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The Cookstr 10: Ten Lasagnas to Love

January 26, 2010

If all of the casseroles could elect their king, it would undoubtedly be the lasagna. Layers upon layers of savory fillings interspersed with noodles (or, in one instance, tortillas…see number 9).

Here are some of the things we love about lasagna:

1) You serve it right in the pan you cook it in–love the no muss, no fuss quality of that.

2) Not only can you make it ahead of time, you SHOULD make it ahead of time — lasagna is one of those dishes that tastes better the next day (or the day after; best leftovers on the planet).

3) Kids love it. If your kid doesn’t like it, do a screening of one of the Garfield movies, and watch how they change their tune.

4) Whether you are a die-hard carnivore or an emphatic vegetarian or something in between, there are lots of lasagnas for everyone.

Judith Finlayson's Mushroom and Artichoke Lasagna

Lasagna (or lasagne if you hail from within Italia itself…which is also the spelling of the noodle) is essentially an oven-baked casserole made from alternating layers of pasta, cheese, and sauce, sometimes with other add-ins. Lasagna originated in Italy, and from north to south there are many variations. In general, the lasagnas to the north are more delicate, often made with fresh noodles; the lasagnas from the south are more rustic, usually incorporating dried pasta. But these days chefs and authors might take the concept of layering foods within a casserole a bit off the beaten path, and give lasagna their own twist.

One tip that applies to most lasagnas, especially the thicker, saucier versions: let it sit for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing so the pieces hold together better.

1. Wanda Tornabene and Giovanna Tornabene’s Classic Baked Lasagna. High quality lasagna noodles — both dried and fresh — are available at many good supermarkets and specialty stores. You can absolutely use either fresh or dried in this recipe. This is a classic, rich lasagna, with a respectful nod towards the region of Emilia, Italy, which is reputed to be the birthplace of lasagna. The béchamel sauce and the ground veal add a great deal of substance.

2. Nigella Lawson’s Pumpkin and Goat’s Cheese Lasagne. A break from the ordinary, for sure. You cook up a bunch of cubed pumpkin with some sage, onions, and garlic, add some tomatoes and a bit of wine, and there’s your filling. A very simple and light tomato sauce and a cheesey egg mixture — featuring goat cheese, ricotta and mozzarella — are then layered up with the pumpkin between fresh ribbons of pasta, and a new kind of lasagna is born.

3. Lidia Bastianich’s Italian-American Lasagna. Like a dense meat sauce? You’ve come to the right place. In fact, this whole compact lasagna is no slouch in the hearty department. It’s very straightforward: meat sauce, plus ricotta, eggs, mozzarella and Parmesan…and the noodles, of course. This is simply the poster child of meat lasagnas.

4. Judith Finlayson’s Mushroom and Artichoke Lasagna. The Provençal flavors in this vegetarian casserole are a nice twist. And guess what? This baby is made in the slow cooker–pretty cool, right? Artichoke hearts, garlic, and mushrooms are featured, and baby spinach adds a little burst of green along with some nice nutritional pluses.

5. Myra Goodman’s Grilled Vegetable Lasagna with Emerald Green Pesto. This veggie version is stuffed with a farmstand’s worth of grilled vegetables, and the brilliantly colored layers make every piece an edible work of art. Eggplant, summer squash, zucchini, and bell peppers meld with an emerald-green pesto and a sweet and savory marinara sauce.

6. Rick Rodgers’ Red and Green Lasagna. If you’re searching for a change from a meaty lasagna, but looking for something other than a vegetable-based option, this chicken-and-spinach recipe will be much appreciated. You can use either fresh or dried noodles here. The seasonings are very straightforward, letting the components of the dish speak for themselves.

7. Julia della Croce’s Lasagne Casserole with Meat and Red Wine Sauce. This is a fairly rustic version that employs your everyday, dried semolina lasagna noodles. Some porcini mushrooms in the sauce and a nice mixture of ground meat and sausage provide heft, and a sprinkling of thinly sliced salame brings it on home for the carnivores.

8. Robin Robertson’s Pesto Lasagne Bandiera. If you are a fan of pesto, you will love the way it stars in this dish, which can be made in either a vegetarian or a vegan mode. An interesting blend of firm and soft tofu provides body and your daily dose of protein.

9. Jane Butel’s Southwestern Seafood Lasagne. Torino meet Taos; Taos meet Torino! Corn tortillas sub in for the pasta, and shrimp and bay scallops are enrobed in layers of creamy sauce spiked with chiles and tomatillos, and layered up with Monterey Jack cheese.

10. Darina Allen and Rosemary Kearney’s Spicy Eggplant Lasagne. Eating gluten-free? Boy, you must have missed lasagna something awful. You will be ever so happy to see this recipe, which includes a gluten-free béchamel sauce, a wonderfully seasoned layer of eggplant, spinach, and a shot of yellow in the form of yellow peppers. Yes, there are lots of layers, but it can be prepared in stages, and made well in advance.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Kathy Hester (geekypoet) permalink
    January 26, 2010 11:23 am

    I love my slow cooker! I have a bunch of healthy slow cooker recipes that I post on my blog including one for pumpkin lasagna that uses a tofu riccota that’s super easy to make. It’s great for a vegetarian meal or to serve people who are allergic to dairy. (http://healthyslowcooking.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/slow-cooker-protein-packed-pumpkin-lasagna/)

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