EVENT: Cinco De Mayo Mag Club
PARTY SIZE: 10
TYPE: Potluck Party
Last year’s Cinco De Mayo Magazine Club may have been one of our greatest triumphs. All us members adhered to the theme, and we had such a delicious and extensive spread of Mexican-themed dishes. We planned far in advance when we scheduled this year’s rendition of the same, to make sure everyone could be there to feast. And we thought and thought about what we would make, spinning through variations on favorite quesadillas, gooey enchiladas, creamy guacamole, and all kinds of tacos. But weirdly enough, perhaps because we’d already made so much Mexican food in preparation for posting a full week of Cinco De Mayo dishes surrounding the holiday, Phoebe and I both made detours into pasta territory.
The Mac & Cheese Phoebe brought was in testing for the book, so we won’t share that perfected recipe just yet (an older version can be found here). But this Kale Pesto Lasagna was inspired mainly by its capacity to be made and carried to the potluck all in one pan. If I remember correctly, Mag Club fell on a bit of a crazy week. Though the lasagna does require some time by the stove, what’s cool about it is that all the prep can be done in advance, meaning that you can clean your kitchen and put away your cleaned bowls and utensils long before you actually put the lasagna in the oven. Then, after dinner, the only bowl to clean is the lasagna pan, though not if you make it in a disposable tin as I did.
Mag Club at Kate’s family’s apartment, in spite of the adult surroundings, which included matching silverware and plates, was as raucous as usual. We ate about half our dinners picking at the buffet we’d laid out while we waited for the whole group to show, and then like civilized twenty-five year-olds, we took our plates, squeezed around a round table outdoors, and modified our conversation so that Kate’s mom, Barb, might consider inviting us over again sometime. (We seem to have succeeded: Kate’s birthday occurred the following week, and Barb made the most amazing steak and chicken fajita spread, complete with our new obsession, marinated onions.)
No one brought an article, but if we could invent one, we’d have it discuss just how well quesadilla and lasagna/macaroni taste together.
From our kitchens, where pastas are part of the fiesta, to yours,
Kale Pesto Lasagna
1 box no-boil lasagna
1 bunch lacinato kale, stems trimmed, leaves torn into bite-sized pieces.
2-3 teaspoons salt
½ cup walnut halves
¾ cup grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
pinch of cayenne
juice from half a lemon
1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 9 x 13” pan
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of water to the boil.
Put the walnuts in the oven on a baking sheet. Toast them for 5 minutes, just until fragrant. Set aside.
Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the boiling water, then add the kale. Stir to submerge all the kale. Cover the pot and boil for 8 minutes. Drain in a colander.
Put the cooked kale, walnuts, ½ cup Parmesan, garlic, cayenne, and ½ teaspoon salt in the food processor (you may have to do this in more than one batch). Process until finely ground, then add the olive oiil and process until smooth and the consistency of mayonnaise. Add the lemon juice, then taste for salt, adding more as necessary.
Smear ½ cup of the kale mixture on the bottom of the pan. Cover it with noodles, breaking them to fit if you need to. Cover the pasta with ¼ cup of kale, then with a sparse layer of mozzarella. Repeat twice more, arranging the top layer of mozzarella especially beautifully. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan, cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, press in any exposed pasta edges, and bake for 15 more minutes until bubbly and brown. Rest 5-10 minutes, then serve.