Often lasagna is like a beautiful Italian woman in a tight red dress. She may look like a siren, but she may be good for you too. Italians are known for overdoing it. We are impulsive, impetuous, extreme, but passionate. In the kitchen our personality is in full force all the time. Nothing is off-limits.
The new year is about shedding many things. In an attempt to embrace a new life.. ..I also let go of the calories and fat in my traditional Christmas Eve lasagna. Basically anything that does not add to your lasagna, needs to be left out. Sounds simple but it does wonders.
Fresh basil, a layer of spinach, a lighter bechamel layer, and minimal whole milk ricotta strips this dish of anything bad for the soul. Just like a relationship, the layers of any lasagna need to compliment each other and never overshadow the individuality. I think of this and any lasagna as a city of neighborhoods, connected and unique.
In a pan, I saute two cloves of garlic and a shallot. I add thawed or fresh spinach, and then squeeze out any moisture. This will form one layer, with nothing else added except two tablespoons of my fresh simple sauce. (Only crushed tomatoes, red wine, shallot, crushed red pepper, garlic and fresh basil leaves, and a drop of brown sugar). Do not douse this layer in cheese.
For the next layer, me and mini me use minimal whole milk ricotta. Why whole milk? Because most other variations are full of chemicals, using light cheese does nothing to increase the nutritional wealth of your food. Using less of the ricotta, with 2 eggs, salt, white pepper and some shredded fontina goes further. For this layer, keep the color consistent. I make a simple bechamel with milk, flour, garlic and olive oil. Cook down the garlic, cook a tablespoon or so of flour, add milk and whisk until it thickens. Play around with measurements. It should not be too thick but needs to stick to a spoon. Then, add some sea salt and nutmeg to taste. Put two good ladels of this on the cheese layer.
For my next step, I use ground turkey and ground pork. We brown the meat and simply add some of the sauce to it, do not let it drown. This is your final layer. For the top layer, add some red and white sauce, tear up some fresh basil leaves and layer it with half moons of fresh mozzarella. Bake it until the noodles are cooked through and the cheese looks melted but not brown.
Make sure to be patient and wait a good 30 minutes before cutting into this for guests. It takes patience, but is worth the wait. I literally just finished my last plate of frozen leftovers and it was a sad occasion! Do not let the cheese laden lasagna impersonators scare you off. Next week , me and mini me are making a zucchini lasagna that will change how you feel about winter meals and Italians.