Slowly but surely, the culinary world is becoming lazy. There is no better way to put it.
It is possible you do not understand the tragedy of the situation. Hulking forearms from hand-beating egg whites until they peak: lost to the electric mixer. Brave suffering through tears induced by onion cutting: lost to the food processor. Endurance and patience, once nourished by the slow-baking perfection of ovens: lost to the microwave. In cooking, like in so many other disciplines, speed does not always provide the best results.
In a world of brownie mixes, powdered vegetable stock, and processed dehydrated space food, I felt a need to make something truly from scratch. This lasagna recipe is about as complicated and from scratch as it gets—it involves making the puttanesca, pesto, and vegetables straight from beginning to bitter end. If you also have the resources and determination to make the lasagna noodles on your own, I encourage it and salute you.
However, even in my resurging culinary idealism, I do remain fundamentally a realist. We live on a college campus and only have so many hours in our lives. If you want to make this dish but have fewer hours to spend on it, feel free to replace the homemade puttanesca with quality store-bought sauce that you doctor in any way you please and/or to replace the pesto oil with store-bought pesto.
(Adapted from Emeril Lagasse at foodnetwork.com)
2 lbs ricotta cheese
1 lb lasagna noodles
6 oz mozzarella, grated
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup diced onion
8 cloves minced garlic
2 28-oz cans of plum tomatoes, crushed and including juice
1 1/2 cups pitted and chopped kalamata olives
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp capers
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh basil
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cup spinach
2 red bell peppers
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. You will turn it down to 350 degrees after roasting your vegetables.
2. To prepare the puttanesca sauce, begin by heating the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onions until they begin to brown, then add the garlic and let cook for an additional two minutes. Add the remainder of the puttanesca ingredients except for the salt and pepper and let simmer for approximately 40 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add seasoning to taste, cover, and set aside.
3. If using dried lasagna noodles, boil water and cook these noodles until they are just slightly soft. They will finish cooking in the oven. If using fresh noodles, skip this step.
4. Meanwhile, toss onions and peppers with the olive oil and salt and spread them in a single layer onto a baking pan. Place them in the oven for about 10 minutes until the moisture has been almost entirely cooked out, turning the vegetables once about halfway through. Sauté spinach until wilted. Immediately turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees.
5. Next, make the pesto oil. In a food processor or blender, process the garlic and basil while adding in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Once blended, season with salt.
6. Mix 1/2 cup of the pesto oil and your sautéed spinach to the ricotta cheese.
7. Next, construct your lasagna. Lightly grease a large baking dish with olive oil, then add 1/2 cup of puttanesca as your first layer. Next add a layer of lasagna noodles, then a thin layer of ricotta-pesto mixture, followed by vegetables, then mozzarella cheese, then sauce again. Repeat this pattern for layering until the dish is full, finishing with a layer of mozzarella cheese.
8. Place tray into oven and allow it to cook until bubbling and golden, approximately an hour and 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool for 10 minutes before drizzling with some remaining pesto oil and serving.
You’re done! Eat, relax, sleep for 12 hours, and revel in the praise of your friends and family.