Pesto Lasagne

Rick Cooks Home Lasagne

Lasagne is one of our family's favorite special-occasion recipes. But we don't like the store-bought or restaurant kind with all their mysterious canned, processed, cheesy (most store-bought or restaurant lasagne is too cheesy), or leftover ingredients, and thick, gooey pasta.

We also like pesto a lot, and make it whenever fresh basil is available.

And ricotta. Or quesillo. Fresh cheese, anyhow.

Here are two lasagne recipes. One is a green lasagne, from a Dec. 1983 Bon Appetit magazine. The fresh cheese balances the assertiveness of the pesto. It also looks good -- very green. To make it greener, you can use spinach lasagne noodles. Since I've never seen spinach lasagne noodles in a store, I make them myself. Lasagne noodles are the easiest to make at home, by hand or with a pasta machine.

The other is a traditional sausage lasagna. This one's quicker and easier.

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Pesto Lasagne

*8 servings*

lb spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
lb ground beef
lb mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
c chopped red or green bell pepper
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, drained
1 6-oz can tomato paste
c sliced black olives
1 small bay leaf
2 c Pesto
1 lb ricotta cheese or quesillo
1 8-oz package lasagne noodles cooked al dente
1 lb grated mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Combine sausage, ground beef, mushrooms, onion, bell pepper and garlic in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat, Sauté until onion is translucent, crumbling sausage and beef with fork, about 15 minutes. Drain off liquid. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, olives and bay leaf. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 1 hours, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaf.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix pesto and ricotta in medium bowl. Spoon thin layer of sausage mixture into bottom of 9x13-inch baking dish. Top with layer of noodles. Spread some of pesto mixture evenly over top. Sprinkle with some of mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat layering. Cover with foil. (Lasagne can be prepared ahead to this point and frozen.) Bake until top is golden brown, about 40 minutes. Serve hot.

Mary Gavin-Loughlin
San Francisco, California

Italian Sausage Lasagna

*8 servings*

2 T olive oil
1 c chopped yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 6-oz can tomato paste
c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely, divided
c chopped fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
lb lasagna noodles
1 lb ricotta cheese or quesillo
3-4 oz creamy goat cheese, crumbled
1 c grated Parmesan cheese plus c for sprinkling
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onopn and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until transluscent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the sausage and cook over meafium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 T of the parsley, the basil, 1 t salt, and t pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl wit the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 c of the Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 T of parsley, t salt, and t pepper. Set aside.

Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9x12x2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one third the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with c Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until sauce is bubbling.

Ina Garten
Barefoot Contessa
Family Style