Monday, January 16, 2012

Simply Cheese Lasagna


Snow is falling! It’s time for sledding, hot cocoa with marshmallows, a roaring fire and all the pleasures that a white wonderland brings. Hiking countless times back up the hill with a sled works up quite an appetite, so it’s also time to think about hearty warm dishes.


Lasagna is one that is sure to please and quick to make. It can be prepared ahead of time and baked when needed, or you can keep a pan stashed in the freezer to pull out when the snow is swirling. I love lasagna and all its many varieties with roasted veggies, pesto or b├ęchamel sauce. Sometimes, though, what hits the spot most is classic cheese lasagna.


Simple, quality ingredients - many of them pantry staples - combine to create a fresh tasting, deeply satisfying lasagna. The marinara sauce is an easy staple and can also top pizzas or be tossed with spaghetti. I’ve become a fan of the “no boil” lasagna noodles since I can keep them on hand for quick lasagna preparation if fresh noodles are not available. Add some fresh ricotta (you know my love affair with homemade ricotta!) and mozzarella and you have the ultimate comfort food, something guaranteed to delight eaters of all ages.


The warm lasagna emerging from the oven fills the house with an inviting scent, promising to fortify hungry bellies that come in from the cold. And when those bellies are full? Back outside to the sleds!


Simply Cheese Lasagna
Serves 8 (9x13 inch baking pan)

6 cloves garlic
2 – 28 ounce cans whole tomatoes (I use San Marzano)
Olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
2 pounds fresh ricotta cheese, store bought or homemade
2 large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1 pound fresh mozzarella, diced
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
9 ounces (1 box) “no boil” lasagna noodles (I use whole wheat) or fresh lasagna noodles

To make the marinara sauce, pulse the garlic in a food processor until roughly chopped. Add the canned tomatoes with their juices, a long pour of olive oil, the fresh basil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper and whiz until mostly smooth. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring a few times. Set aside until ready to use. Sauce can be prepared ahead of time and kept covered in the refrigerator.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

Spread 3/4 cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan. Place a layer of noodles over the sauce. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the noodles and sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella and Parmesan. Place a layer of noodles over the cheese layer. Spread 1 1/2 cups marinara over the noodles. Repeat the layering (noodles, second half of ricotta, 1/3 of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses). Spread last layer of noodles over the top, spread the remaining marinara sauce over the noodles and sprinkle with the last 1/3 of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Place the baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling, about 45 minutes. Cover with foil during the last 10-15 minutes if it is browning too quickly. Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.

** The lasagna can be prepared ahead of time and kept chilled. When ready to bake, let the lasagna sit out at room temperature while you preheat the oven. It can also be baked, cooled and frozen (be sure to wrap tightly in plastic wrap). If frozen, defrost and warm in the oven until heated through.

14 comments:

  1. Lasagna really would hit the spot on a cold, snowy day like today! Stay warm!

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    1. Thank you - you stay warm, too. Enjoy the snow!

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  2. Lasagna always has the ability to take me back to my childhood. It's an ultimate comfort food. I definitely need to try the no-boil noodles, because otherwise lasagna can be a pain in the butt!

    The snow looks gorgeous--it's very cold here today (19 degrees right now), but no snow. It's been a strange winter so far!

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    1. Wow, I can't believe you don't have snow! I think we must be getting yours here...still snowing and the kids have only had 2 hours of school this week! No complaints. :)

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  3. Yum! Lasagna is so yummy! Yum! =) Did you know you could just use regular noodles just like the no-cook ones? I haven't boiled a lasagna noodle in years!

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    1. Thank you, Brooke! I didn't know that about regular noodles...thanks for the tip. :)

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  4. that sledging looks great - a couple of hours doing that and then back in for a slice of your cheese lasagne would make a wonderful day!

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    1. Thank you, Alex! I am amazed at how long the boys can stay outside sledding. It's still snowing here, so more outdoor fun!

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  5. Wow the lasagna looks great and I'm sure with the homemade Ricotta, it tasted even better!Lovely recipe, will surely try using the no-cook sheets (never used them!):)

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    1. Thank you, Soni! You really can't beat homemade ricotta - it elevates everything. I hope you like the no-boil noodles.

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  6. Classic lasagna is so comforting - perfect for this kind of weather! (Ok, it's not snowing where I am, but it is a bit chilly for here!) With homemade ricotta and fresh ingredients - yum, yum, yum. I'm also a fan of the no boil lasagna noodles if fresh isn't available.

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    1. Thank you, Katherine! We're still having snow days here (no complaints!) which is a fun change from our usual winter rain. Stay warm!

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  7. Not quite Summer here but certainly not snowing :) There is something so comforting about making lasagna...I get the craving every winter and end up with a freezer full of comfort :) Will certainly be adding this one to the to do list come the cooler months :)

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    1. I need to re-stock our freezer with some more comfort dishes. I hope summer has arrived by now for you, Mairi!

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