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Jul 21, 2015
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WINE WITH…Summer Veggie Lasagna

There is nothing particularly Italian about this lasagna except for the broad ruffled pasta noodles themselves. Freeform, intuitive, and based on fresh, seasonal produce, it’s at home in any culinary tradition, and is a great dish for casual summer dining. Serve it with a simple green salad and good bread or rolls for sopping up the juices.

Use a variety of fresh chopped vegetables such as corn, zucchini and other summer squash, eggplant, carrots, mushrooms, and peppers (we always include a spicy pepper of some sort).

If you’ve never used oven-ready lasagna noodles you might be somewhat mystified by how they work but, like us, once you try them you’ll probably be hooked. For a lighter dish we like to arrange the noodles side by side without touching each other or the edges of the dish (they expand and fill in the gaps as they cook).

Summer Veggie Lasagna

Serves 6

The dish may be assembled up to 24 hours ahead.

For the Vegetables:

2 medium red or white onions, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic
4-5 cups mixed chopped vegetables
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh
About 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons shredded lemon rind

For the Pesto:

½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoon shredded Parmesan
salt
½ cup olive oil

For Assembling the Dish:

One 26 or 28 ounce can crushed or chopped tomatoes
8 ounces oven-ready noodles
8 ounces whole milk ricotta
½ cup white wine (or water)
½ cup Parmesan
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded

Preheat the oven to 375°

In a large bowl mix together all the vegetables. Season them with salt, pepper and the thyme, and toss them with the olive oil. Divide the mixture among two baking sheets, spreading the vegetables out in a single layer. Roast them until they are soft and beginning to brown, stirring once or twice as they cook. Stir in the capers and lemon peel and set the mixture aside. Meanwhile, make the pesto by processing all the ingredients in a mortar & pestle, a blender, or a food processor.

To assemble the lasagna, cover the bottom of a 9 X 13-inch baking dish with one half of the tomatoes. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles on top of the tomatoes without having them touch each other or the sides of the pan. Brush each noodle with a generous amount of the pesto. Spread one half of the vegetable mixture over everything. Add half of the ricotta by spreading spoonsful of it around on top of the vegetables, tamping each one down a little. Place 3 more noodles in the dish and brush them with pesto. Layer the rest of the vegetables over the top, and add a spoonful of the remaining ricotta. Add a final layer of noodles and brush them with the remaining pesto. Spread the remaining tomatoes over it all then drizzle the wine (or water) around the edges of the dish. Top with the Parmesan and cover the dish with foil.

Bake the dish for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and scatter the shredded mozzarella over the top. Continue baking, uncovered, for another 20-30 minutes, or until the lasagna is nicely browned and bubbly.

* * *

This is a very versatile dish, as it pairs well with both red and white wines. So long as you don’t choose a very delicate white or a very muscular red, you’ll likely be happy with the match. Some wines echo the lasagna’s fresh, summery flavors, while others provide more of a contrast. Both types, however, can make for a very tasty pairing--as the five specific bottles we are recommending prove.

Questions or comments? Contact us at Talkofthevine@gmail.com


Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Paul Cluver, Elgin (South Africa) Chardonnay 2013

(Imported by The Country Vintner)

$22

Fresh and lively, with an oak underlay that never threatens to dominate its citrus and autumn fruit flavors, this Chardonnay exemplifies how a wine can complement a dish by integrating with it. The food and wine seemed made for each other.

Domaine le Couroulu, Vacqueyras (Rhône Valley, France) “Cuvée Classique” 2011

(Imported by The Country Vintner)

$23

This wine’s appeal with the lasagna was just the reverse of the Chardonnay’s, as its meaty, earthy flavors provided a foil or counterpoint to the bright flavors of the veggie lasagna. One caveat: The wine flirts with excess, and some people probably will find it overly earthy. We, however, loved it.

Horton, Orange County (Virginia) Viognier 2013

$20

Much like the Chardonnay we are recommending, this Viognier meshed seamlessly with the veggie lasagna. It tastes rich and fruity, with a seductively peachy bouquet, and much like the dish, seems tailor-made for summer dining.

Monsanto, Chianti Classico (Italy) “Riserva” 2011

(Imported by MW Imports)

$25

Though exhibiting the tell-tale hint of dusty earth so characteristic of good Chianti, this wine’s fruit flavors are so bright and vivid that it ultimately ends up in the complementary rather than contrasting camp. That probably will change with a few more years of bottle age, but right now it tastes fresh and vibrant.

Viña Pomal, Rioja (Spain) “Reserva 2010

(Imported by Aveniu Brands)

$21

A spicy red, this Rioja, much like the Vacqueyras, stands apart from the dish, providing new and intriguing flavors to the pairing when considered as a whole.