Lazy Lasagna Ready in an Hour

A ricotta & sausage lasagna you can eat in about an hour
Ricotta & sausage lasagna you can eat in about an hour

I promised to make a lasagna for our office potluck lunch Thursday. As I got ready for a trip to LA I tried to beg off making the lasagna.

I knew I wouldn’t be in the mood to make a lasagna because I was flying back Wednesday night.  My office mates wouldn’t let off the hook.

I was stuck. After I unpacked I dashed off to the market to get everything I needed.

I was making a “lazy” lasagna. No homemade pasta sheets. No long-cooked sauce. This puppy is in the oven in a half-hour.

Don’t be intimidated. This is a simple recipe for a weekend meal or even for a leisurely weeknight dinner.

I used no-boil lasagna sheets, sausage  browned out of its casing and a ricotta, mozzarella and pecorino filling. Canned San Marzano tomatoes made the quick tomato-basil sauce a snap. Leave out the sausage and you have a delicious vegetarian lasagna.

First start the sauce. It will be ready in about 30 minutes. Cook the sausage at the same time. In the meantime whip up the ricotta and mozzarella filling. When the sauce is ready assemble the 3-layer lasagna and bake it in a hot oven for about a half-hour.

How easy is that? You’ll be ready to eat in about 60 minutes start to finish.

The ricotta filling encased in tender pasta sheets is creamy and rich. The perky sausage layer bathed in the sweet tomato-basil sauce is a zesty counterweight. I savored every bite. 2 of my lucky mates snagged the leftover lasagna for their lunch the next day.

Serve the lasagna with a simple salad and a bold red wine. Have some crusty bread handy to wipe up the sauce left on the plate. You won’t have to wash that dish before you put it back on the shelf.

Buon appetito!

Lazy Lasagna with Tomato-Basil Sauce
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Italian-American
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 1 box oven-ready (no-boil) lasagna sheets
  • 2 pounds ricotta, drained
  • 1 pound fresh mozzarella, shredded
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino or parmigiano, plus more to sprinkle on top of the lasagna
  • ¼ cup fresh Italian flat parsley, chopped
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound Italian mild sausage out of the casing
  • 2 28-ounce cans imported San Marzano whole tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 sprigs basil
  • sea salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut in small cubes
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Put the canned tomatoes in a large bowl and crush them with you hand. Discard any basil in the can and any skin or tough stems.
  3. Put 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in a sauce pan over medium-high heat. Cook the garlic until it takes on a light tan color.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the pan and sea salt to taste. Bring the sauce to a rapid simmer.
  5. Add the basil, reduce to low heat and stir the sauce occasionally for about 30 minutes. The sauce will thicken a bit as it simmers.
  6. As the sauce simmers put a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot add the sausage and brown. Break up any clumps as you cook the sausage.
  7. Drain off the oil in the pan and set the sausage aside.
  8. In a large bowl beat the eggs then add the ricotta, most of the shredded mozzarella, pecorino, parsley and black pepper. (Set aside a ¼ cup of the shredded mozzarella to spread on top of the lasagna.)
  9. Beat well with a fork or whisk.
  10. In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish spread a cup of sauce evenly over the bottom.
  11. Dot with 1 tablespoon butter.
  12. Lay down a single layer of lasagna sheets to cover the bottom of the dish.
  13. Add half the ricotta filling and spread it evenly over the lasagna sheets.
  14. Add another single layer of lasagna sheets on top of the ricotta filling. Spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  15. Add the browned sausage in an even layer over the lasagna sheets.
  16. Top with another single layer of lasagna sheets and spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  17. Spread the remaining ricotta filling evenly over the sheets.
  18. Top with another single layer of lasagna sheets and spread a cup of sauce evenly over the sheets.
  19. Sprinkle with the reserved shredded mozzarella and some grated pecorino.
  20. Dot with butter.
  21. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 minutes more to lightly brown the cheese on top of the lasagna,
  22. Let the lasagna sit for about 15 minutes before cutting the lasagna. (I usually make 3 cuts the length of the lasagna and then 4 cuts across the width to form 3 x 3 inch pieces.)
  23. Put any remaining sauce in a sauce bowl should your guests want to add more to their lasagna.
  24. (The lasagna is even better the next day.)

 

 

A Jersey Thanksgiving

3 Generations Cooking a Jersey Italian-American Thanksgiving Dinner

We’re all gathered in northern Jersey for our Italian-American Thanksgiving dinner, 3 generations in the kitchen today. My sister Rose and her daughter Wendy are in charge, I’m just the sous chef. RoRo has been rocking in the kitchen since 7 this morning and barking out orders to us non-stop. There will be about 20 of us at the table at 4 this afternoon, not sure when we’ll be done.

