A New-Style Lasagne

For a time, I stopped making lasagne.  It seemed to fall out of favor, and there were so many new and exciting recipes to try.  This is a different take on lasagne, and I find myself making it more often than any previously favored recipes.  It served to remind me of the satisfying convenience of a well-made lasagne: do-ahead, portable, customizable, and crowd-pleasing.  This one includes two genius adaptations that contribute to the ease of preparation, and the deliciousness of the dish. The idea behind this new take on lasagne is from the lovely book “Small Victories” by Julia Turshen.  Make a flavorful tomato sauce, boost its richness with creme fraiche, layer it over fresh or no-boil pasta sheets, with grated cheese and some fresh herbs, and bake.  As the author states, “the high sauce to pasta ratio is the ticket to baking lasagne without boiling the noodles first.”  The pasta absorbs so much flavor from the sauce, and the preparation and assembly is quick and efficient.

I followed the author’s suggestion for a meat lasagne, and kept it really simple with no-boil pasta sheets.  I also added some hot pepper flakes to the sauce, because I like a bit of spice.  A little additional grated cheese doesn’t hurt either.

If you are accustomed to lasagne made with a thick sauce, layers of ricotta or bechamel, and clumsy curly-edged dried pasta, this will feel decidedly different.  You might think the sauce is too thin, but don’t worry.  As it bakes, the juicy sauce will soak into the pasta, the top of the dish will brown, the edges will crisp, and the end result will be delicious, satisfying, and surprisingly light.  Be sure to let the casserole rest after baking and you will be able to portion the lasagne neatly.  Serve it with your favorite red wine, a simple salad, and some bread.  Then wait for the compliments…   Enjoy!

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New- Style Lasagne

A genius way to prepare lasagne with a creme fraiche-enriched sauce, and fresh or no-boil pasta, that is fast, efficient, and delicious.  Make-ahead, customizable, and a great way to feed a group. 

Course Dinner, Main Course, Pasta
Cuisine American, Baked Pasta
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Author Adapted from Julia Turshen, "Small Victories"

Ingredients

  • 2 28-ounce tins whole peeled tomatoes I use San Marzano tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 8 ounces ground beef
  • 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, crumbled
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 box no-boil pasta sheets you should have fifteen pasta sheets
  • 1 1/4 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup shredded, whole-milk mozzarella cheese
  • 2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

Instructions

  1. Empty the tomatoes into a large bowl and crush them with your hands until they are reduced to small pieces.  In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and Italian sausage, and stir to brown. When almost cooked add the garlic and stir together until the garlic is fragrant.  Add the tomatoes, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, and the red pepper flakes, if using.  Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 30 minutes, or until slightly reduced.  Whisk in the creme fraiche, adjust the seasoning with salt if required, and set aside to cool to room temperature. 

  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Choose a deep, 9x12-inch baking dish.  Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Add a layer of pasta sheets (I used 3 per layer).  Spoon over just enough sauce to cover the pasta, making sure you cover the edges.  Scatter on some of each cheese, and some torn basil leaves.  Repeat the layering until you have used all the components, ending with sauce and cheese.  You should have 5 layers of pasta and sauce.    

  3. Bake the lasagne, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes.  It will be handsomely browned and bubbling around the edges.  Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes.  This will ensure that the pasta fully absorbs all the sauce and will make for neat portions of lasagne.  Serve to an appreciative group of 6 to 8 hungry people.  Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

Once the lasagne is assembled in the baking dish you can refrigerate it for several hours.  Allow a little extra baking time if you have prepared the dish in advance. You can see the original recipe here, in the book "Small Victories" by Julia Turshen.