Friday, August 5, 2016

Summer Tomato Lasagna


I don't think I ate lasagna until I was 16 years old. I remember eating it at my best friend's house. Her mom was Italian. I remember her saying I had to come over because her mom, "WAS MAKING LASAGNA!" I'd heard about lasagna. I'd even eaten it in skillet dinner form. You know-the kind from a box? The hamburger helper kind. My mom did that. However, I never remember my mom making lasagna; but in all fairness my mom is Jewish and not Italian, and I can assure you her mom probably did not make lasagna-even the hamburger helper kind! The only pasta dish I remember in our home that my mom made on a regular basis was spaghetti with meat sauce; which now that I think of it is pretty funny, because my mom loves pasta. I mean really loves pasta. No lie.

Well, I learned to make lasagna in college. It feeds a lot and was always a hit. I don't remember having a recipe. And when the kids were born I remember making a lot of other pasta, too. Zoe especially loved pasta so we had it  once a week. Under the age of five they ate a lot of mini tortellinis and raviolis. And then it was beloved spaghetti with real Italian sausage in the fall. We all loved linguini with clam sauce. The kids even requested it for their birthday when they were 7 years old. Ziti al Fresco is a huge fave and I still make it at least once a year. It contains cream and we try to avoid that so I don't make it as often as I wish I could. Fettucine Alfredo is Zoe's favorite and that also contains cream, but oh my, it is worth it at least once a year. I did lots of buttered noodles in shapes of every kind to make Zoe happy. I made spaghetti with garlic, because that is my fave. And often enough I just took left overs from the fridge and came up with a pasta dish. Tomato sauce or that enemy, cream, ties everything together.


 Manservant likes pasta. But he doesn't like it all the time. Either does Alex Odie San China Boy. But I guess that doesn't include Chinese lo mein of which they both eat a lot.  Noodle bowls and pot stickers are pasta, are they not? We even used to do a lo mein bar. I'd put out all the toppings and sauces and let the kids choose what they wanted. I would then throw it in a wok and we were all happy campers. Individualized, easy meals!

But back to lasagna. I didn't make it often when the kids were young. I don't know why. Maybe because I was used to making such a big pan and we didn't eat it all. Whatever the case, I did make a mushroom lasagna that was so rich and luscious we had it for special meals. It did contain porcinis and I rationed those out with an iron fist. I still always request a bag of porcinis when friends go to Italy. Receiving porcinis is like a gift from the gods!


And so it is that my friend gave me a bag of porcinis from Italy. I invited them for dinner while Manservant was home. (Well, I think he was home, but 2 weeks flies by fast. If I figure it right he will be gone 50% of this year. And that's another episode!) I knew she loved my mushroom lasagna but I was ready for something a bit lighter-more summery. Something I could use fresh tomatoes in. The bounty of summer-so to speak. And so it is, I came up with this. No, it isn't full of gobs of gooey cheese. This is a more healthy lasagna-if one can deem lasagna healthy. This one only contains Parmigiano which also falls into the gift from the gods category. I do love real  Parmigiano.

Have a bounty of tomatoes ready to come in? This lasagna is perfect for them. I used Marcella Hazan's easy tomato sauce which is killer, if you haven't tried it. You can also use canned tomatoes. Either way, you will love this sauce. It is superb on any pasta. Add some white sauce and a layer of mushrooms-or not. Mushrooms are not essential, but I knew my friend loved porcinis; and after all-she gave them to me.

A few last words. If anyone says to you, "My mom is making lasagna!" just dash over. Lasagna is so worth it!


Summer Tomato Lasagna
Time to Make: 45-60 minutes
Serves 6-8
Ingredients:
1 recipe of tomato sauce:
3 1/2 lbs fresh romas or plum tomatoes or 1 28 oz can good Italian tomatoes
12 oz or 1 1/2 sticks butter
1 1/2 medium onions, peeled and halved
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t sugar

1 recipe bechamel sauce:
6 T butter
4 T flour
1 t salt
Fresh ground pepper
2 1/2 c milk, warmed in microwave for about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes
Pinch of nutmeg (optional)

1 c fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 lb fresh mushrooms (optional) cleaned and sliced or chopped
3/4 c dried porcinis (soaked and liquid reserved) (optional)
3 T butter
1 box no boil noodles

Directions: Tomato Sauce
Wash tomatoes in cold water. Cut in half, lengthwise. Cook in a covered stockpot or saucepan until they have simmered for 10 minutes. Puree the tomatoes through a food mill back into the pot. If you are using canned tomatoes, start at this point. (Canned tomatoes should also be run through a food mill or use an immersion blender.) Add butter, onion, salt and sugar and cook at a slow, but steady simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes. (I bring this to a slow boil on medium and then reduce my temperature to the lowest possible setting that keeps it simmering.) Remove onion and slice into half moons and reserve for lasagna.
Directions: Bechamel Sauce
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour as butter melts and use a whisk to blend flour into the butter. When mixture is golden and velvety, slowly stir in the warm milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir for about 15 minutes or until sauce is thickened and of smooth consistency.Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg until this tastes so good you can eat it from your spoon.

