December 18, 2020. We always seem to have a tray of lasagna out at some point during the holiday season. A great dish to make ahead or even freeze when you have the time, so it’s ready for when you don’t. I was also thinking, who really has time to make an appetizer and an entree most of the time during the holidays, so why not just combine the two for a tasty, Dad Joke of a dish! I’ll admit there was some temptation to make this lasagna with a cream sauce, in the tradition of the Spinach Artichoke Dip, but there’s so many calories floating around during the holidays, who needs a 1000 or so more!
Prep Time: Roasted Tomatoes: 5 minutes; Tomato Sauce: 8 minutes; Filling: 12 minutes; Assembly: 20 minutes
Cook Time: Roasted Tomatoes: 45-60 minutes; Tomato Sauce: 45-60 minutes; Noodles: 4-6 minutes; Lasagna: 30-45 minutes
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
Slow Roasted Tomato Garnish, optional
- 3 large vine ripened or heirloom tomatoes, sliced about 1/2” thick
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 sprinkles of dried herbs, but that your call
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
Tomato Sauce- or three jars of your favorite store bought sauce, but why would you?!
- 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons of dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes,
- 6-9 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane
- 3- 28 ounce cans of whole tomatoes with juices, crushed with your clean, bare hands or other crushing device- you can also crush them when they’re simmering in the Tomato Sauce Pot- that’s what I usually do, with a potato masher
- canola oil
- 1 large yellow onion, minced
- 3- 10 ounce blocks frozen spinach, thawed in microwave and painstakingly squeezed dry with a kitchen towel or with your clean, bare hands over a strainer or colander in the sink
- 2- 14 ounce cans artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, dried and roughly chopped
- 6 ounces cream cheese
- 2 ounces Asiago or Parmesan cheese, shredded
- 16 dried lasagna noodles- likely a 16 ounce package
- 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Cooking Spray
COOK AND PLAY
Italian American crooner, Tony Bennet is and icon and 94 years old, so now is a very good time to enjoy some of his holiday tunes while you make your lasagna!
Slow Roasted Tomato Garnish. If you’re making the garnish, preheat oven, with room on middle rack, to 300 degrees. Place tomato slices on a baking sheet layered with parchment paper, and season with olive oil, dried herbs, salt and pepper. Cook until caramelized and luscious, 40-60 minutes.
- Tomato Sauce. Get a large Dutch oven or pot over medium low heat, add oil, butter, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook at the barest of simmer, so as not to burn the garlic bitter, and once the garlic starts to take on a bit of color, add the tomatoes. Adjust heat to bring everything to a slow simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until your sauce is thickened to your liking- 20-40 minutes more.
- Filling. Set a large pasta pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil for noodles. While your tomatoes are roasting and bubbling, get a large sauté or frying pan going over medium heat with a few tablespoons of oil. Add and sauté onions until golden and then stir in spinach and artichokes to warm. Stir in cream cheese and continue storing until it is melted and incorporated. Set aside.
- Noodles. Add noodles to boiling water, stirring to keep them separate, and cook a few minute less than the package directs because the noodles will cook a good bit more in the oven, so you don’t want them going mushy on you. Drain noodles in colander and set out on baking sheet in layers, with kitchen towels in between.
- Assembly. Preheat oven, with room on the middle rack, to 375 degrees. Cover a 13”x9” baking or lasagna pan, with a thin layer of tomato sauce, 1-2 cups. Top with a 3 noodles and then top the noodles with a 1/5 (you will have five layers- I can even do that math!)) of spinach artichoke “dip” and asiago cheese, a bit of tomato sauce (don’t drown it and set aside a cup or two to serve on the side) and a few sprinkles of mozzarella cheese. Repeat with other 4 layers until you have three noodles left for the top.
- Topping. Add the last three lasagna noodles, top with tomato sauce and, if using, artfully arrange your roasted tomato slices. Sprinkle remaining or even more mozzarella cheese over everything and cover with foil, lightly sprayed with cooking spray, and get it in the oven. Remove foil after 15-20 minutes and continue to cook until cheese is starting to brown and it’s all looking bubbly good- another 15-30 minutes. If you are cooking lasagna from refrigerator or from frozen- you guessed it- it will take longer, but just look for the browning and bubbling and you know it will be spot on! Cool for 10-15 minutes on wire rack before slicing up and serve with extra sauce on the side.
“Water Ez Zee Enemy of Flaveur!” One of my very first memories of paying attention to cooking advice, was a very late night cooking show featuring a very French Chef explaining his dish and passionately warning his audience that “Water ez zee enemy of flaveur!” It was actually very good advice (and would make for a great tee shirt if I ever have Merch). This is especially true when making lasagna because no one wants soupy lasagna, unless you’re making lasagna soup, but that’s another recipe. So it’s super important to get as much of the “enemy of flaveur” out of your fillings and toppings as possible. That’s why you need to squeeze the heck out of your spinach, drain and towel off your artichokes, roast the moisture out of the tomato garnish until it’s luscious and dry the noodles once they’re out of the water!
Where’s the Ricotta? I don’t like ricotta in lasagna and the cream cheese in this recipe does ricotta’s job, only much better. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I like a dollop or two of good quality ricotta on pasta or a pizza, but ricotta is full of the “enemy of flaveur” and always tastes a bit grainy to me in a lasagna, while cream cheese has practically no moisture and is as smooth as silk! You also have an extra step of adding more fat to ricotta for lasagna, in the form of an egg and/or cheese, but cream cheese has just enough fat, with no extra effort-like me!
Keyword: lasagna, casserole, comfort good, Italian
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