Recipe: Lasagna with Orange Basil Tomato Sauce and Ricotta
As queen of the Italian food snoots, I know it will come as a shock to many of you that I have even considered using ready-made no-boil pasta sheets for my lasagna, but I’m telling you right now, this Barilla product is unbelievably good. I hate to admit it, but it cooks up almost as delicate as homemade, but with none of the misery of slopping around with boiling pasta, fishing it out, piece by piece, from the burning water, and then figuring out what to do with all the slippery pasta sheets while you put your lasagna together. I’ve always got the things draped all over the kitchen, half stuck together, some glued to kitchen towels, some sliding off my minimal counter space for the cats to skate on.
These Barilla sheets are especially wonderful to have on hand around Christmas and New Year’s, if you’ve got a ton of people coming over and would love to cook up a few lasagnas but have never had the stamina to see the project through. Trust me, the things are good. The only drawback is that they are rigid, so you can’t drape them into, say, an oval dish the way you might fresh pasta, but that’s a minor issue compared with the convenience they offer. And, as I said, they’re barely a compromise, except possibly of your pride. Get over it. The taste and texture of this Barilla product is very, very good.
Here’s a recipe that’s a variation on the classic meatless Southern Italian tomato and ricotta lasagna. I’ve glammed it up with orange zest, orange flower water, and a lot of basil. It’s quite light, since I’ve omitted the usual addition of mozzarella. So go ahead, make lasagna this holiday season. It’ll take you no time. You don’t have to tell anyone you relied on Barilla.
Lasagna with Orange Basil Tomato Sauce and Ricotta
(Serves 6 as a main course)
For the sauce:
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
1 carrot, cut into small dice
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5 thyme sprigs, the leaves chopped
A splash of orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
1 28-ounce can and 1 15-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, well chopped, with the juice
Freshly ground black pepper
The grated zest from 1 large orange
For the ricotta:
4 cups whole milk ricotta
The grated zest from 2 large oranges
½ teaspoon orange flower water
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ cup grated grana Padano cheese
1½ boxes Barilla no-boil lasagna sheets
A large handful of basil leaves, lightly chopped
1 cup grated grana Padano cheese
To make the sauce: Set up a large sauté pot over medium flame. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the butter, and let it get hot. Add the shallots and carrot, and let the vegetables soften, about 4 minutes or so. Add the garlic and the thyme, and sauté a minute longer, just to release their fragrances. Add the orange liqueur, and let it boil away. Add the tomatoes, season with salt, black pepper, and the orange zest, turn the heat up a bit, and cook at a lively bubble for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the sauce sit (it will thicken up a bit). Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper if needed.
In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the ricotta.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In an approximately 8-by-12-inch baking dish, ladle on a layer of tomato sauce. Then put down a layer of the pasta sheets. Make a layer of the ricotta, smoothing it out the best you can. Scatter on some basil and a generous sprinkling of grana Padano. Add a little salt and black pepper. Next put down another layer of pasta sheets. Ladle on more tomato sauce. Make another layer of pasta and then another of ricotta, finishing it up. Scatter on the rest of the basil and a sprinkling of grana Padano. Add a bit more salt and black pepper. Add another layer of pasta sheets, and ladle on the remaining tomato sauce. Top with the remaining grana Padano, and give the top a drizzle of fresh olive oil and a grinding of fresh pepper.
Bake, uncovered, until the lasagna is bubbly and the top has browned, about ½ hour. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.