layer up

food detective

Categories: Grains and Pasta, Dinner for Two, Supper, Dinner Party, Posted on May 9, 2021 by Sandy Bergsten

Now a nod to my northern friends, who have hopefully put away their snow shovels for good. This spring has been a roller coaster for many reasons, the weather being one of those swinging pendulums. Here’s a recipe that is as comforting as a favorite sweater and light enough to enjoy whatever the season.

Adjectives such as airy and delicate aren’t usually associated with lasagna. This adaptation from Alison Roman definitely is. Skip the heavy bechamel and typical meat sauce. The key here is a light tomato sauce layered with creamy ricotta and fresh mozzarella. It’s truly heavenly, and floats like a crisped edged cloud.

You can use dried lasagna noodles, but I like to pick up fresh pasta sheets from my local Italian deli, then cut them to the size of my baking dish. I also like to make what is typically a half recipe and for an 8” x 8” dish. It’s the perfect amount for four, and if it’s just for two the other half freezes wonderfully for whenever you need a quick homey dinner. If having a crowd double the recipe and cook in a 9 x13 baking dish.

For the lasagna margherita begin with the sauce. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add a chopped onion to the oil and sauté until softened. Add two cloves of slivered garlic and sauté for one minute. Add one tablespoon tomato paste and continue to cook stirring occasionally until the paste turns brick red. Add a 28 ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes and its juice, crushing the tomatoes with your hands or carefully with a potato masher. Add I cup of water. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer. Add sprig of basil, a teaspoon of fish sauce and a dash of salt. Simmer, stirring the bottom frequently until the sauce becomes as thick as if it was from a jar, about 35-45 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Add more salt if needed and a few grinds of pepper. The sauce can be made a couple days in advance. Cool completely, cover tightly and refrigerate. 

For the lasagna begin by shredding three quarters of a pound of fresh mozzarella, set aside one-half cup. In a medium bowl, combine the remaining mozzarella, eight ounces of whole-milk ricotta, one-half cup shredded Parmesan, and two tablespoons heavy cream. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile cook one-half pound lasagna noodles in the boiling water until just softened (before al dente), about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain and separate any noodles that are trying to stick together. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil to prevent them from sticking further. (Note that five layers of noodles will ultimately be needed.)

Spoon a bit of sauce on the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish.

Top with a layer of noodles, avoiding any heavy overlap (a little overlap is fine).

Top with about ½ cup of sauce.

Then dot one-fourth of the cheese mixture over the sauce covered noodles.

Top with another layer of noodles and repeat three more times, ending with the last of the noodles (depending on size of the noodle and the shape of the baking dish, there might be a few extra noodles left over).

Top with the last of the sauce.

Then with the reserved ½ cup mozzarella and more Parmesan, if desired. The lasagna can be made to this point earlier in the day, covered and refrigerated. Take out of the refrigerator 30-45 minutes before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover the lasagna loosely with aluminum foil and place the baking dish on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet (to prevent any overflow from burning on the bottom of your oven). Bake until the pasta is completely tender and cooked through and the sauce is bubbling up around the edges, about 25-30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the lasagna is golden brown on top with frilly, crispy edges and corners, another 35-45 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating.

The cooked lasagna can be baked up to three days ahead, cooled completely, wrapped tightly and refrigerated or frozen for up to month. To reheat cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes or until heated through (if frozen thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating).

A slice will surely brighten any forecast. 

post a comment

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.