Italian food is awesome for so many reasons- it's universally comforting, it's not very difficult if you're patient, and it's not even very time consuming if you're organized! I like the fact that there are so many Italian dishes that are more like rough guidelines for what a dish should be like, rather than a recipe with exact ingredients. In the case of lasagna, according to wikipedia, the word "lasagna" was originally just the name of the dish it was cooked in! As Summer and her family can attest- if your Italian grandmother makes it with love and good humor, it doesn't matter if it's "traditional" Italian. (We've been dinged for our "untraditional" ways around here, and if that commenter is still a reader- which I doubt, considering the tongue lashing he was given by Summer's mom- I'd just like to say WHAT'S UP, DUDE! We're still here screwing with your reality. And using more than one clove of garlic.)
I didn't go all-out, here. We had a busy weekend and our grocery shopping got put off by a day, which meant that by Monday morning, pickings were extremely slim in the fridge. Luckily, we managed to hang onto our lasagna ingredients all week, and I forced myself to throw this together first thing this morning so I could guarantee a hot, delicious dinner this evening, shopping be damned. The ingredients to this particular lasagna are very simple, but of course there are infinite possibilities. Personally, I prefer to always add a vegetable and sometimes a meat, rather than just simple layers of cheese and sauce. It's too sloppy that way! I like my lasagna to really stand up, what can I say?
I do have a little secret that I use to give my lasagna more shape and help the layers hold up when you slice it- it's a trick I stole from my husband back when he was vegan, so vegan readers- perk up. To make a "ricotta" filling for his vegan lasagna, he used to buy tofutti cream cheese and stir it up with crumbled tofu. The consistency was awesome, and the firmness of the tofu kept the layers from slopping all over. Now, I just add crumbled tofu to my ricotta, so I have that extra firmness and the illusion of good health when I'm biting into a big oozy bite!
Here's a quick ingredients list so you can see what I was working with today:
A package of no-boil lasagna noodles. (I know, kind of weird and gross. I find that these are never as "no boil" as the package would indicate, unless- like I did today, you're making your lasagna in advance, so the noodles have time to soften before baking. Otherwise, they'll just be too hard.)
Jar of Classico spaghetti sauce (so I can have the jar afterward to freeze my stock!)
A couple cloves of garlic
Large head of broccoli (though any vegetable would do. Eggplant? Zucchini? Shredded carrots? You get the idea.)
Pint container of fresh ricotta
One small brick of firm tofu
That's it! I finely chopped the broccoli and garlic, sauteed them for no more than a few seconds in a hot pan with olive oil before throwing in the whole jar of sauce, and then put the pan aside. I mixed the ricotta and tofu with some fresh chopped basil, and salt & pepper, and then i started layering. It's really easy to layer with those weird no-boil noodles, because they don't move around when you try to spread stuff on them.
I popped it in the fridge at about 10 a.m., and when we got home from our errands at 5, I popped it right in the oven. I didn't have any tinfoil so I just covered it with some parchment paper (to keep it from drying out) and baked it at 400ºf for about 35 minutes, pulled off the cover and let the top crisp up for another 5-10 minutes.
A long time ago, my husband baked me a truly transcendent lasagna topped with whole cherry tomatoes that burst in our mouths and thick slabs of fresh buffalo mozzarella. If it hadn't been a lazy grocery week, I might have gone for something more like that, but as it was, my simple lasagna filled us all up, and of course, we have hella leftovers for tomorrow's lunches, which- as we all know, is the very best part.