This is celebration in a lasagne pan.
Aside from being better if assembled ahead, being meatless and needing no accompaniments, if you’ve not tasted the glories of a fresh, light tomato sauce paired with a brilliant creamy ricotta (look for brands like Calabro and Polly-O), life is about to get a lot better.
Sauce chills up to 4 days; freezes up to 6 months. Blend ricotta mixture just before assembling.
8 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
18 large fresh basil leaves, torn
1/2 medium onion, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup good-tasting extra virgin olive oil
3 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, drained, but liquid reserved
1. In a 6-quart saucepan combine garlic, basil, onion, salt, pepper, and oil. Heat over medium-high 1 minute, no more. Add tomatoes, breaking them as they go into the pan. Bring to a lively bubble, uncovered, and cook 30 minutes, or until the sauce is reduced by half. Stir often, watching for sticking or scorching.
2. Remove pan from heat, cover and let stand 15 minutes. If desired, cool and refrigerate up to 2 days, or freeze up to 3 months.
1-3/4 to 2 pounds whole milk creamy ricotta cheese (see headnote)
Grated zest of 1/2 large lemon
8 whole scallions, trimmed of root ends and thin sliced
3 tightly-packed tablespoons each basil leaves and Italian parsley leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or to taste
1/2 cup cold heavy cream, whipped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound dried lasagne noodles
6 quarts boiling salted water
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1. In a medium-sized bowl, blend together the ricotta, lemon zest, scallions, basil, parsley, garlic, nutmeg, salt and pepper and then fold in the cream. Cook the pasta in fiercely boiling water, stirring often, until barely al dente (it should be underdone); drain in a colander. Hold in a bowl of cold water.
2. Preheat the oven to 350º F. Oil a shallow 2-1/2-quart baking dish. Drain the pasta and pat dry. Moisten the bottom of the dish with the tomato sauce. Cover with a single layer of pasta. Daub with one quarter of the cheese mixture, then a 1/4 of the Parmigiano. Finally daub with a few tablespoons of tomato sauce. Top with a layer of pasta; spread a layer of tomato sauce and another quarter of the ricotta and then the Parmigiano (save 3 tablespoons for topping) and a little sauce. Continue layering, topping the fifth layer of pasta with the remaining sauce. Cover lightly with foil.
3. Bake 40 minutes, or until heated through. Sprinkle with the reserved 3 tablespoons Parmigiano. Let rest 10 minutes in the turned-off oven with its door open, and then serve.
Copyright Lynne Rossetto Kasper. This recipe is part of the collection that accompanies Taste of the Holidays Vol. 5.
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