Friday, June 6, 2014

Lasagna Fresca on Friday

Most people probably don't think of lasagna as a summertime or "light" food. Rather, we remember the gooey, melty, cheesy pan of awesomeness that lasagna can be. But it doesn't have to be! I know the last thing I want to do on a hot and humid summer day is fire up the oven and have something heavy baking for an hour. Instead, I like this lighter, more summery and definitely fresh version of lasagna.

This lasagna reminds me of caprese salad, or bruschetta, without the bread. The combination of freshly sliced tomato, cheese, fresh basil- so classically Italian and such a modern take on traditional lasagna. You can drizzle the rolls with just a little bit of balsamic vinegar before rolling up if you like too (I like to reduce it slightly and keep it on hand in the fridge)- brings out the caprese influence big time.

I love to make this and close my eyes as I sit down to dinner, imagining myself at a quaint little trattoria or sidewalk cafe in the early evening, the warm breeze barely blowing, olive trees shading me from the sun. A perfect glass of wine, the best fresh bread you can imagine, and this dish.....

Even the marinara sauce doesn't have to be something you have had to cook for hours all day. I love to buzz some tomatoes in the food processor, add a touch of garlic and some fresh basil, freshly cracked black pepper- again, light and fresh. Makes the perfect topping for this dish. Make sure you stick with Roma tomatoes, or if you find them- San Marzano tomatoes. Regular tomatoes will work but they tend to be too juicy and the dish will be too liquidy. Not what you're looking for at all.

So let's get cooking!

Lasagna Fresca

9 lasagna noodles- NOT the no-cook type
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
15 oz container ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
4-5 Roma tomatoes
big handful chopped fresh basil
marinara sauce (use your favorite recipe)

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain but do not rinse. Lay in single layer on waxed paper and set aside. 

Slice the Roma tomatoes and allow to sit on paper towels for a few minutes if they are super juicy. Sometimes they are not very juicy and that's fine. We don't want soggy pasta here.

I am sad to say I was FORCED to buy supermarket tomatoes.
It's just too early for homegrown tomatoes in Iowa.
Mix one cup mozzarella, the ricotta, Parmesan and egg in bowl until well blended. Spread cheese mixture on lasagna noodles, spreading evenly. Top with slices of tomato, sprinkle with chopped fresh basil. 

I know you have seen this technique before, but believe it or not,
people have been making lasagna rolls long before Pinterest was invented.
Roll up and place seam side down in baking dish that has been spread with a small amount of marinara sauce. Spoon sauce over rolls and sprinkle with remaining cup of mozzarella cheese. 

Bake in 375 degree oven for 30-45 minutes or until hot and bubbly. 

My sauce was very simple- 5 cloves garlic, minced, sauteed in a tablespoon of olive oil until softened, 2 cups tomato puree and a tablespoon of chopped basil, simmered for a few minutes. It was light and fresh with great tomato flavor and no "heaviness" like cook-all-day sauce.

Do you know what else I like about this lasagna? No meat! We eat too much meat as it is. Serve this lasagna with a fresh tossed salad of mixed baby greens, olives, peppers, and a light balsamic vinaigrette and skip the fatty hamburger, sausage and meatballs this time. You can make that stuff again when it's cold outside! Instead of being heavy, in spite of the cheesy filling, the sliced tomato cooks softly, not to a mush and retains that freshness. The basil leaves just a touch of its anise flavor notes and the smooth ricotta is so delicious. I just skipped the salad and had a slice of crusty baguette to soak up the juicy tomato cheese remnants. Perfect easy dinner and looks impressive enough for guests.

1 comment:

  1. OMG! This dish looks fabulous. I love the fact it has all the fresh ingredients, and one does not need to spend hours in a hot kitchen on a summer day. I am off to purchase the ingredients to make it all.