Four Cheese and Vegetable Lasagna

Fresh out of the oven!

Fresh out of the oven!

Okay so this is not an easy recipe, I agree. But it’s a lot of fun and I was very happy with the results. It’s actually been quite a while since I made it so you’ll have to bear with some vagueness. Also, this is NOT for people on diets. It’s creamy, rich, oozy, greasy, and everything else that a real heavy lasagna is supposed to be.

Ingredients:

1 lb Lasagne noodles
1/2 block Jarlsberg cheese
1/2 block Asiago cheese
1/2 block Mozzarella cheese
Ricotta cheese – I used half the tub.
Tomato sauce – I used Prego’s sundried tomato and basil version, but you can use whatever suits your fancy, or make your own!
Fresh basil – 1 bunch
1 bunch spinach
2-3 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 medium-sized zucchini
chili flakes to taste

Method:

1. Boil a pot of water with salt, a splash of olive oil, and a dash of oregano.
2. Once the water is at a rolling boil, cook the noodles, but only until al dente.
3. Lay them on foil so they do not stick.

4. Saute the spinach and zucchini together. Chop the tomatoes but keep them uncooked.
5. Stir the veggies into the tomato sauce, and mix it with a little water, enough to make the consistency less viscous.
6. Mix all the cheeses except the ricotta together. Mix the chili flakes into this mixture.
7. Line a 9×11 pan with the noodles.
8. Pour enough sauce on the noodles to cover them.
9. Add a layer of the cheese mixture.
10. Repeat layers of noodles, sauce, and cheese.

Bake for about 40 minutes covered with foil, and about 20 minutes uncovered,  until the cheese bubbles.

Enjoy, and try not to think about the calories!

Pasta alla telefono

The story behind this recipe is quite interesting actually. My friend B had come to visit me and promised to cook me a nice dinner so we went to the store and bought groceries. I had no idea what he was making, but it sure did look and smell good. I watched B run around the kitchen, flitting around and whisking things together, and I waited with bated breath to see what was going to turn up. He declared his creation Pasta alla telefono but I was never able to find that recipe or that name anywhere else. The thing is, it was so good that it didn’t really matter, and after a few tries, I think I got it to taste the way his did. This recipe is one of those where the quality of the ingredients really matters. The taste you get when you put together fresh basil, torn straight from the plant, with vine-ripened tomatoes from the farmer’s market, and the piece de resistance, bufala mozzarella, fresh balls of creamy mozzarella cheese made of water buffalo milk – these are what make this recipe taste out of this world.

Ingredients

One package penne pasta
8-10 vine-ripened cluster tomatoes, blanched and deseeded
2-3 tablespoons of chili flakes (depends on how spicy you like your pasta) 
1 teaspoon oregano
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
lemon zest
a splash of olive oil
veggies for the sauce, like mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers, spinach – whatever you like
1 cup of torn or coarsely chopped basil leaves

Method

1. Set the pasta to cook with some olive oil and salt.

2. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces. You can blanch and seed the tomatoes first if you don’t like skin or seeds in your sauce. Toss the tomatoes into a pot and let them simmer for a bit with some salt and whatever spices you like. 

3. Brown the garlic along with onions, if you want to add them, in a separate skillet. If you like garlic pieces in your sauce, cook them in a little oil and dump the whole thing in. If you don’t like getting chunks of garlic in your food, cook it in about a tablespoon or a little more of oil, and drain the pieces out after they’ve cooked. 

4. Add the oil from the garlic and whatever other veggies you want to use into the tomatoes. Let it all simmer together for a while, until everything has cooked thoroughly and the flavor has percolated through.

5. Add the lemon zest, basil and the sugar and stir, and let it simmer for another 2 minutes.

6. Toss the pasta in with everything and keep it on the heat for about 2 minutes longer.

7. Slice the mozzarella and stir it into the pasta just until it gets stringy. If you stir longer, you’ll end up with a creamy sauce rather than stringy cheese (I personally like my mozzarella to make threads in my food – it’s fun!). 

8. Serve with garlic bread, and enjoy!

Another way to do this is to just use store-bought sauce. But make sure that you simmer the sauce with the crushed red peppers, and that you stir in the cheese at the end. That’s what makes this recipe killer. Thanks for this recipe, B, even though you never wanted to share it. If it’s any consolation, I was never able to make it quite like you. But I still think this is pretty amazing. Enjoy, folks! And as always, share any ideas you might have.