Lasagne al Forno or Baked Lasagne

IMG_7288  Lasagne al Forno or Baked Lasagne IMG_7289

For those of you who enjoyed my stuffed shells recipe and the recipe for my meatballs in my previous blogs, this will be especially easy for you to put together. You can make it with meat our without. In both cases I like to add spinach to the ricotta before layering.

You will need a lasagne sized shallow dish, a box of lasagne noodles, 1 -16 oz. container of Dragone whole milk ricotta, I pkg. of frozen spinach (which after thawing, you will be certain to squeeze dry), 2 pkgs. of sugar (small size for coffee), 1 whole egg, 2 to 3 pkgs.of sliced whole milk mozzarella, your favorite tomato sauce and basil or parsley to garnish with grated Parmesan sprinkled on top.

If you wish to add a layer of crushed meatballs, please refer to my blog “ Meatballs and Sauce” and make about

10-15 small meatballs, which, when done, you will set aside, and crush while mixing with sauce just before layering. If you want strictly a vegetable lasagne, eliminate the meatball layer.

To start the layering, you must first boil all the noodles until they are cooked well but not falling apart. We call this “al dente” (to the tooth, literally) but NOT hard.

Place in a colander and cool them off with cold water before layering. Some will break, or the crinkled edges on the noodles may fall off, but you will have plenty of noodles to make up for the split ones in the water.

Layering:

  • Cover the bottom of your lasagne pan/dish with sauce (just enough to cover the bottom, not excessively).
  • Line up 3-4 noodles the length of the pan horizontally so the bottom is completely covered.
  • Spread a good part of the ricotta filling (including egg, sugar, spinach well-mixed) on top of the lasagne noodles.
  • Sprinkle grated Parmesan over the mixture.
  • Open 1 package of sliced mozzarella and layer in squares so the ricotta mixture is covered.
  • Splash more sauce over the mozzarella squares so they are covered.
  • If you want to put meat in the lasagne it should go in the second layer now.
  • Crush the meatballs you have already prepared and put aside and mix a little sauce in the mixture. You may add some fresh chopped Italian parsley to the meat before layering.
  • After placing the second layer of noodles over the mozzarella and sauce from the first layer where we left off, spread the crushed meatball mixture over the noodles so it is evenly dispersed.
  • Cover the meatball mixture with more sliced mozzarella and splash again with sauce. If you prefer to have all ricotta and spinach, repeat the first layer.

The last layer will be the same as the first: noodles, ricotta and spinach, Parmesan, mozzarella splash sauce.

Cover with the last 3-4 noodles on top, cover them with mozzarella and a light sauce (as in photos above) and put in as many toothpicks as necessary on top to prevent the sauce and cheese from sticking to the aluminum foil you will cover the casserole with and bake at 350o until the mozzarella is melted and bubbly, at least 30-45 minutes depending on your oven.

Lift the aluminum foil to make sure the mozzarella has bubbled over each layer and carefully remove the foil and toothpicks. If the cheese is not melted, put back in oven.

Remove the lasagne from the oven and garnish with fresh basil sprigs.

Let cool for 15 minutes and cut into squares. You may sprinkle extra Parmesan on top before serving.

One of my favorites. You’ll love it with meat or vegetarian style. Buon Appetito!
(Pronounced : Bwawn Ah-pay-tee-toe!!!!!)

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Please give me some feedback (No pun intended)!!!

See you on Thursday!!!
-Maria

This recipe has been tested in the THASC kitchen.
THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.
www.thasc.com

Baked Stuffed Shells with Spinach

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Baked Stuffed Shells with Spinach
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Sunday family dinner

One of my favorite memories growing up was Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house on Commodore Street. Everyone showed up to be together and to respect the matriarch of the family Grazia DiPasquale Santoro who always sat at the head of the table. She secretly would sneak bits of food to the begging dog under the table. We all knew it, but pretended not to. Soup was always the first dish, homemade with little meatballs. It was the second dish everyone lived for: PASTA.

I thought about these wonderful stuffed shells and ate them often and eventually made them my whole life. Today I’m sharing the recipe with you after what seems a lifetime.

This is a wonderful hearty recipe for a “bone-sticking” dish” during these cold days of winter and even for those who aren’t so cold as we are in the North. It’s quick,easy and delicious. I add spinach to my dish. If you want to make it simply with ricotta and mozzarella, that’s fine too. I use a large lasagna-sized pan and preheat the oven to 350o.

You will need:

  • 1 box Barilla large shells for stuffing
  • 1 -32 ounce container of whole milk ricotta
  • 1- 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed,drained and squeezed dry
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 packets sugar
  • 2 bottles of Bertoli ORGANIC olive oil, basil and garlic tomato sauce or your own tomato sauce @ 48 oz or my brother Joe’s marinara sauce in my previous blog on meatballs and sauce.
  • 1 package shredded mozzarella
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil or Italian chopped parsley to garnish

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Directions:

1) Boil the shells until they are tender but not breaking apart. Bite one to taste. Make sure they are not too hard. Add some olive oil to the boiling water so they don’t stick.
2) Drain the shells and rinse with cold water to cool them off before stuffing
3) In a large mixing bowl place the ricotta and make a big hole in the middle.
4) Put 2 eggs in the hole along with 2 sugar packets
5) Add the chopped spinach making sure first it is dried
6) Stir to have a good consistency.
7) Blend in at least a cup of the shredded mozzarella and ½ cup of the grated Parmesan cheese. Stir again.
8) Coat the bottom of the lasagne pan with sauce and scoop enough ricotta and spinach mixture into each shell so they are well filled.
9) Put more shredded mozzarella on top of each shell and sprinkle more Parmesan on them before baking.
10) Bake at 350o for about ½ hour or until they look gooey. Remove from the oven and sprinkle fresh chopped parsley or basil. Cover them with more sauce if you like before serving. Serve HOT!!!

At the end of dinner (which also included a meat dish and vegetables) all the grandchildren would gather with Grandma in the living room to have our special time with her while the grown-ups either played cards or cleaned up the kitchen.

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Grandma with all the grandchildren

What wonderful childhood memories I had and most of them started and ended at the table.

BUON APPETITO! BUON WEEKEND!!

-Maria

Tested in the THASC kitchen. Photo by THASC.
THASC is a unique small American business producing cards and other promotional products.
www.thasc.com