Here’s the menu:

Antipasti

Platters with prosciutto, salami, mortadella, provolone, fresh mozzarella, smoked scamorza, Italian tuna in olive oil, roasted peppers, marinated mushrooms, giardiniera, marinated artichoke hearts, oil-cured and Sicilian green olives

Primo

Lasagna with layers of ricotta and mozzarella, meat sauce and parmigiano (Wendy’s recipe is below)

Secondo

Turkey, 2 different stuffings, roasted mixed vegetables, mashed potatoes with gravy, maple syrup candied sweet potatoes, homemade whole cranberry sauce and just in case there’s not enough a baked ham

Dolce

Desserts will be Italian ricotta cheesecake, strufoli (fried dough balls covered with honey and sprinkles), pumpkin pie, coconut custard pie, lemon merangue and chocolate cream pie, roasted chestnuts and RoRo’s famous fresh fruit pedestal.

My vegan niece is at the table so we’re making sure that we have plenty of vegetables and other sides to accompany her tofurky.

[amd-recipeseo-recipe:71]

Lasagna al Forno with Fresh Pasta

A Tuscan delight.

This is a classic Tuscan white lasagna. It takes a little time and effort but it’s worth it. This is my favorite lasagna and I get a lot of requests for it from family and friends. The meat sauce by itself can be used over any pasta and the balsamella is a common ingredient so these are 2 good recipes to have in your repertoire.

(In case this video whets your appetite for more Tuscan food, there are still seats available for our March 6th Tuscan Dinner event!)

Pasta

Make the fresh pasta dough recipe. Cut the dough ball into 4 pieces. Form each into a rectangle. Set the pasta machine to the widest roller setting. Pass each dough piece through a pasta machine catching the dough as it passes through the rollers. Fold each piece in thirds. Pass it through the rollers again. Reduce the setting 2 notches and put the strips through the rollers. If the sheets get too long cut them in half. Repeat until you get to the most narrow roller setting. You want to end up with long sheets of pasta about the width of the rollers. Lay the strips out on a well-floured baking sheet or kitchen towel. If you don’t have a pasta machine use a rolling pin. Roll out each piece of dough until it is about 20 inches long and about 10 inches wide. Lay the strips out as above.

Fill a large pot with water and add a tablespoon of sea salt and a tablespoon of EVOO. Bring to a full boil. Cook the strips until they begin to rise to the surface. (The strips will finish cooking in the oven.) Drain the strips when they are very al dente and place in a bowl of ice water. Lay the strips out on a dish towel and cover with a moistened dish towel. Set aside until you assemble the lasagna. Let excess water drain you don’t want wet pasta strips when you assemble the lasagna.

N.B.  You’ll need about 3 tablespoons of butter and some extra grated Ptarmigan Reggiano when you assemble the lasagna.

Meat Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 celery rib
  • 8 springs Italian flat parsley
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 tablespoons of EVOO
  • 1/4 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 boneless, skinless chicken breast (you can use ground chicken if you want)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1/4 pound prosciutto
  • Salt, freshly ground pepper, and freshly ground nutmeg

Cooking Directions

  1. Soak the porcini in hot water until soft about 10 minutes.
  2. Chop the carrot, onion celery, parsley and garlic very fine and place in a large enamel or heavy bottomed pot with the EVOO and over medium-low heat gently saute until golden brown.
  3. Add the pork, beef and chicken and saute for about 15 minutes more. Be sure to break up the ground meats so no clumps form.
  4. Clear a small patch on the bottom of the pot and add a little EVOO. In this spot add the tomato paste and stir to caramelize the paste a bit. The paste will darken and the oil will turn a golden red.
  5. Add the wine and cook until evaporated about 15 minutes more.
  6. Add 1 cup of broth and reduce about 15 minutes more.
  7. Take out the cooked chicken and chop very fine and return to the pot. (If using ground chicken skip this step.)
  8. Roughly chop the porcini mushrooms and put them and their soaking liquid  in the pot (pour the liquid in slowly so that any sand stays in the bowl) add second cup of broth and reduce for 15 minutes.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste and reduce until the sauce is quite thick.
  10. Chop the prosciutto very fine and add to the pot.
  11. Close the flame and add grated nutmeg to taste. (It’s strong so don’t use too much it’s just a background flavor.)
  12. Let the sauce cool before making the lasagna.

Balsamella

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • Salt and freshly ground nutmeg to taste.

