Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wish This Were My Lasagna

This is based on a gorgeous lasagna that my friend made for me several weeks ago. She, at first, based it on my original recipe, but couldn't resist changing things to suit her palate. I think it is a superior lasagna to mine, and I only wish I had another one sitting in my fridge right now. I also wish I'd taken photos before it was devoured.

The essential difference between hers and mine is fresh, farmers' market tomatoes picked at the height of ripeness at the end of the season. I generally use canned or even (gasp!) a jar of spaghetti sauce, mixed with a few fresh, pureed tomatoes. However, she used 4 pounds of the reddest, ripest, most burstingly perfect tomatoes I have seen in a very long time. The tomatoes didn't even come from NJ -- they were grown in northern California! Additionally, what also may have contributed to the intense flavor was the fact that she chopped these tomatoes very slowly while chatting outside, inadvertently allowing the tomatoes to warm somewhat in the sun. I think that she and the tomatoes were out sunning on the deck for about 45 minutes in total, but I have no scientific proof that this additional sunshine changes the recipe any. I believe, however, that chopping while having a leisurely chat at least improves the cooking process.

3 boxes no-boil lasagne noodles
28 oz. ricotta
2 eggs
1 c. parmesan cheese
handful fresh italian parsley, chopped fine
4 cups shredded mozzarella

for sauce:

1/2 small onion, minced.
2 cloves garlic, pushed thru press
4 pounds fresh, very ripe tomatoes.
5 leaves or so fresh basil.
1 sprig fresh oregano
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.

For the sauce:

First, cut tomatoes into 8ths, set aside. Saute the onion in olive oil over low heat, season with a sprinkle of salt, wait a few minutes, and add garlic. Saute until onions are translucent and a tad brown. Add tomato paste and cook till brown and thick- 5 minutes.

Pour in a bit of the juice from tomatoes and scrape up the sides. Sprinkle with more salt and add a grinding of pepper. Add tomatoes and let simmer, stirring, for about 5 minutes.
Get out the stick blender (or put half of the sauce in a blender then put back) and give it a few rounds; taste for salt and pepper. Cook another five minutes. Chop up the basil, it's best to do it right before and tear apart the thyme. Add to sauce; cook 5 more minutes. Finally, add two or three tablespoons of really good olive oil and stir well.

Meanwhile, mix together ricotta, eggs, parsley, parmesan, salt and pepper.

The single most important thing to do when making lasagne is this: first spray your lasagne pan with spray oil (preferably olive oil). Then spoon down a layer of tomato sauce, and to make it even better, follow that by a layer of thinly sliced tomatoes. This ensures that the noodles don't stick to the bottom of the pan (and then burn).

Layer the pan this way:
noodles (do not let noodles overlap - break them to fit)
ricotta mixture
ricotta mixture

Finally, top with more parmesan and a thick layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake covered for about 45 minutes, at 350. Remove cover and continue baking another 15 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbling.


Sarah said...

That was some ass-kicking lasagna. Yum! I'm so glad you put the recipe here - I'd love to make it someday. Sadly, tomato season is just about over.

foodstuffs said...

hey this is my recipe!!! kidding, oh and if you make two. switch the pans half way. one ends up a little burnt.