Lasagna with Cannellini Beans
Unlike many Italian-American standards, this lasagna prepared by Hans Kaufmann of Manhattan’s Palio restaurant highlights the versatile cannellini bean rather than the tomato. One hint to flavor this humble bean is to season the cooking liquid with a variety of herbs such as sage, rosemary, and black pepper. Avoid salt while cooking the beans, as it will make the skins of the beans tough. They can be seasoned with salt when they are tender.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon white wine
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 pound dry white cannellini beans, soaked in cold water overnight
- 1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 leaves of fresh sage
- Water and salt, as needed
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup chopped onions
- 1/8 cup fresh, cleaned rosemary
- 8 fresh basil leaves
- 3 fresh sage leaves
- 1 small clove garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup peeled and seeded tomatoes, diced
- 2 plum tomatoes, seeded, or 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 8 ounces plain Italian sausage, skinned, cooked, and diced (optional)
To make the pasta dough, put the flour in a mound on a smooth work surface and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the center of the well. With a fork, beat the eggs one at a time into the flour, gradually incorporating more and more flour. Continue adding the olive oil, white wine, and water, gradually scraping all the flour until a dough ball is formed. (This can be done with a food processor by adding all of the ingredients until a dough ball is formed.) Knead for a few minutes and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes before continuing. Run the dough through the pasta machine for a thin strip. Cut strips into 4-inch squares. Cook squares in salted boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. Cool in ice water and then drain most of the water. Add a few drops of olive oil to prevent sticking, and set them aside.
To make the cannellini beans, put olive oil in a large (3 to 4 quart) cooking pot. Add garlic and sage. Simmer on low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add soaked cannellini beans and fill pot with water so that the water is 2 to 3 inches higher than the beans (about 6 cups). Cook on medium heat, at a medium simmer, until very tender. Set aside.
To make the sauce, heat another large cooking pot over medium heat. When it is hot, add the oil. When the oil is hot, sweat the onions and herbs. Add the garlic, and cook until its aroma is apparent. At this point, be careful not to brown the garlic by controlling the heat. Add the tomatoes, and cook the sauce over low heat. Let simmer for 2 minutes. Drain the cooked beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Set aside 2 cups of the cooked beans to use for the filling. Add the remaining cooked beans and the seeded tomatoes or tomato paste. Add 4 cups of the bean cooking water and let the sayce cook for 1/2 hour, stirring occasionally. Put in a blender and blend into a fine creamy sauce. through a fine strainer and season to taste with salt and pepper.
To assemble the lasagna, begin by coating a 9 x 12-inch baking pan, preferably 2 1/2 to 3 inches deep, with butter. Put a small amount of sauce on the bottom. Add a layer of cooked lasagna sheets. Sprinkle with some of the cooked cannellini beans and diced tomatoes on top. If using the Italian sausage, sprinkle it over each layer of tomatoes and beans. Add some sauce and repeat the procedure two more times. Cover with foil and bake at 400ºF for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes.