In The Kitchen: Lasagna

Thin is “in” when it comes to my lasagna!Lasagna is often a meal in itself that can be heavy to handle. Over the years I have discovered and perfected my lasagna to complement a meal and not overwhelm it. This simple recipe can delight all. Made with no meat, it’s ideal for a dinner party and family gatherings for even the pickiest people. My vegetarian friends and relatives love it! I’ve been told that this style of meatless lasagna was created in the Italian countryside when the poor farmers could not afford meat, so they made lasagna without it. Leave it to the Italians to make depression food taste so wonderful! This thin and light lasagna is easy to serve and even better to eat. Enjoy and experience this perfect lasagna from Mar’s house to yours.

Lasagna ingredients:
1 lb approx. of flat fresh lasagna sheets (of course, you may substitute regular dried lasagna)
2 lbs. ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
1-2 lbs. thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
chopped parsley
1 cup whole basil leaves (washed)
black pepper to taste
5-6 cloves of garlic, finely diced
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups of home made meatless tomato sauce

Tomato Sauce:
Add 4-5 tablespoons of good extra virgin olive oil to a large sauce pot

Heat oil and sautee 3 medium onions finely diced, until transluscent.

Add 3-4 cloves of garlic finely diced. Add one bay leaf, and whole basil leaves

Immediately add hand crushed or lightly pulsed canned whole tomatoes, until pot fills up. Make sure you have enough on hand. Set tomato juice from the can aside, and add it in as needed to reach the desired quantity of sauce.

Simmer for 1-2 hours to reach the thickness you like. Use what you need for the lasagna, put one extra cup in the refrigerator and freeze the rest. This makes a light and delicious sauce and keeps the focus on the lasagna.

Lasagna recipe:
Fold together ricotta, chopped garlic, black pepper, eggs,parsley, and salt. Set aside. Slice mozzarella; set aside.

Boil fresh lasagna 2-2.5 minutes. Remove from water and spread out sheets on aluminum foil. Caution — very hot!

Use a large pyrex retangular baking dish or a large Le Creuset retangular casserole dish, or two smaller square baking dishes.

Spread some tomato on the bottom of the pan. Place the flat sheets over the sauce and cover the bottom. Overlapping is OK. Trim off excess and set aside.

Spread ricotta mixture, followed by basil leaves, some more sauce, and parmesan cheese. Add another layer of lasagna sheets and repeat the above-mentioned ingredients, this time adding a layer of mozzarella. Add a third layer of lasagna sheets, top with remaining mozzarella slices, plenty of tomato sauce and lastly parmesan cheese.

Cover with aluminum foil, and put into the oven at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for another 10-15 minutes — do not burn the top. Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit and stop bubbling. Cut the lasagna into square portions and garnish with a basil leaf, some more sauce and parmesan cheese.

You may need to experiment once or twice to see exactly how much of the ingredients are truly needed to fit your particular baking dish.

If the lasagna falls apart as you lift it out, it is still to hot. Let it cool more and set up. The ricotta and egg mixture should hold it all together nicely. I usually take it out of the oven and forget about it for an hour or so, then I reheat it for 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees just before serving. This allows you the time to tidy up the kitchen, prepare your side dishes and set the table. What a quick and heart-warming meal! Kids adore it.

And there you have it!