Occasionally, just occasionally, I enjoy a moment of minor food-related insight. One of these occurred while writing up this stupidly simple lasagna recipe...
It was this: there are 3 types of lasagna eaters...
1. Those who've never made it, preferring to bang a pre-packaged version in the microwave for 2 minutes (nothing against the theory, it's just a taste and additives thing), or only eat lasagna in restaurants.
2. Those who have made lasagna once or twice themselves, but found it too much time and trouble for something you usually wolf down in two minutes flat.
3. And then the cooks... Italian foodies who love eating it, and enjoy the process of preparing it, and therefore make it pretty regularly.
Because this simple lasagna recipe takes just over a half hour to prepare, in my view it really bridges the gap between groups 2 and 3.
It will pleasure the palets of both groups, and I think it could move those in group 2 at least part of the way up to the 3rd enlightened level. Due to its simplicity (and thus the name of this page). At least that's my aim.
Taste wise, this layered lovely is all about rich creaminess. There's no meat to confuse matters (although that doesn't lessen the taste) - instead it's all about the full richness of fresh tomatoes, molten onions, and the mixing in of creamily soft ricotta cheese. A lip-smacking combo for sure.
Let's me walk you throught it, and you'll soon get just how hassle-free it is...
- Roughly 250g/8.8oz of lasagna noodles/sheets (I like the green spinach kind)
- 4x 400g/14oz cans of plum tomatoes
- 350g/11oz ricotta cheese
- 250g/8.8oz ball of buffalo mozzarella
- 50g/1.75oz parmesan cheese (or pecorino)
- Tomato purée/paste
- 1 large/2 small red onions
- 15 fresh basil leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil
Optional: glass of red wine
Step 1: The preparation for this dish takes no more than 5 minutes:
- Peel and chop the onions (quite finely).
- Grate the parmesan.
- Drain and cube the mozzarella.
- Rinse and roughly tear the basil leaves.
Step 2: Pour a small glug of olive oil into a large deep frying pan and pop on a medium heat til heated through.
- Drop in the onions and fry (softening) for 4-5 mins.
- If using wine, pour this in now and fry further (evaporating the alcohol) for 5-6 minutes more.
- If not using wine, just add a couple more minutes of frying, to fully soften the onions.
Step 3: Add all the plum tomatoes, with a good pinch of salt for each one. Also squeeze in a teaspoon of tomato puree too and give it all a good stir.
- Cover your pan and cook for 3 or 4 minutes (until the toms soften).
- When soft, remove lid, break up the toms with a wooden spoon and cook uncovered for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
The aim here is that most of the sauce's liquidity disappears, thickening it up nicely, and that instead of tasting sour it turns much richer. You can add a pinch of sugar near the end to ensure this if needs be.
- With the sauce done, now stir through the ricotta (really well, turning the sauce a smooth pinkish color), then take the pan off the heat.
Step 4: Now we'll build our lasagna, for which you'll need a good-sized oven dish (ours is roughly 30cm/12" x 15cm/6" and is the perfect size for these ingredients).
Tip: You don't need to pre-cook lasagna noodles/sheets when they're from a packet (but if using fresh pasta, then do boil your sheets until they're almost cooked, or 'al dente').
- 'Stain' the bottom of the dish by spreading across just a little sauce.
- Add a layer of lasagna sheets, using small broken sections to fill any gaps.
- Now add a fuller layer of sauce (cover all the pasta, but don't ladel it on too thick).
- Sprinkle over a small handful of mozza chunks and a good tablespoon of grated parmesan - workinng evenly across your dish.
- Add the next layer of pasta and repeat several times (likely 3 or 4) until you have one good layer of sauce and a little parmesan left.
Important: your last layer or the top of the lasagna, should only feature a good covering of sauce (to avoid burnt pasta on top) and a sprinkling of parmesan. We don't add any more mozza, as this can burn.
Step 5: Bang the dish in a pre-heated 180C/350F oven for 20 minutes. When you can slide a toothpick into your lasagna and pull it out clean, it's ready.
Before you serve: leave your lasagna to cool for 5 or 10 minutes before serving.
Or if possible, after cooling, leave your lasagna covered at room temperature overnight and eat it the next day. This way it will hold its form better for a more satisfying feed. (To reheat it a day later, just cook it for 15-20 mins at the same temperature.)
Then why not try...