While Bechamel and tomato sauce are going, start the mushrooms if using. Heat butter in a large skillet. Add fresh mushrooms and cook on high heat until mushrooms release their juices. Let that simmer away and then stir in strained and reserved liquid from the dried porcinis along with the chopped porcinis. Cook for a few minutes. Let liquid simmer away until the mushroom mixture is fairly dry. Season with salt and pepper. 

Assembly:
Soak 1 box of no boil lasagna noodles in very hot water. While these are soaking, prepare your baking pan. I used  a 9 x 11  deep pan. Grease with 1 T butter. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish. Top with 1 layer of lasagna noodles.(I dry my noodles by running them between two fingers. This usually removes enough water.) Spread with tomato sauce, some of the reserved onions and then some Parmigiano. Now another layer of pasta and some Bechamel. Sprinkle with cheese and add half of the mushrooms. Now another layer of pasta and some tomato sauce and onions. Sprinkle with cheese. More pasta, Bechamel sauce, mushrooms and cheese. One more layer of pasta with tomato sauce and onions, and cheese and finish with pasta and Bechamel sprinkled with cheese. You can always use more cheese if needed. I try to reserve some tomato sauce for pouring over while serving and you may also have some lasagna noodles left over.

Bake at 450 for 15 minutes or until top is light golden and sauce is bubbling.

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19 comments:

  1. I love lasagna..my mom never made one either.
    Today we took Lucas our oldest grandchild out to lunch and shopping for his birthday..I had lasagna:)
    In 100 degree weather..
    Yours looks terrific!

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    1. Thanks Monique! This is a great, fresh and not too heavy lasagna! Wish I was with you for lunch!

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  2. Gorgeous lasagna! I'd be happy to eat this with you while you are on your own so much in the coming months. I find that I make lasagna once in a while and it feeds me for the whole week when I am eating on my own.

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  3. I too remember the first time I ever had lasagna. It was magical. I know I would definitely love this recipe. It looks delicious.

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    1. Thanks Karen! Isn't it funny what we remember?

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  4. Love lasagna. And I like that you use bechamel in yours -- I think that's the best way. Not the way I make mine -- all tomato sauce, all the time, but I think bechamel adds a lot of flavor. Lasagna was the first "real" dish I made -- used to be our company dish, or one of them (boeuf bourguignon was another). Truly good stuff -- thanks.

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    1. The first time I made and ate lasagna it didn't have the bechamel. I think the bechamel helps carry the flavor through and makes the entire bit so much richer and silkier and yummy! Wish I could come to your house for dinner!

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  5. It would drive me nut if my husband had to travel so often. I am watching Jamie's 30 minutes menu while staring at your delicious lasagna...doubly hungry!

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    1. It drives me crazy and is really hard on a relationship. But he needs a job and this is it! But then again, it also drives me crazy when he comes home, because I always feel it goes too fast. I'm always double hungry!

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  6. We love pasta but only have it a couple of times a month. Love that you do a bechamel sauce and a red sauce. This must taste extra special.

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  7. It would be worth turning on the oven for this marvelous lasagna! I love the thought of a fresh tomato sauce. I've been checking out all your other pasta recipes, too---so yummy!

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  8. Oh my guy travels a ton too! May be we should match their schedules so we can have girls nights out :)) Bechamel is awesome in Lasagna. Perfection!

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  9. I love lasagna but rarely make it. Yours looks amazing and the sauce looks decadent.

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  10. What a great summer lasagne! Love the lighter tomato sauce and the mushrooms...well, they speak for themselves.

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  11. I was just speaking to a friend about making a tray of lasagna, Abbe. It's been well over a year since I made one. This time, though, will be eggplant. I've a number of them ripening at the same time. Your recipe here is a good one. It's lighter and seemingly tailor made for the summer months. Maybe I'll freeze my eggplant and make your lasagna. Yum!

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  12. This is such a nice lasagna for summer...I love the idea of tomato sauce and bechamel sauce...looks delicious Abbe!
    Have a great week :)

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  13. I haven't made lasagna in ages! We have a strong italian heritage here, so these are all very well known dishes. Still, my mom hardly ever cooked something so complex, jaja. It looks amazing, cheesy and rustic like a well made lasagna should!

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  14. We had lasagna at least once a year for my brothers January birthday - he requested it every year! Me and my sister? We always went with tacos :D

    That looks delicious - I am so happy I like mushrooms now - I went 40+ years thinking I hated them.

    And my daughter could live on pasta - except no red sauce, just butter and Parmesan cheese :D

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