When I was younger, my family’s Saturday night routine consisted of going to 5 p.m. Mass and then out to dinner. Over the years, we became regulars at certain restaurants in the city. My brother, as I’ve mentioned, was kind of a picky eater (trust me, that’s the understatement of the year) and my grandfather wasn’t really an adventurous eater either (that’s the second understatement of the year), never venturing far from pasta (which he liked cooked really soft) and gravy. So, when we found something that they liked, we tended to stick with it for awhile.
For a few of years, we favored Pasta Blitz in Old City, which changed its menu and décor to become Positano Coast. Unlike the current incarnation, which features a slightly upscale menu that’s heavy on seafood, Pasta Blitz was a pretty traditional Italian restaurant. Think pasta, chicken marsala, and meatballs and sausage.
Almost every week, I would order the same thing: Lasagna with Meat Sauce. Sometimes I would try to switch things up with a different type of pasta dish, but I always regretted it. Don’t get me wrong, all of the food at Pasta Blitz was excellent, but I wasn’t really satisfied unless I had my lasagna.
Lasagna is truly the comfort food of Italian cuisine, if you ask me. It has everything you could ever want—gravy, lots of cheese, and pasta noodles. And, you can vary the recipe to include whatever kind of fillings strike your fancy—from veggies, to meatloaf mix, to sausage—so it’s different every time. And, for me, whenever I eat lasagna, it conjures up memories of those Saturday nights with my family, in which my grandfather would tell bad jokes, flirt with the waitresses, and sneak off to pay the bill before the waiter dropped the check off at the table and my mom or dad picked it up.
The thing about making lasagna at home that’s annoying is that it’s pretty labor intensive, so it’s not really an easy weeknight meal. So, I was excited to try the No Bake Lasagna with Ricotta and Tomatoes, from the May issue of Martha Stewart Living. Yes, friends, I cooked again last week and survived to tell the tale.
Basically, all you need to do is boil the lasagna noodles and arrange them on a plate, make a light tomato sauce, add some dollops of ricotta and strips of parmesan, and sprinkle with basil to make it look pretty. My husband still hasn’t latched on to my suggestion that we try to have one meatless meal a week, so I sliced up some prosicutto and added it to the sauce.
Deconstructed Lasagna. Chester's makes everything look so pretty in pictures!
There you have it. Lasagna in about 30 minutes. And, with less cheese and filling materials, it’s lighter and healthier than traditional lasagna (I didn’t feel the need to take a nap immediately afterward as I usually do after a lasagna dinner).
I’m still kind of craving the traditional lasagna, though, so I’ve decided to put that on the menu for the Mother’s Day Dinner/Baby Brother Birthday Celebration that the husband and I will be preparing on Sunday. Hopefully, I’ll remember to write about that too! Last week was busy, and this one is shaping up to the same. I’m behind on some of the stuff that I’ve been wanting to share, but hopefully, I’ll catch up.
No Bake Lasagna with Ricotta and Tomatoes
From the May 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 7 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 3 cups mixed red and yellow cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (2 pints)
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2/3 cup chicken stock
- 8 lasagna noodles
- 2/3 cup small basil leaves
- 1/2 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
- 1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, shaved
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a high-sided skillet over medium heat. Cook garlic until pale golden, about 3 minutes. Add 2 cups tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook until soft, about 7 minutes. Add stock. Simmer until saucelike, about 1 minute.
- Add remaining cup tomatoes. Cook until warm, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain.
- Step that I added: Mince a few slices of prosicutto and brown in a skillet with olive oil until crispy. Add to tomato sauce prepared in steps 1 and 2.
- Toss pasta in skillet to coat. Stir in basil, reserving some for garnish.
- Divide pasta among 4 plates. Top with any remaining sauce. Dot with ricotta, and drizzle with remaining teaspoon oil. Top with shaved cheese and remaining basil. Sprinkle with pepper.