Choose the best summer slicer tomatoes you can for this lasagna, which is just a thinly veiled excuse for eating the last of the tomatoes as fall comes around. The tomatoes, preferably from your nearby farmers market or your own garden, can be a little overripe or slightly blemished, but under-ripe will not do. —Deborah Geering
6 large tomatoes (about 4 pounds)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
Pinch ground cayenne
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch basil, leaves only, chopped
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, grated or thinly sliced
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
9 to 12 uncooked regular lasagna noodles (about 12 ounces)
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Set a large bowl of ice water nearby. When the water comes to a full boil, gently lower the tomatoes, one by one, into the water for about 30 seconds, then use a slotted spoon to scoop them out and shock them in the ice water for 30 seconds. After all the tomatoes have been through the boiling and ice water baths, peel away their skins and cut out their cores. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and set aside. To prepare the béchamel sauce, in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and shallot and cook, stirring, until the shallot is translucent, about 4 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking continuously, for 3 minutes. While continuing to whisk, slowly add milk in a stream. Add cayenne, nutmeg, and bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce to a simmer and whisk in 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Remove from heat. Discard bay leaf.
Cover the bottom of the prepared baking dish with a single layer of dry pasta noodles. Spoon about 1 cup of the béchamel sauce evenly over the noodles. Starting at the blossom end, slice 2 tomatoes into rounds about 1/3-inch thick, and arrange in a single layer over the noodles. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and about 1/3 of the chopped basil. Top with a third of the mozzarella and a third of the Parmesan. Repeat layers 2 more times, using all the bechamel in the top layer and finishing with the remaining cheeses. Bake, uncovered, until the lasagna is bubbly and browned on top, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 servings