I love you Lasagna

If I make you lasagna, then you are a special person in my life. Lasagna is my expression of love in food.  I must resist the temptation to eat it straight out of the oven, will spend the rest of the evening returning to the pan slicing small slivers and “squaring off” the tray and I’ll be anxious to dive into it the next morning when it is cooled and set.  If I love you, I will share my lasagna. 

When I left South Africa for India, I stocked the freezer with my homemade lasagna and creamy ricotta for my boyfriend.  Our rehearsal dinner for our wedding, what did I serve?  You guessed it – lasagna.      

It is a wonderful dish to get kids involved in the kitchen since it is laborious, the extra hands are always welcome.  Lasagna is an excellent cozy camping dish when the ricotta cheese is made in advance. I’ll prep the ricotta cheese when we have access to a kitchen and use it to bake campfire lasagna. The best balance of a good sauce, creamy ricotta, gooey mozzarella, and pasta that binds this beautiful mess together.  Perfection in a pan bubbling with joy. 

A big pan of lasagna with a slice missing to showcase the twelve layers.
Yum yum yum

INGREDIENTS

  • Pasta – 12 sheets
  • Sauce – roughly 5 C. sauce
  • Ricotta Mix – 2 C.
  • Mozzarella – 500 grams

EQUIPMENT

  • Large oven-safe dish or Cast Iron pot with lid (for fire)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Grater (for the mozzarella)
  • Large Spoon

METHOD

  1. Make the Sauce
  2. Make the Simple Ricotta Cheese
  3. Grate the mozzarella
  4. Mix ricotta with 1 egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg
  5. Preheat oven 375° F or 190° C
  6. Now it is time to layer:
    • sauce
    • noodles
    • ricotta
    • mozzarella
    • sauce
    • noodles
    • ricotta
    • mozzarella
    • sauce
    • noodles
    • sauce
    • mozzarella
  7. Cover and bake for 45 minutes
  8. Remove cover and bake for 10 minutes or until golden and bubbly
  9. Rest and resist for 15 minutes
  10. Cut and serve xoxox

Lasagna Versatility

I love lasagna for its versatility:  meat or vegetarian, cottage cheese or ricotta cheese, pasta or aubergine, grated mozzarella or full slices….

The Pasta:  This is where it gets easy.  No boil pasta sheets.  We don’t usually have the facilities to roll out pasta sheets and boiling pasta noodles is a step I just don’t bother with unless those are the only noodles available.  I also like that you can crack them and cover the entire pan.  It is ugly in the making, but how often do your noodles not reach the corners of your pan?

The Sauce: I make my sauce from scratch – it is simple and clean, and it doesn’t include the additives, preservatives and sugars found in canned tomatoes or retail sauces.  This is where you should put in the extra work.  It can be made ahead of time or when camping I make it straight in the pot I plan to bake the lasagna in.  No lasagna is ever the same.  With tomatoes, onions, garlic, oregano and basil as the base I will throw in whatever other veg is in the fridge i.e. mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, carrots, peppers… With all these goodies in the sauce I do not bother with the additional layering. 

The Ricotta Mix:  Making ricotta is not as daunting as it seems.  You can choose to purchase it or use cottage cheese as well.  Making it again frees you from preservatives and is more cost effective although takes a bit of extra time.  I’ll make the ricotta at the same time as the sauce, and both are done and ready to layer.  I season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg and throw an egg in as a binder you could also fold in fresh parsley, basil, or chopped blanched spinach.

The mozzarella:  Yum.  A nice fresh mozzarella layered on there is amazing.  Not always easy to find especially in Africa.  I take what I can get shredded or whole, fresh or processed, but there will never be orange cheese in my lasagna.

Reheating Lasagna

While in Florence, Italy I went to a busy restaurant, I was alone and was seated at a table next to the kitchen. I was so excited for an “authentic” Italian lasagna and then I heard the ding of a microwave and held my breath hoping my lasagna wouldn’t be coming from there. My lasagna came out cold in the center and just because you’re in Italy doesn’t mean every meal will be epic. When reheating lasagna, best do it in the oven.

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