Fresh tomatoes, herbs and mozzarella are all it takes to turn that plain old lasagna into something amazing.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I was participating in the October Unprocessed challenge. While the “challenge” part of the event has proven to be an apt title, I will say that my taste buds are experiencing flavors unlike anything prior to this experience. I’m not only using more fresh ingredients than I usually do, but everything just tastes lighter than it usually does. And with practically no preservatives in anything, the health quotient of everything I’m making has gone up exponentially. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing everything tastes as well. Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
The Chew had Joy Behar from The View on and she gave out her lasagna recipe. It sounded so amazing I just had to try it. The interesting thing is that she talked about how she didn’t understand why people would buy tomato sauce when it was so easy to make your own — but her ingredients for tomato sauce included a jar of store bought tomato sauce! Sure, she added her own meats and spices, but her base was out of a jar! Well, since I’m going unprocessed, I decided to use my own tomato sauce recipe, but I went even healthier. Instead of using a can or two of diced tomatoes like I usually do, I only used whole, fresh heirloom tomatoes. Oh. My. God. I can’t believe I’d never done that before. I mean with heirlooms being at the height of their season right now, using only fresh, plump tomatoes made the sauce for the lasagna so sweet and fresh, it was seriously unlike anything I’d ever tasted before. Trust me when I tell you what Joy says is true — it really is super easy to make your own sauce. So the next time you’re making tomato sauce, whether it’s for lasagna or just spaghetti, forget the cans and go completely fresh. You’ll never go back.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large brown onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound of ground sausage
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 5-6 large heirloom tomatoes, diced
- 2 teaspoons basil
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1-1/4 cups shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
- 1 pound whole milk buffalo mozzarella, sliced
- 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
- Mix in the tomato paste until well combined. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper until well combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce the flame to low and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.
- While the sauce cooks, soak the lasagna noodles in hot tap water for at least 20 minutes.
- In a medium bowl whisk together the ricotta, one cup of Parmesan cheese, the egg, parsley, salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
- Once the meat sauce is ready, ladle about one third of it into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Spread the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add half the pasta (in one layer over the meat sauce), half the mozzarella, half the ricotta mixture and another third of the meat sauce.
- Add another single layer of noodles, mozzarella, ricotta mixture and the remaining meat sauce. Sprinkle the remaining quarter cup of Parmesan and shredded mozzarella over the top. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately with crusty bread.