I recently received an email from someone who had almost a nervous breakdown from having to make a simple lasagna for a family gathering. There was nail biting and tears which is exactly the opposite of what I’m trying to teach on this blog. It made me realize that simple recipes that I take for granted are sometimes a source of great stress for people who have never made them before. The process of making lasagna should be all about relaxing and having a good time. If you need to pop a valium you’re missing the point. Be Zen.
This is my favorite lasagna recipe, it contains fresh ricotta, parmegiano, montasio cheese and fresh mozzarella and it’s layered in between pasta sheets with tomato sauce, basil and oregano. It could be adapted a myriad of other ways but this is the one I love the most. Just make sure to cook it long enough to get that nice crust on top.
I won’t write much but I will let the photos do the talking. This is how to assemble the perfect four-cheese lasagna. Now pull up your sleeves, pour that glass of wine, take a deep breath and let’s do it.
Four-Cheese Lasagna recipe
- Serves 6
For the Four-Cheese Lasagna
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 28 oz. can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes, including the juice, (or in season 1 3/4 pound of fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 large pinch of sugar
- 1 pinch hot pepper flakes
- fresh basil leaves
- 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta
- 1 whole egg
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 fresh mozzarella (unsalted)
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 1/4 cup freshly grated parmegiano
- 1 1/4 cup freshly grated montasio
- 8 to 10 pasta sheets, preferably fresh (boil them for 30 seconds, cool in cold water and dry)
- butter for the dish
For the tomato sauce:
- Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Add the chopped onion and stir to coat. Reduce the heat to low and let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft and translucent. Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a bowl and crush them with your hands or using a potato masher. Add the garlic to the cooked onions and cook for a minute more. Add the tomatoes, including the juice, a few leaves of basil, the tomato paste and pinch of sugar. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a very low simmer. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until it gets thicker. Remove from the heat, if you want you can blend the sauce for a few seconds for a smooth consistency.
- Place the fresh ricotta in the bowl of a food processor, add a handful of basil leaves, 1 whole egg, and season with salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Set aside.
- Slice the fresh mozzarella and set aside. Place the grated Parmegiano and Montasio cheese in separate bowls. Butter a 9 by 9 inches baking dish. Place the pasta sheets on a tray. Preheat oven to 350’F.
To assemble the lasagna:
- Ladle some tomato sauce at the bottom of the buttered dish. Top with a layer of pasta, cut to fit the dish. Top with another layer of tomato sauce. Sprinkle a generous layer of Parmegiano and Montasio on top. Arrange 6 mozzarella slices on top and some basil leaves. Sprinkle with oregano.
- Place another layer of pasta, cut to fit the dish. Ladle some tomato sauce and top with the fresh ricotta mixture. Cover with Parmegiano and Montasio cheese. Place another layer of pasta, cut to fit the dish.
- Ladle some tomato sauce. Sprinkle another generous layer of Parmegiano and Montasio cheese. Top with more slices of mozzarella, some basil leaves and oregano. Top with another layer of pasta. Ladle another layer of tomato sauce. Top with the remaining slices of mozzarella and sprinkle the top with Parmegiano and Montasio cheese. Top the lasagna with dots of butter.
- Place the dish on a baking tray and bake the lasagna for 45 minutes at 350’F or until golden and crusty on top. When it comes out of the oven, let the lasagna rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting into it. It’s even better re-heated the next day.