Archive | June 2014

lasagna with heirloom tomato marinara sauce and fresh ricotta


Since it’s been such a long time since I last posted, I will try to make up for it with a three-fer:  three recipes that make up an AMAZING  lasagna – the addition of heirloom marinara and fresh lemon-y ricotta cheese make it truly special.  Of course, if you’re in a hurry, you can make this lasagna with store-bought marinara and ricotta to save time.  And it’ll still be pretty good. But it won’t be the same.  While I admit it is time consuming to make all of the parts to this dish, the finished product is excellent, and it was a fun weekend cooking project.

The sausage can also be omitted to make this dish vegetarian (here’s another recipe for a great veggie lasagna).




Lasagna with Heirloom Tomato Marinara and Fresh Ricotta Cheese

Yields 10 to 12 servings


2 to 3 cups baby kale/chard/spinach, roughly chopped (bought mine at Costco)
1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced
8 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
4 cups heirloom tomato marinara sauce (see recipe below)
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese (see recipe below)
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
1 cup provolone, shredded
1/4 cup Romano or Parmesan, grated
12 to 14 lasagna noodles
6 to 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat one tablespoon olive oil in small saute pan.  Add kale/chard/spinach mixture and saute until greens are wilted, about two to three minutes, adding 4 cloves of garlic when there is about 1 minute cooking time remaining.  Remove to bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat one tablespoon olive oil in small saute pan and add mushrooms and 4 cloves of garlic.  Saute until tender, five to six minutes.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sausage and cook until browned, about five to six minutes, crumbling sausage with a spatula.  Drain sausage, remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.
  4. In the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, spread 1 cup tomato sauce and cover it with a layer of pasta.  Pour another cup of sauce over the pasta, followed by all the greens and half of the mushrooms.  Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella, 1/3 of the provolone, and 1/3 of the Romano cheese.  Add another layer of pasta and spread the ricotta evenly on top, then top with all of the sausage and half of the mushrooms, adding a cup of tomato sauce, 1/3 of the mozzarella, 1/3 of the provolone, and 1/3 of the Romano on top.  Add a final layer of pasta and top with one final cup tomato sauce, remaining cheese, and sprinkle with chopped basil.
  5. Place pan in oven, uncovered, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Let rest 5 to 10 minutes after baking before cutting the lasagna.


Heirloom Tomato Marinara Sauce

Yields about 2 quarts (8 cups)


1 cup sweet onion (like Vidalia), chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup butter
10 large heirloom tomatoes, peeled and diced (I also seeded about half)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup (lightly packed) fresh sweet basil, chopped
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
6 ounces tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper


  1. Heat olive oil and butter in medium skillet over medium heat until butter is melted.  Add onions and saute until translucent, then add garlic and saute for another 30 seconds or so.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients, bring to a low boil, then turn down heat and simmer on low heat for 30 to 40 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
  3. Serve with pasta and freeze any leftover sauce.  (I’ve also used 4 cups sauce with 1 pound of gemelli pasta + 1/2 pound of sauteed mushrooms + mozzarella cheese = 6 meals for 2 people.)


Fresh Ricotta

Yields about 1 1/4 cup ricotta


3 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, coarse
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


  1. Pour the first three ingredients into a non-reactive 3-quart pot or saucepan.  Attach a thermometer to the side of the pan and heat to 190 degrees F, stirring occasionally.  Remove mixture from heat, add lemon juice, stir a bit, and leave the pan undisturbed for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Place a colander over a large bowl and line it (the colander) with several layers of cheesecloth.  Pour the mixture from the pan into the colander and allow it to strain for at least an hour.  Leaving it to strain for two hours will give you a firmer ricotta.
  3. Ricotta may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.