For really delicious, melt in your mouth lasagna, you need fresh lasagna noodles. You can make them yourself or purchase the fresh noodles ready-made. For me, dried lasagna noodles, especially with the edged ridges, are not delicate enough for a really good lasagna. Of course, having these noodles in the pantry is expedient.
Fresh lasagna noodles do not need to be boiled before baking. Fresh noodles also freeze well, so make extra for a future recipe. Place a layer of wax paper between each noodle and place them in a freezer container. You do not even need to defrost the noodles before using them in a lasagna.
I never make lasagna with a meat sauce because I think it weighs it down and takes away from the creaminess of the cheese. Meat can be served on the side. I also like my lasagna to have lots of ricotta cheese and sauce between the layers, so that it is not dry.
To make my lasagna, you will need the following:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 of a sweet onion, finely minced
- 1 small carrot, finely minced
- 1 celery stalk, minced 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 4-26 to 28 oz. contains Italian chopped tomatoes
- 2-6 oz. cans of tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
- 6 basil leaves, minced
- 1 sprig of fresh oregano, leaves minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
To make mincing the vegetables easier, I put them in the food processor and process until finely chopped.
Place the minced vegetables and the olive oil in a large saucepan and cook on low until softened. Do not let the vegetables brown. Add the tomato paste and cook for two minutes. Fill the empty tomato paste cans with water and add them to the saucepan. Stir until the paste is dissolved.
Add the chopped tomatoes, salt, black and chili peppers and herbs. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat to very low and simmer sauce until very thick, about 3 hours. Taste to see if more salt is needed.
Fresh Pasta Noodles
- 2 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups Italian 00 flour or unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the pasta
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Making the pasta in a food processor:
To protect the dough from overheating, use the eggs cold – right from the refrigerator.
Place the eggs and oil in the bowl of the processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add about 2 1/4 cups of the flour and pulse until the dough just comes together.
If the dough is very sticky, add the remaining ¼ cup flour. The dough should be smooth and slightly sticky. If the dough seems dry add a tablespoon or two of water.
Pulse a few times and then scrape the dough onto a lightly floured board.
Cut the dough into quarters. Roll out one-quarter at a time, keeping the rest of the dough wrapped in plastic. Shape the dough into a flat rectangle.
Set the rollers of a hand-cranked or electric pasta machine at their widest opening. Run the dough once through the machine. Remove and lightly dust with flour. Fold the dough in thirds, like a book, pressing down with your fingers, and run through the machine again. Repeat this step at least two more times, dusting lightly with flour if needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Now change the rollers of the pasta machine to the next decreasing setting and roll out the dough once without folding. Keep rolling the sheet through the machine on decreasing settings until you have rolled it through the last (thinnest) setting. Repeat with the remaining dough. Keep the rolled out pasta sheets covered with kitchen towels.
For lasagna noodles, cut the pasta strips into 4 x 8-inch pieces.
Lasagna Cheese Filling
- 32 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 16 oz. mozzarella cheese, sliced thin
Mix all the ingredients, except the mozzarella cheese, together until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.
Completing the Lasagna:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Oil a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish
Spread about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish and place a layer of noodles on top.
Spread one-third of the sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta and then one-third of the ricotta cheese mixture over the mozzarella; top with another 1 cup of sauce. Repeat the layers twice, then top with a layer of noodles. Spread 1 cup of sauce over the top layer of pasta.
Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes longer. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Makes at least 12 servings.