The Sardinian Cookbook

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Tuna Lasagna

I was recently sent a copy of The Sardinian Cookbook. I was struck by the author’s humble version of lasagna made with canned tuna and fresh pesto right off the bat. I’m a huge fan of oil-packed, Italian tuna fish. I’ll often spend 2 to 3 times the price of regular tuna to get a can of the really good stuff packed in olive oil. I’m pleased to say that this lasagna is worth a 2 can splurge.

Let me tell you something about cookbooks. There are a lot of them out there. Most come from expected sources with many of the same recipes that highlight whatever ingredient du jour is making the rounds of the Iron Chef circuit. Rarely would you find canned tuna in one of these books.

I tend to skip right past these when I’m choosing a cookbook to bring to you here. That’s because I love the cultural aspects of food and cooking as much as I do the eating. There’s so much to learn about other parts of the world and other people’s lives. How people eat and think about food provides a great entree to understanding other cultures.

The Sardinian Cookbook by Viktoija Todorovska (Agate Surrey) is such a book. Its focus is, of course, Sardinia which is the second largest of Italy’s Mediterranean islands. It’s a beautiful island, rich with Italian history. However, geographically speaking it’s much closer to the French island of Corsica than it is to any part of mainland Italy. And its landscape is highly variable. Deserts, snow capped mountains, extinct volcanoes and of course the ever present sea all play a role in defining the lives of the Sardinian people. Diversity is present in its culinary tradition as well. Its history as a trading port adds a layer of influence from the Spanish, French, Italian and African merchants who have passed through these Italian islands for centuries.

The Sardinian Cookbook represents all of this diversity and more. This book is satisfying to me on many levels. It is colorful and simply laid out. The cultural sections of the book are as beautifully presented as the food sections. The author’s understanding of Sardinia’s diverse culture is what separates this book from other cookbooks and travel guides. In fact, the book is filled with enough interesting dishes and beautiful places to keep me glued to it for long stretches of reading pleasure. GREG

The Sardinian Cookbook

Lasagne with Tuna and Pesto

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4-6Source Adapted from The Sardinian CookbookPublished

*I doubled the tuna from the authors recommended amount to account for personal taste. The recipe above reflects that change.
** The author did not give directions on boiling the pasta. Perhaps she did not intend it. I however tried it both ways and preferred the fresh pasta boiled before assembly.

Reprinted with permission from The Sardinian Cookbook: The Cooking and Culture of a Mediterranean Island by Viktorija Todorovska, Agate Surrey, October 2013

Tuna Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 2 large eggs
  • sea salt (as needed for seasoning)
  • cold water (as needed)
  • 3 cup basil leaves (plus more for garnish, optional)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
  • 8 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 3 cup skim or 1% milk
  • kosher salt (as needed for seasoning)
  • white pepper (as needed for seasoning)
  • 2 (5-ounce) oil packed tuna* (drained)

Directions

**To make the Fresh Pasta: Combine the 1 ½ cups flour, eggs, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Stir with a fork, adding a little cold water, as necessary.

When the dough comes together, take it out of the bowl and knead it on a clean working surface for at least 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. (The dough can be made 1 day ahead and refrigerated overnight.)

Roll out the dough to 1/16-inch thickness. Cut it into twelve 7-inch by 3 ½-inch wide strips. Set aside.

To make the Pesto: In the bowl of a food processor, combine basil leaves, pine nuts, 3 tablespoons olive oil. Process thoroughly. Adjust the seasoning to taste. Use immediately or refrigerate.

To make the Béchamel Sauce: In a large saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat. Slowly add the remaining ¼ cup flour, whisking to break up any lumps. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly.

In the meantime, in a small saucepan, warm the milk. Add the milk slowly to the flour and oil mixture, 1 ladle at a time, whisking constantly to combine.

Continue cooking for 6 to 7 minutes, whisking constantly, until the Béchamel Sauce starts to thicken. Season with the salt and white pepper to taste. Set aside to cool. (The Béchamel Sauce can be made several hours ahead and refrigerated until ready to use.)

To assemble the Lasagne: Preheat the oven to 375°F.

In a 9 × 12-inch baking dish, spread a fifth of the Béchamel Sauce evenly across the bottom of the dish. Line the bottom of the dish with 3 pasta sheets. Crumble a third of the tuna on top of the pasta. Sprinkle the tuna with a third of the fresh pesto and evenly spread on top another fifth of the Béchamel Sauce. Continue the layering process. Finish the top layer with the last fifth of the Béchamel Sauce.

Bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven. Garnish with sliced basil leaves (optional). Serve hot in the baking dish.