Who isn’t a fan of this luscious layering of sauce and fresh pasta? Lasagna, said to have evolved from perhaps the first known pasta, is certainly beloved. Its many adaptations are a testament to its popularity as an Italian delicacy.
The two most well-known versions of lasagna: the Bolognese creation made with spinach noodles and bechamel sauce, and the southern Italian version with tomato sauce, cheeses, meat and hard-boiled eggs, are both extraordinary in their own way. As you might guess, my favorite is the southern Italian variation. Traditionally, lasagna contains copious amounts of meat within its many layers of cheese and pasta, but I have adapted this recipe for a light, summer vegetarian dish. It still has that comforting lasagna flavor and aroma and is made with fresh pasta, sweet summer veggies, and savory tomato sauce.
Notes to the cook:
As a last resort, you can use boxed, dried lasagna noodles for this recipe, but please don’t do it. I won’t come over to your house and pitch your dried lasagna (even though I want to), but please promise me that you will resist and use only fresh pasta for this recipe. If you are lucky enough to have access to fresh lasagna noodles through your grocer, that is a gift. If not, now might be the time to learn this skill. I admit that there is a steep learning curve for making fresh pasta, but oh, it is so worth it. A pasta rolling machine, either hand-cranked or machine operated, is a simple purchase these days. Here is a link to my step-by-step instructions and video for making and rolling fresh pasta. Also, there is a plethora of YouTube videos available for making your own pasta. Once you learn to make and roll fresh pasta, you can make lasagna, fettucine, ravioli, angel hair, tagliatelle, and on and on.
Light and Savory Lasagna
A fresh, light, Italian-inspired pasta recipe perfect for a summer dinner.
For the sauce:
– 2 Tablespoons olive oil
– 1 – 28 oz can whole tomatoes, puree in a blender or with a hand mixer
– 1/4 cup dry white wine
– 1/2 cup onion, diced
For the filling:
– 2 shallots, finely diced
– 1 medium carrot, finely diced
– 2 celery stalks, finely diced
– 1 zucchini, finely diced
– 1 sweet red pepper, finely diced
– a handful of fresh basil or oregano, roughly chopped
– salt to taste
For lasagna noodles:
– 1 lb dried lasagna pasta or 1 batch homemade pasta cut into pasta noodles (homemade pasta)
– 1 cup all-purpose flour
– 2 medium eggs
– pinch of salt
– 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
To make the tomato sauce: Begin 2 hours before you want to assemble the lasagna, or tomato sauce can be made ahead of time.
1. Heat olive oil in 4 quart sauce pan and saute onions for a few minutes until fragrant. Add wine and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes until alcohol cooks off.
2. Add tomato puree and salt. Bring to gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Stir occasionally.
To make the vegetable layer:
1. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add shallots and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
2. Add carrot, celery, zucchini, and pepper. Saute over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Vegetables should be just soft and not mushy.
3. Set aside
To make the pasta sheets:
1. Roll out the pasta dough into long rectangles. Cut into large squares about 4 inches each side.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3. Immediately after rolling out and cutting the pasta, start the 6 quarts water to boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, set out a bowl of cold water and 2 large cotton kitchen towels. Once the water is boiling, add a pinch of salt and drop in the pasta sheets.
4. Cook for 4 minutes. Remove the pasta sheets with a large slotted spoon and immerse immediately into the cold water so that the cooking process is stopped. Next, carefully lay the cooled pasta sheets out on the kitchen towels to absorb excess moisture. It is usually forbidden to rinse pasta noodles, but it is absolutely necessary with lasagna sheets so they don’t stick together. The pasta sheets are now ready for layering.
5. Using a 8 x 8 inch baking dish, cover the bottom with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Begin layering with pasta sheets, then tomato sauce and then two spoonfuls of the sautéed vegetables. continue layering until you reach the top of the baking pan. Cover with a generous layer of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
6. Cook at 375 F for 20 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.
Optional: this dish can be served cold or at room temperature. It is especially good the next day.