Meatless Lasagna Arrabiata ~ arrabiata, meaning angry, is a classic spicy hot Roman pasta sauce, and my version here is full of fiery chili pepper flakes, scorched roasted tomatoes, and garlic.
This particular lasagna also has a kinder, gentler side to it, made with delicate fresh sheets of pasta, ricotta scooped and drained just moments before baking, milky white shards of mozzarella so fresh it’s impossible to slice, and basil leaves pinched and placed as needed right from the bouquet.
I made this entire dish, including the fresh ricotta, while talking long distance to my sister in California, with the phone balanced in the crook of my neck. Like most lasagnas, it’s not difficult, just time consuming, so the conversation was a good distraction.
As lasagnas go, this one is very simple. No meat, no veggies. I wanted the focus to be on the contrast between the spicy sauce and the delicate freshness of the pasta noodles and cheeses. I found the fresh frozen pasta sheets at Terra Cotta, a small New England chain that specializes in artisan pasta. If you can’t find fresh, use no-boil noodles instead.
It was too late in the day to get much in the way of photos, but I wanted to post this anyway because, since we’re inching towards spring, it could be a while before I make another lasagna.
Leftovers? Even better.
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1 tsp salt
- the juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
- 4 full sheets of fresh pasta, cut, if necessary, to fit your baking pan (You can also use no-boil noodles)
- 1 batch fresh ricotta (see recipe below)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 10-12 plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- olive oil
- Italian seasoning
- salt and fresh pepper
- 1 large jar of plain tomato sauce
- 1 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 2 balls of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced or shredded
- 1 large bunch fresh basil
- Freshly grated Parmesan
- Put the milk and salt in a heavy bottomed pot and heat until almost boiling over medium heat. You will see bubbles starting to roil under the surface. If your milk actually boils, that's ok, just take it off the heat and continue.
- Stir in the lemon juice and set the pan off the heat. Let it sit for a minute; the curds will start to form immediately.
- Gently scoop out the curds into a cheesecloth lined strainer set over a bowl to catch the excess liquid. As you scoop, more curds will be forming. Be sure to get all the curds...the remaining liquid will be thin and watery.
- Turn the drained ricotta out from the cheesecloth into a bowl, and it's ready to use or store.
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- If you are using frozen pasta sheets, open them and let them thaw on the counter, they thaw quickly.
- Put the cloves of garlic (skin on) and the tomatoes cut side up on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Roast them in the hot oven for about 1/2 hour or until they are shrunken and well roasted. When done, turn the oven down to 350.
- Put the tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Squeeze the pulp out of the garlic cloves and add them to the tomatoes. Pulse the mixture until roughly pureed.
- Pour the bottled tomato sauce into a bowl and add the roasted tomato mixture, the hot pepper flakes, and wine to it. Stir to blend and salt to taste. Set aside.
- Take the ricotta and blend it with the beaten egg and 1 tsp salt. Set aside.
- Ladle a little of the sauce on the bottom of your lasagna baker and spread it out. Lay 1 pasta sheet on top. Spread or dollop 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over the pasta and lay out basil leaves to cover the layer. Ladle sauce on top, covering the entire layer. Add 1/4 of the mozzerella, and spread out evenly.
- Top with the second sheet of pasta and, using a spatula, press it down evenly so it is as flat as possible. Layer it the same way, starting with the ricotta and basil, then sauce, then mozzerella. Remember to flatten out each pasta sheet as you go.
- Layer the third sheet and finally top the lasagna with the fourth sheet of pasta. Ladle a layer of sauce over the entire top, add the last 1/4 of mozzerella, and top liberally with grated Parmesan. You want this to be fairly 'saucy', but not drowning in it. I had a bit leftover. Cover loosely with non-stick foil and put in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. Take off the foil and bake another 10 minutes until bubbling throughout.