There’s something about cold weather that makes us all seek comfort foods. For some of us, we derive a great deal of pleasure from making recipes that remind us of our childhood, or places we’ve traveled – or want to visit. This is one of those recipes. Lasagne al Forno is hearty and delicious. Try it with a full bodied red wine, some warm bread, and someone you love.
1 lb homemade pasta dough, store-bought fresh pasta sheets
or 1 lb dried lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed
1 pound ricotta, well drained
2 tablespoons pesto
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 ½ cups Paula’s Tomato Sauce (see recipe below) or store-bought
1 pound fresh mozzarella, cut into thin slices
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (1/4 cup)
For the Pasta:
If using fresh pasta, use a pasta machine to roll it out to the next to thinnest setting. Cut the fresh pasta (homemade or store-bought) into 4 x 6” pieces or to fit the size of the pan you are using.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the salt. Cook the pasta in the rapidly boiling salted water, about 2 minutes for fresh or 7 minutes for dried lasagne noodles, or until very al dente. Remove the pasta with a strainer and drain in a colander.
Fill a large bowl with cold water and pour in the olive oil. Immediately transfer the pasta to the bowl to cool. Once cooled, remove the pasta from the water and lay it out flat in one layer on towels to drain. (If you must stack the cooked pasta, place sheets of plastic wrap between the layers of pasta.)
For the Filling:
Squeeze away all the excess moisture and coarsely chop the spinach. In a bowl, mix the spinach with the ricotta and the pesto. Season with salt and pepper as desired.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease and 11 x 7 x 2” baking dish with olive oil.
Spread several tablespoons of tomato sauce over the bottom of the pan. Place a single layer of the pasta over the sauce. Crumble some of the ricotta mixture over the pasta and top with a layer of mozzarella slices. Spoon more tomato tomato sauce over the cheese. Continue making layers in this fashion until all of the ingredients are used and the pan is full. The final layer should be pasta topped with tomato sauce. Sprinkle the top with the freshly grated Parmigiano.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until bubbly all over and golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting your Lasagne al Forno.
Serves 6 to 8
Copyright © 2000 by Paula Lambert, The Cheese Lover’s Cookbook and Guide, all rights reserved.
Now, if you are looking for a delicious appetizer recipe, try Paula’s Crostini Recipe with Roasted Vagetables and Smoked Mozzarella.
Paula’s Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)
2 (141/2-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes in juice
6 leaves fresh basil, minced
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant and golden brown. Remove the tomatoes from the can and coarsely chop by hand or using a food processor. If a smooth sauce is desired, puree the tomatoes in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
Add the tomatoes to the pan along with the juice from the can and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce becomes thick, for 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how finely the tomatoes were chopped and the thickness of their juice. Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the fresh basil, and season with salt and pepper.
The sauce keeps covered and refrigerated for up to one week. Frozen it will keep for several months.
Makes 2 1/2 cups.
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