For Sunday dinner after Mass, impress your friends and family with the real thing: New York Italian lasagna with roasted seasonal vegetables, smothered in Aunt Josephine’s sauce.
This recipe is Mediterranean, low in polyunsaturated fats and vegetarian – not vegan – and extremely good for you.
If you want to make it even more delicious and healthy, serve a good Chianti, Pinot Noir or Burgundy with it.
Aunt Josephine’s Sauce
3-4 ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 large cans of pureed tomatoes
½ teaspoon of fennel seed
6 cloves of garlic
Good quality olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Separate the garlic cloves and with their skins on, place them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn them over after 10 minutes so they don’t burn. Meanwhile, lightly toast the fennel seeds in the olive oil over medium heat, taking care not to burn them. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and sauté 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree and stir. Strip the skins off the roasted garlic cloves, and add them to the sauce. Using a hand-held blender, pulse the sauce until everything is well blended.
Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
Select your favorite fresh seasonal vegetables in their prime, chop into largish bite-sized pieces and dredge them in olive oil. Place them on an oven-proof cookie sheet or pan. Do not allow the pieces to touch each other.
Place the pan in a very hot (450 degree) oven, towards the middle of the oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes for root vegetables, 15-20 minutes for beans, peppers, onions, shallots and the like. Halfway through, turn them over with a spatula or a fork. Do not allow to burn.
Remove from oven, salt & pepper to taste. Reserve half for the lasagna and arrange the other half nicely on a platter, garnished with fresh cherry tomatoes and basil leaves.
Lasagna Al Forno
12-16 ready-to-bake lasagna sheets
1 large container ricotta cheese (whole milk or skim)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
Handful of chopped fresh parsley
1 cup spinach, sautéed in olive oil and fresh garlic
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese (NOT that sawdust-in-a-round-box that Americans use)
Step One: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (160 Celsius).
Step Two: Mix the ricotta, egg, grated cheese and nutmeg together completely. Add chopped parsley. Set aside.
Step Three: Chop your roasted vegetables and mix together. Set aside.
Step Four: Cover the bottom of your 9” X 13” lasagna pan with Aunt Josephine’s sauce. Arrange lasagna sheets to cover.
Step Five: Cover these with a layer of the ricotta blend, a layer of shredded mozzarella, a layer of roasted vegetables and sautéed spinach and ¾ cup of Aunt Josephine’s sauce.
Step Six: Repeat layers until the top layer is simply lasagna sheets. Cover these with 1) sauce, 2) shredded mozzarella and 3) grated cheese.
Step Seven: Cover and bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove cover for last five minutes. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
Serving suggestion: Pass Aunt Josephine’s sauce (say a prayer for her soul as you do so), grate more cheese on top, and place some roasted vegetables on the side for color. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.
‘Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine
There is laughter, friendship and good, red wine.’