Before you call me out for using unnecessary Orientalist tropes, know that when I say “magic carpet” I mean it in the Steppenwolf sense…because eating this lasagna is a little bit like falling in love. In it you will find bits of Armenia, Palestine, Egypt, France, and Italy. In harmony. In very delicious harmony.
The first source of inspiration for this particular dish came not from Egypt but from Garo’s (of pizza fame) and the tasty basterma one may enjoy there – which I recently learned through my dear friend Nour, is not only a famous Armenian food item (I’d only ever experienced it in the context of Armenian Beirut) but a classically Egyptian ingredient as well (and therefore a callback to Nour’s childhood). Of course after learning this, merely eating a basterma sandwich or two was clearly insufficient, and I bought a whole packet of the stuff to take home and use in some creative culinary manner. Next thing you know, a new lasagna was born.
Magic Carpet Lasagna
You will need:
Enough lasagna noodles for three separate layers, prepared as specified (I used no-cook spinach lasagna and it was great)
Half a stick of butter
4 T of flour
1 quart of milk
1 tsp zaatar or other dried herb mixture of your choice
4 small or 2 medium sized zucchini, cut into medallions then halved
4 slices of basterma (or cured meat of your choice: prosciutto, pancetta, etc.)
1 generous bunch of arugula, cleaned and chopped in a rough chiffonade
Olive oil and butter
Salt & pepper, to taste
Cup of shredded mozzarella and a cup of shredded parmesan or grana
…oh right, and an egg for good measure.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Whip up a bechamel sauce: start by heating up the milk (keep your eye on it and don’t let it quite come to a boil); and in the meantime, in a saucepan, combine the half-stick of butter and flour and heat on medium-low, stirring continuously. After about 7 minutes (the mixture should be magically golden-brown and look beautiful), pour in the now-hot milk a cup at a time. Bring to a boil and keep stirring for 10 more minutes. Add a sprinkle of cheese, the zaatar, a few generous pinches of salt, and set aside.
Next, chop up your meat of choice and fry it up with a touch of olive oil in a frying pan. Once it starts to crisp, set aside and don’t wash out the pan. Add butter, more olive oil, and the chopped zucchini and arugula, and cook for several minutes on medium-low.
Next, add back the meat and crack an egg over the top, mixing everything to combine then removing from heat.
Now you’re ready to layer: start by covering your pan with olive oil, then add a layer of sauce, then a layer of pasta. Then pile on half the vegetable-meat-egg mixture, followed by a generous dollop of sauce (spread out evenly) and a third of the cheese. Follow with another layer of pasta, then more veggies/meat, more sauce and cheese, and one final layer of pasta. And on the very top, drizzle more sauce and the rest of the cheese.
In saucing the thing, you want to make sure every bit of each layer gets plenty of sauce, but not so much as to make the whole concoction too soaked or soggy.
Bake the entire thing for about 30 minutes (at which point I usually switch on the broiler for a few minutes to ensure the top layer of cheese is good and browned and crispy).
Let it cool for a few minutes before serving. If you wish, for presentation, drizzle pieces with a bit more sauce. And enjoy the ride…