Wednesday, May 11, 2005

 

Lasagna alla Isabella

This is not a thick, heavy, drowning in red sauce and ricotta and meat lasagna that weighs a ton and takes two weeks to digest. Ugh! This lasagna is delicate and vegetarian.

The filling is lightly seasoned steamed spinach, roasted tomatoes and toasted pignole (pinenuts), topped with a good quality mozzerella cheese and a sprinkle of real parmesan and served with a cardinale sauce.

This recipe is for 2 servings, so I use 8 sheets of lasagna noodles, total (four sheets for each serving).I use homemade lasagna noodles that are available in a local store specializing in homemade pastas. If you don't have this resource near you, I recommend Barilla's thin lasagna noodles (not those thick curly edged Prince brand noodles that overwhelm the dish). And I pre-boil the fresh homemade or the Barilla noodles to soften them up a bit and so that they don't absorb too much of the sauce.

Ingredients for the lasagna:

8 sheets of fresh made lasagna noodles or Barilla brand lasagna noodles(the noodles are approximately 6 inches by 4 inches)
8 to 10 oz. fresh spinach, stems removed and washed thoroughly
2 medium tomatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
4 slices (about 1/4 inch thick) of good quality mozzerella cheese (not that white rubbery stuff you get in the supermarket. Buy the real thing!)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups cardinale sauce (recipe below)
fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

Cardinale Sauce:

1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup half and half or cream
a knob of butter

Saute the garlic in the olive oil until tender. Discard or leave in, as you choose. Add the tomatoes and cook gently for a minute or two. Add the thyme and nutmeg. Cook for another 2 minutes. Add cream and cook until it thickens. Add the butter and cook another minute. Turn off heat and let rest.

Lasagna preparation:

Cook the lasagna noodles for 2 minutes in a large amount of boiling water. (I cook them two or three at a time so they won't stick together.) Lift out of the water with tongs and set on a large plate. Continue until all 8 sheets of the noodles are parboiled. Set aside.

If you have a microwave, place the spinach on a microwave safe platter and nuke them until they just wilt (about a minute and a half). If you don't have a microwave, place the spinach in a large saute pan and heat through using only the water that clings to the spinach leaves after you've washed it. Cook until it just wilts. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Put the sliced tomatoes on a baking sheet with sides (so the juices don't run all over the oven), sprinkle them with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Toast the pinenuts on top of the stove in a small saute pan over medium heat until they take on a golden color. Remove from heat and set aside.

Take an oven proof casserole dish that can hold the lasagna noodles (a 13 x9 will do) and spread some of the sauce over the bottom just to coat it.

Place two sheets of the lasagna noodles side by side in the casserole. Spread some of the spinach on each of the noodles, sprinkle some of the pinenuts on top. Place a second sheet of the noodles over the spinach layer. Place two or three of the roasted tomato slices on top of this layer. Sprinkle some parmesean cheese over them. Place a third layer of noodles over the tomatoes and use up the rest of the spinach and pinenuts and whatever is left of the tomatoes. Place the fourth and final lasagna sheet on top of this. Spoon some cardinale sauce over it, just to cover it (don't drown it! No one wants to eat dead lasagna!). Place two slices of mozzerrella cheese on each top layer, cover with aluminum foil and bake in 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Place under broiler just until the mozzerella cheese bubbles and takes on a golden brown color. Remove.

Take two warmed platters and spoon a puddle of the cardinale sauce on the bottom. Take a large spatula and carefully lift each serving of the lasagna out of the casserole dish and place one on each of the platters. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, place a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme over the top and serve immediately. Serve with a nice dry chianti.

Delicioso! And light!

Total time for preparation to table: about 1 hour.

For dessert: a few chunks of red formaggio di Parma (very expensive, but oh, so worth it!) with a sprinkling of aged balsamic vinegar. I will post on this in a day or so.

Comments:
sounds excellent! However, I am rather partial to "thick, heavy, drowning in red sauce and ricotta and meat lasagna that weighs a ton and takes two weeks to digest'. I make a pretty damned good one too!

certainly there is room in ones life for both!
 
Thanks for this!

I have always been intimidated by lasagne and thus have only made one in my entire life. This was in Italy, actually, when I stayed with Aaron when he was living there. Because I had no money, I made a spinach version, too, but alas, it wasn't very good. The spinach didn't taste very good to begin with, and my rudimentary Italian didn't allow for me to ask about baby spinach or anthing else. It was a few lirra and looked OK so away I went. The lasagne was edible, but I was disappointed.

My mom used to make it only on very special occasions, and I got the impression from her that it was a complicated, labour-intensive meal to make, so I never really bothered. Since then, I have always been impressed by people who take the time to make it.

Perhaps I'll give it another go. Roasted tomatoes - yum!
 
My, my! Look at all the upgrades. You have been a busy woman, lately - and not just in the kitchen! You go girl!
 
WC, it's not so much lasagna is labor intensive...It's expensive. I figure it costs me about $25 to make a pan of it.
 
Is it just me, or does a touch of grated nutmeg finish off the top quite nicely?
 
Ed,

As my grandmother would have said, "Lei ha raggione!"

(Your are correct!)
 
Cracking stuff. You should check out the Guardian's River Cafe recipes this week:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,,1483605,00.html
 
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