Cooking Directions

  1. Place the milk in a large pan heat until until it is very close to frothing.
  2. While the milk is heating, in a heavy-bottomed pan over very low heat melt the butter.
  3. When the butter starts to froth add the flour and mix well with a whisk or a wooden spoon and cook stirring frequently until it is golden brown.
  4. Add the hot milk and whisk or stir while you’re adding it.
  5. Keep whisking or stirring in the same direction so no lumps form.
  6. When the sauce reaches the boiling point add the salt and a bit of ground nutmeg and gently whisk or stir until the the sauce cooks slowly for about 10 minutes. The sauce should be fairly thick. Cover pot and set aside until you assemble the lasagna.

Cheese Stuffing

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Directions

  1. Coarsely grate the mozzarella and place in a bowl.
  2. Add the grated Parmigiano and mix together.
  3. Set aside until you assemble the lasagna.

Assembling the Lasagna

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heavily butter a rectangular baking dish (131/2 x 81/4 inches).
  3. Spread a tablespoon of the meat sauce on the bottom of the dish.
  4. Then fit in a layer of cooked pasta strips to cover the bottom and sides of the dish leaving about an inch to hang over the edge all around.
  5. Spread  the cheese mixture over the pasta layer.
  6. Add another layer of pasta to cover only the inside of the dish.
  7. Spread a layer of the meat sauce.
  8. Cover the inside with another layer of pasta.
  9. Spread a thick layer of the balsamella.
  10. Add another layer of pasta to cover the top of the lasagna.
  11. Fold over the over-hanging pasta onto the top of the lasagna.
  12. Dot the top of the lasagna with a tablespoon of butter and sprinkle lightly with grated Parmigiano.
  13. If you have extra sauces or cheese mixture build another layer.
  14. Put the lasagna in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the top layer is lightly golden brown and crisp.
  15. Remove the lasagna out of the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.



 

Menu: Il Pranzo

Il Pranzo

Il Pranzo

This is the menu for a recent lunch I prepared for about a dozen work colleagues, evenly divided between Bay Area and NYC residents.

I wanted this meal to feature the best of slow food in the Bay Area for our NY guests, so I served Fra’Mani salami made in Oakland and used only organic farmer’s market produce. Italian prune plums had just arrived in the farmer’s market near my office and the strawberries were just about done for the summer season so I had to use them both.

I rounded all of that out with the best of imported Italian products that I could find in Gianni’s North Beach and at A.G. Ferrari near my office too. I wanted to include a Jewish dish and chose the stuffed artichokes in the style of the Roman Jewish ghetto. Besides my mother’s lasagna, the lasagna al forno con balsamella is the one that my family and friends most often ask me to make for them so I had to include it in this menu.

Check out the wines. They either mirror or contrast the major flavors in each course. Let me know if you want me to show you how to make these dishes or want me to post some of the recipes.

Antipasti

  • Carciofi alla Romano. Artichokes with a breadcrumb, minced mint, parsley, garlic, and anchovy stuffing poached in EVO and water. (The star of the course. All the rest of the stuff could be eaten after the last bite of the artichoke went into your mouth.)
  • Prosciutto di Parma
  • Fra’ Mani Toscano Salami (locally produced)
  • Boschetto al Tartufo. Cow and sheep milk semi-soft cheese with white truffle from Toscano.
  • Robiola Bosino. Cow and sheep milk soft cheese from Piemonte.
  • Cipolline en agrodolce. Flat caramelized Italian onions in a balsamic and chestnut honey sauce.
  • Olive Calabrese. Olives, roasted red peppers, garlic cloves, Calabrese chili in an EVO marinade.
  • Focaccia. Homemade, topped with EVO, sea salt, dried Sicilian oregano. A Neapolitan favorite.
  • Vino: Alice Ose vino spumante. A sparkling rose from the Prosecco region of the Veneto that pairs well with this broad array of fairly bold flavors.

Primi

  • Lasagna al forno con balsamella. Layers of homemade pasta, Bolognese meat sauce, grated parmigiano and fresh mozzarella, and bechamel.
  • Insalata mista. Baby field greens, edible flowers dressed with “La Mola” extra virgin olive oil, aged balsamico and fiore di sale (the very top crust of sea salt beds).
  • Vino: Badio e Colibuono Chianti Classico 2006. Had to go with a Tuscan to stand up to the lasagna and this is a great bottle. Not as good as the 05, but a very close runner-up.

Dolce

  • Crostata di prugne con crema. Free form tart with fresh Italian prune plums with a dollop of whipped cream on the side of each slice.
  • Liquore di fragole. A homemade strawberry liqueur. Had to make this with the last of the summer’s small, dark red strawberries. In Italy, this liqueur will keep the strawberries in your heart until the first harvest next spring.

Sparkling and still Italian mineral waters.