- 6Lay two pasta sheets in the base of a greased 35cm x 25cm baking dish to fit neatly. Spoon a fifth of the florets onto the pasta, then a fifth of the purée, besciamella and cheeses. Continue layering, reserving a little besciamella, cheeses and florets for the topping. Bake for 25 minutes, then increase oven to 200°C and bake until edges of lasagne are crisp and top is browned (18-20 minutes).
Romanesco is available from select greengrocers. Substitute broccoli.
Drink suggestion: Orange wine from Friuli. Drink suggestion by Max Allen.