On this crazy food journey, so many have shared many new and interesting recipes that omit meats. I have also eliminated dairy from my diet, and this has been one of the biggest challenges for a girl originally from the Dairy State. One of my colleagues not only told me she had a new recipe for me, she even left a generous square at my front door this week! What is not to love about foodie friends! A big shout out to Mary Catherine for sharing a treat that she thought I would enjoy.
This Four Cheese Lasagna was a “Cheese-Head’s” delight! This casserole brought together the differences of great cheeses and a rich Tomato Sauce. Mary Catherine thought maybe the spices needed some adjustments, and I have noted my suggestions within the recipe. As this is tomato season, I hope you can create this with these fabulous summer finds. As a rule with cooking, use the best ingredients you can find to create these dishes. Choose your cheeses carefully in this dish as they are important.
Fresh Tomato Sauce – Sicilian
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 6 – 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
- 9 cups cored and chopped very ripe tomatoes. If you are making this recipe in the dead of winter, you can opt for canned tomatoes. Might I suggest roasted tomatoes to add yet another layer of flavor. My favorite brand is Hunt’s Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes.
- 28 ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed with juice. Another Italian shared that you never want to use all of the same brand of tomatoes when cooking as you want to mix-up the acid contents of your sauce. This is a crazy rule but one that I promise works.
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup Chicken or Vegetable stock
- 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
- 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme *** I bumped up all of these dried spices from the original 1 teaspoon to 2 as this sauce can handle these spices. You can try this with one teaspoon each and then taste for seasonings.
- 6 tablespoons butter
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Heat a heavy 8 – 10 quart heavy bottomed pot or a Dutch oven and add in the oil and onions and garlic. Saute until the onion is clear.
- Add in the remaining ingredients except for the butter and salt and pepper.
- Bring to a simmer and gently cook uncovered for 4 hours stirring often.
- Stir in the butter, and check for seasonings. Caution, watch your salting as you will be adding salt with the cheeses.
- At this point, I would suggest resting this sauce at least overnight or another day or two before assembling the Lasagna. The secret to my sauce is allowing it to rest at least overnight if not two or three nights!
Assembly of the Lasagna:
- ½ pound of Lasagna Noodles, best for presentation to have 9 unbroken noodles
- 1 ½ cup Ricotta cheese
- At least ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg beaten
- Salt and pepper to taste, again watch the salt
- 2 cups of Sicilian Tomato Sauce – recipe above
- About ¾ pound aged Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced or shredded
- About ¾ pound Provolone cheese, thinly sliced or shredded
- Additional Parmesan cheese grated for the topping and garnish
** Other ideas for added stuffing for this layer treat is spinach and/or mushrooms. Adding in vegetables makes this a more hearty treat.
You could add a package of frozen spinach that you have dried well to the Ricotta mixture along with at least 8 ounces of mushrooms that you have sautéed and cooked dry. You could refer back to this early blog for the best cooking instructions for mushrooms. I promise this recipe will have you changing the way you prepare mushrooms.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the noodles until al dente, keeping then separated in the water.
- Carefully drain and rinse the noodles in cool water.
- Drain well and lay the noodles out flat until ready to assemble.
- In a separate bowl, mix the Ricotta cheese with ½ cup of Parmesan cheese and the egg along with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Lightly oil a 9 x 13 x 2 baking pan.
- Spread about ½ cup of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan.
- Lay three of the cooked noodles lengthwise in the pan.
- Spread 1/3 of the Ricotta mixture on top of this first layer of noodles.
- Top this with 1/3 of the Provolone and Mozzarella cheeses.
- Top with 1/3 to the tomato sauce and then add the next later of noodles.
- Repeat this layering ending with the Mozzarella and Provolone cheeses.
- Sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan cheese.
- Bake in a pre-heated at 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes until bubbly and the cheeses have started to brown.
- Allow the Lasagna to rest at least 10 – 15 minutes before serving. This recipe is a bit looser than usual if you do not add in the spinach and mushrooms.
- This layer treat also freezes well.
I know some of you will read this and note this is too many steps for a casserole dinner! My mother years ago introduced us to Not-Lasagna and “cheated” if you will by adding prepared frozen Ravioli instead of the noodles and the Ricotta cheese mixture. This is an alternative to suggest but you will be including added preservatives and salt if you opt for this substitution. My mother would cook the Ravioli according to the package directions and layer these atop the sauce and add the cheeses. Again, this could be a time saver, but this does not come without a cost.
What is your favorite Lasagna recipe to share?