The Food Maven Diary
Our ship takes us to Portofino today, which is a small port where chic Italians stroll and sit in cafes. This is the Italian Riviera at its most beautiful. Some of us are taking an excursion to Camogli, a more real-life town that you can read all about in Fred Plotkin's wonderful book about Liguria, Recipes From Paradise: Life and Food on the Italian Riviera. Fred has an apartment in Camogli and he has given me some addresses to check in on - I am hoping to visit his butcher and baker.
Gorgonzola, Fred Plotkin points out, is not a cheese of Liguria, but a cheese of Lombardy. However, the adorable town of Portofino gets so many Gorgonzola-loving tourists from Lombardy (Milan and environs) that this regional "fusion" dish has evolved.
1 1/2 pounds lasagne, preferably fresh
1 tablespoon sweet butter
3/4 cup pesto
2/3 pound Gorgonzola dolce (the yellow type), foil and rind removed; the cheese
should be cut into thumbnail-size pieces
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)
1. If you are using fresh lasagne, make them first. After they have dried for about 10 minutes, set a large pot of cold water to boil. Grease a lasagne pan with the butter. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add a pinch of salt and then let the water return to a boil before adding the lasagne. Cook the lasagne a few sheets at a time only until they are al dente. Remove each sheet with a flat slotted spoon and set aside, and then cook more lasagne. Once the sheets are cool enough to handle (but not cold) you may begin to assemble the dish.
2. Thoroughly stir a tablespoon of the hot pasta water into the pesto, then spoon a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of the pan. Place a layer of lasagne on top of the pesto. Spread on another thin layer of pesto on top of the lasagne. Then put a few pieces of Gorgonzola on top of the sauce, with enough distance apart that they will melt into the pesto without overwhelming it.
3. Continue the process, making thin layers of noodles, sauce, and cheese, finishing with a layer of Gorgonzola. Many people like to add some Parmigiano-Reggiano on the top layer, either before or after the lasagne has been baked.
4. Once the lasagne dish has been assembled, bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted satisfactorily, in a preheated 325-degree oven. Serve immediately.