10. The Maremma and Western Slopes of Monte Amiata

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9-1. Specialities of the Marina di Pisa and Upper Maremma

 

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Lasagna ai carciofi (Artichoke lasagne)

Serves 6-8

8 globe artichokes or 10 baby spring artichokes
2 lemons
60g butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bechamel sauce made from 60g butter, 3 tbsp flour, 1 litre milk
200g freshly grated Parmesan
1 large ball of mozzarella finely chopped
400g fresh green lasagne sheets

To prepare the artichokes, snap off the outer leaves down to the tender, light inner leaves. Slice off the tops and quarter the artichokes, rubbing the cut edges with half a lemon. Scoop out the fuzzy inner choke and slice each quarter thinly. Drop into a bowl of water acidulated with the juice of a whole lemon. Repeat with all the artichokes.

Drain the artichokes and put them into a large frying pan. Add the butter and water just to cover. Cook over a medium-high heat until the water has completely evaporated and the artichokes are tender. Salt well and transfer to a large bowl. Mix with three-quarters of the bechamel. Taste, add the juice of half the remaining lemon, and more salt and pepper if necessary.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Have a large bowl of cold water to hand, and the prepared cheeses.

To assemble, butter a large baking dish well. Drop enough pasta into the boiling water to cover the bottom of the baking dish. After a minute, remove with a slotted spoon and drop into the bowl of cold water to cool. Lay on the bottom of the baking dish. Spread one quarter of the artichoke cream over, then one quarter of each of the cheeses.

Repeat the process for two more layers. Put another layer of pasta on top, and cover with the remaining artichoke cream and cheeses. Add some more salt and grind some more pepper over the top. (The lasagne can be prepared several hours before serving up to this point.)

Heat the oven to 200C and bake for about 30 minutes, until a golden brown crust has formed. Allow to rest a bit before serving. Then enjoy with family and friends.