Lasagne pomodoro

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Lasagne is a popular Italian-style dish that can be made with a variety of different sauces.
This basic sauce uses only tomato (with an optional cheese topping) and is very simple, but it is a great dish for making your own with variations.

This is a simple way of preparing a very tasty and stylish dish for a regular meal or for entertaining friends.
Unlike spaghetti, conchigli etc this is twice-cooked: once on the hob for the pasta and the sauce separately, and then in the oven or under the grill when assembled.
Consistent with the philosophy of healthy and economic food, this recipe contains a minimum variety of ingredients: inexpensively sourced, with no added salt or artificial additives, and no hydrogenated or otherwise adulterated items.

Mise en place

Before starting, make sure you have everything you need ready, as listed below. That includes: the ingredients, utensils, clean surfaces and chopping board, and clean hands.The quantities of ingredients can be multiplied in proportion to the example given here, or adjusted according to need, availability or taste.

Ingredients

  • Lasagne: This form of pasta comes in thin, brittle sheets. Either as the traditional yellow form, or as “al fuorno”, which is green and contains spinach. I find that 70-80g is enough for each good-sized individual portion.
  • Chopped tomatoes: Much less work than peeling them yourself, although you can use plum peeled tomatoes and chop them up yourself if you like. About 300g for a portion, which is about 2/3 of a standard tin from the supermarket.
  • Cooking oil: A spoonful for boiling the pasta, to stop it sticking. I prefer olive oil infused with garlic, but you can use any cooking oil.

Optional ingredients

  • Grated cheese. Either for decoration (only enough to sprinkle the surface thoroughly), or to combine with the tomato, Milanese-style.
  • A little paprika and/or red pepper to give some “bite”.
  • A little oregano to make it more aromatic.
  • A sprinkling of sultanas to sweeten the dish and add a different texture.
  • Grated parmesan cheese for the dining table.

Utensils etc

  • A clean worktop.
  • Grater for the cheese (optional).
  • Clean hands.
  • Spoon for the tomato and fork for stirring the pasta.
  • Ovenware dish or bowl for baking the assembled dish.
  • Oven preheated to about 220 degrees, or halogen equivalent.

Part 1 – cook the pasta

  • Pasta needs to be boiled for about five minutes, until soft and can be easily penetrated with a fork. No longer.
  • Pasta has a nasty habit of sticking to the pot or to itself, especially in flat sheets. So add a splash of oil to the boiling water before breaking the pasta into it. This is a good rule for any pasta. Also make sure you have a good, rolling boil going.
  • As you break the pasta into the boiling water, stir with a fork to keep it separated.
  • The pieces should be small enough to fit without folding into the dish you intend to use. Being fragile it will shatter into some small and irregular fragments which you can use to fill in the irregular gaps.
  • When cooked, take it off the heat and drain well. You will soon be handling it with your fingers so you may like to let it cool for a few minutes.

Part 2 – heat the tomatoes and assemble the dish

  • Put the tomatoes into a suitable pot and heat gently until boiling.
  • Take off the heat immediately – the tomatoes do not need a lot of cooking.
  • Add paprika, pepper and oregano as you like and stir well.
  • If you want to add cheese to the mix, do it now but gradually, allowing the cheese to melt into the mix.
  • Using suitable ovenware build up the dish in layers, starting with tomatoes to stop the pasta sticking to the bottom.
  • Aim to get about four layers, alternating tomatoes with fragments of pasta, and ending with a layer of tomatoes.
  • If you want a cheese topping you can sprinkle cheese on only the top layer.

Part 3 – bake the dish

  • The pasta and tomatoes are already cooked now, so it is only necessary to heat it through and melt (and perhaps lightly brown) the cheese on top.
  • Place in a fan oven at about 240 degrees for 20-30 minutes. If you are not using cheese on top you will need to cover the dish with foil to stop the pasta drying out.
  • If you are using a flat dish and cheese topping, a few minutes under the grill will work well.

What next

It is stylish to use oven-to-table ware for individual portions, but for several people you can take the oven dish to the table and serve using a perforated spoon.

Note on preserving

You can make a batch of servings, cool and seal well. These can be put in the fridge for convenient use over the next few days, or frozen if the ovenware is suitable.
After refrigerating or freezing make sure the food is well dampened on top before reheating, otherwise it can become dry and too firm. And make sure the dish is very thoroughly heated through.



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