What is different about my lasagna:
I don’t mention to the table that it’s vegetarian. I just call it lasagna and everyone eats it like a starving army. No carnivore even looks up to protest.
It’s actually not vegetarian, because I sauté the alliums in anchovies. Salted Sicilian anchovies are worth EVERY PENNY.
Add 2 pinches of anise seed in the sauce.
Finish off the alliums with dry vermouth.
Anchovies, anise seed, and dry vermouth are my yummy touches, but the tools are the real secret. There are lots of great lasagna recipes, but having the kitchen tools to layer it together makes it— or breaks it. You cannot spread the sauce and cheese mixture right without a light touch and wooden spoon.
Also: Pre-cooked lasagna noodles changed my life. Now they’ll change yours.
Garden-fresh vegetables of course make everything taste extraordinarily better. Organic and local if you can get it.
What goes wrong with homemade lasagna: it’s too dry and leathery and overcooked, or it’s swimming in too much liquid. Ugh.
If you layer pre-cooked noodles, slightly overlapped, and spread the mixtures to edges, with all the exact amounts I specify, you won’t have this problem and everyone will think you are a genius.
Timing: The reason people think making lasagna takes all day is because of the prep-chopping. Use a food processor! —And the pre-cooked lasagna noodles. Did you know they exist? This is the best thing to ever come out of post-WWII Italian boxed pasta goods. Get the pre-cooked noodles and follow the layering and spreading directions on the back of the box to the letter. So easy.
I use baby spinach leaves because it’s much easier to prep. Thank you, organic farm foodies.
If I was going to make a meat lasagna, I’d def. do the beef and pork mixture.
Long Shallow Wooden spoon (no Silicon! NO! Only wood, Only long, and Only shallow)
Mechanical Kitchen scale (to measure the cheeses)
Big mixing bowl for the cheeses, eggs, spinach and onions
Big iron skillet to sauté the onion, garlic, herbs, and anchovies
Cuisinart (food processor) to quickly pulse/chop the onions, spinach, and parsley
13 x 9 x 3” deep baking pan (make sure it’s at least 3” deep or you’re fucked)
Aluminum foil, heavy duty
2” deep, large shallow baking sheet -- you put your baking pan in it, in case lasagna overflows
Sauce until soft and translucent:
2 T. olive oil
1 organic onion, minced
3 organic shallots, minced
2 pinches of anise seed
2 cloves organic minced garlic (or 2 tsp. out of minced garlic jar)
Finish off /deglaze sauté with:
2 T. dry white vermouth
Mix in big bowl:
2 cups organic, fresh as you can get it, clean, packed baby spinach leaves, chopped rough
2 lbs. ricotta cheese (that’s 1 of the big plastic tubs in deli). —Full-milk or part-skim, either is ok.
(Do NOT get fat-free).
¼ lb. super-good Parmesan grated cheese (about 2 cups)
3 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper
½ lb. grated Mozzarella cheese (about 3 cups) [feel free to buy it already grated but get a tasty brand. And fresh mozzarella is like heaven but you’re wasting it in the baking]
4 T. organic Italian Parsley
The sautéed onion mixture I listed above.
Have in pourable jar or measuring cup, ready to go:
2 qt. organic marinara or spaghetti red sauce— any kind, homemade or in a jar... Do not stress about this part, just get a jar of basic organic marinara sauce. Paul Newman, here you come. Nothing too watery.
Pre-spray or grease the pan with olive oil spray.
Follow the back-of-the-box directions for layering and baking with:
Save a little parsley to dust on top
Finally: Let it sit for an hour after baking before you eat it. I know, so hard to do. Go have a glass of wine and make yourself forget about it. It will melt together perfectly.
What is lasagna, YOUR way?