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Cacio e Pepe Lasagna Recipe

For cheese lovers, a quick cacio e pepe pasta can be one of the ultimate comfort foods. Introducing cacio e pepe lasagna, an indulgent alternative to lasagna where you enjoy layer upon layer of the best part…the BÉCHAMEL and CHEESE, and of course some freshly ground pepper.

About two years ago in Rome, my husband and I enjoyed enjoyed our first and only cacio e pepe lasagna. It stood out on the specials board like an Italian policeman in a Dolce e Gabbana uniform. The combination sounded too intriguing and tempting not to try – so we did!

It was excellent and afterwards I had to compliment the chef and ask her how she did it. Simply just layers of béchamel, no additional sauces required. This has been on my to-make list for such a long time and I am glad to say it has its place in the world.

It’s not an everyday meal, in fact due to the richness of the cheese and white sauce I would say it’s a special occasion food or comfort meal. Proceed as you would a normal lasagna only omit the vegetable or meat sauce and increase the cheese and béchamel and pepper. That’s all there is to it!

I highly recommend eating it with a salad (or two), just to create a bit of balance to even out the carb and dairy overload. It will yield about six to eight servings leaving lots of leftovers to be enjoyed.

 

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Cacio e pepe lasagna

(makes six to eight servings)

 

BÉCHAMEL (makes 1.5 litres)

(adapted from Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi’s béchamel recipe)

150g unsalted butter

120g plain flour

1.5 litres milk

1 onion, peeled and cut in half (approx. 115g)

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp nutmeg, ground

Salt and pepper to taste

 

LASAGNA 

15 packeted lasagna sheets (roughly 8cm x 17cm each)

250g Pecorino Romano, finely grated (Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano also ok), plus extra for the cheese lovers 

Cracked pepper

Sea salt

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METHOD

Start the cacio e pepe lasagna by making the béchamel sauce.

To prepare it, in a large saucepan add the milk, onion, bay leaves, nutmeg, salt and pepper together on medium heat, and bring it to a gentle boil.

At the same time, in a small saucepan make a roux. On medium heat, melt the butter then add the flour and stir constantly until the ingredients form a thick paste (do not overcook it as it can lead to issues with your roux – this is a helpful read if so).

Remove the onion and bay leaves from the milk mixture and pour the roux in, stir vigorously, cooking until it thickens, (slightly less thick than custard).

Take the béchamel off the heat – stirring it occasionally to prevent a skin from forming on the top.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees or to the temperature given on the packet of your lasagna sheets.

Take the large saucepan with the prepared béchamel and place it on a chopping board or a heat resistant surface. Place an ovenproof dish for the lasagna roughly 36 x 23 x 7 cm near the saucepan to make the layering of the lasagna easier. This version has a whopping five layers.

 

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Use a serving spoon to layer the béchamel sauce onto the base of the dish. Sprinkle generously  with the grated cheese (even more generously for the cheese lovers) and follow with a good dusting of cracked pepper. Place three lasagna sheets side by side over the béchamel, cheese and pepper combination, and press the sheets down gently.

Continue this process – béchamel, cheese, pepper and lasagna sheets and béchamel again, until you get to the final three lasagna sheets.

After placing the last three lasagna sheets side by side, add the final layer of the béchamel sauce by spooning it out over the top, until the lasagna sheets are completely covered. Some of the béchamel will spill over the edges of the lasagna sheet layers creating a kind of béchamel mote, this is not an issue as it firms up in the cooking process.

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Finally, sprinkle the remaining grated cheese over the béchamel evenly and finish with more pepper.

Place the lasagna dish in the oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes until the top is a golden brown (alternatively bake for the length of time stated on the packet of your lasagna sheets)

After cooking your cacio e pepe lasagna, allow it to cool slightly before serving

Serve with a fresh side salad or two, and/or a good helping of steamed vegetables with your favourite dressing. Buon appetito!