“SCREW IT. I’VE COOKED ENOUGH,” runs through my head this time of year…. But seriously, the holidays are winding down. You (and your Kitchen) likely need a break from nonstop baking, braising, and cooking. Am I right? But you still need to eat. And celebrate our New Year!! So if you’re going out (or staying in) this is a great, quick recipe to make everyone happy.
Enter my simple, kind of a cheater’s guide to Lasagna. Great for every night but also perfect for family style New Year’s Dinner. Little and big eaters will ALL love it. (Trust me.)
I hadn’t thought to share it before (sorry about that) but after pow-wow-ing in Napa with some EPIC foodie talent (see below) thanks to hostess Teri Turner, I’m more than delighted to share as part of our #virtualpotluck. The idea is to share what our tables’ will boast on this most auspicious of annual celebrations. Then keep ’em coming!
Now in the midst of some seriously accomplished food talent, I realized my place wasn’t in perfection at the table, so to speak. But in my perfectly imperfect family table and our demanding vineyard life. And I quickly thought to share my go-to Lasagna for families of all kinds and sizes. Yes, this dish is delicious! But also, SO easy to make… Easy to potluck… Easy to serve… Everyone loves it… With Zero Leftovers. (Yay!)
Pantry Tip? Watch for grocery sales and stock up. Keep at the ready boxes of dried pasta (we use DeCecco), jars/boxes of diced or strained Italian tomatoes like Pomi or Jovial brands, tomato paste, dried Italian herbs, and a few cloves of garlic. These will be the backbone for any quick sauce. The rest of the ingredients are more flexible and easily changed. For example:
- Swap in verdant green pesto for this red tomato sauce (just don’t cook pesto… Ever)
- Change out Spinach with Broccolini (or chopped Kale)
- Throw in those wilting Tomatoes (chopped up)
- Use Shallots instead of Yellow Onion
- No Ricotta? No worries, just add more Mozzarella
- Add ground Lamb, Beef, or chunks of cooked Italian Sausage (mild or hot) for your Carnivores
- Skip the Ricotta should you feel like whisking a Béchamel sauce
TIP: For large gatherings including little mouths, please keep in mind the ages of all your guests. Do all parents a solid and don’t use lasagna sheets. Use Rotelle pasta (those little wheels) or Farfalle, Macaroni or Gnocchi shells instead. So you/they aren’t bending over every four minutes to cut your kids’ dinner into little chewable pieces. Stand tall and sip wine instead…
Abi’s Quick Lasagna:
Ingredient Suggestions (make yours to taste):
- 3-5 Cloves Garlic (peeled)
- 1 Carrot (peeled & quartered)
- 1/4-1/2 Yellow Onion (Peeled & quartered)
- 1 Stalk Celery (quartered)
- 1 small jar Tomato Paste or Concentrate
- 1 26-28oz. Jar/Box fine Italian Tomatoes (Diced or Pureed)
- 2-3 Handfuls Spinach (Kale or 1 bunch Broccolini)
- 5-10 Stalks Asparagus (course parts trimmed & removed)
- 1/2-3/4 Box of Roselle or Farfalle Pasta (or 6 sheets dried Lasagna)
- 1 16oz bag shredded Mozzarella
- 1-1.5 cups shaved Parmesan
- Dried Italian Herbs
- Kosher Salt (or Fluer de Sel) and fresh cracked Pepper
- Handful chopped Italian Parsley and Basil, if you have it
Set large pot of water to boil.
Puree garlic, carrot, celery, onion, and drizzle of olive oil, in a food processor. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a wide bottom pan and sauté your mire poix mixture 3-4 minutes (careful to not burn garlic and onion). Stir in dash Italian herbs. Cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
If using chopped Asparagus and coarse chopped Spinach, add now and quickly stir. (Don’t overly wilt because your greens will cook fully while baking.) Next, add tomato paste and stir well 2-3 minutes. Let sauce alone now to “BROWN” (about 1 minute more). Stir in the whole jar/box of diced tomatoes with juices (and 2 leaves finely shredded fresh basil, if using). Mix well. Remove from heat and let stand.
Pot of water should be boiling. If not, wait until roiling. Then add one giant pinch salt. Add pasta and briefly pre-cook according to directions (usually about 4 minutes). Drain quickly. (Do NOT rinse with cold water!)
Slick casserole dish bottom with olive oil or tomato sauce. Toss in half the pasta (or three lasagna sheets). Layer half of your tomato-vegetable sauce. Dollop large spoonfuls of half your Ricotta cheese. Hand tear and evenly distribute 1/2 hand torn mozzarella. Then lightly layer half of your shredded mozzarella over everything and dust with shaved parmesan.
Repeat for a second layer and top with chopped Italian parsley.
Wrap with tin foil. Bake 35 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20-25 minutes more, until cheese browned. Remove from oven and let stand 5-10 minutes before serving.
Happy Eating & Sipping: Cheers!