Thousand Layer Lasagna with Garlic Bread Baked in Parchment
As Heidi says, "Imagine dozens and dozens of whisper-thin sheets of fresh pasta brushed with the most vibrant red tomato sauce imaginable sandwiched between layer after layer of warm, oozy, fresh mozzarella. Where the sauce and cheese and pasta touch the pan in the corners, everything gets crunchy and caramelized." This is definitely the best lasagna I have made lately and I hope that sometime over the holidays when you have had your fill of turkey and all the trimmings you will give it a shot. I will even fight you for a corner piece, but not before I wish you a Merry Christmas!
For many of us one of the very first blogs we ever came across in our wanderlust years was 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson. In fact one of the very first recipes I ever came across back in 2006 (when my own blog began) was for her Thousand Layer Lasagna. So why has it taken me all of these years to turn this out in my own kitchen here at More Than Burnt Toast. I would have to say I have no excuse at all. It is easy to prepare and in my humble opinion arguably the best lasagna to ever grace this kitchen.
You could certainly make your own fresh pasta but store bought pasta sheets rolled out whisper thin are a quicker alternative and require less commitment, patience and time. You shave a few hours off the procedure if you purchase storebought lasagna sheets. Mine came from my local Italian grocers which in truth gave me the idea to recreate this lasagna after all these years! Make sure the pasta sheets you buy are fresh and moist. You still need to run those fresh lasagna sheets through a pasta machine a few times to achieve the thinnest and most delicate sheets possible, but, if you don't have a pasta machine (they are actually quite affordable!), try a rolling pin. It is not quite the same, but will thin out the sheets somewhat. Using fresh pasta sheets also enables you to skip the pre-boil step in the original recipe altogether. Just add a "tad" more sauce to the layers.
Part of the magic comes from the baklava-like layering of the sheets and partly from using Marcella Hazan's Infamous Tomato Sauce to keep it all moist and flavourful. For the sauce itself its very simplicity holds the secret. It has 3 ingredients, and requires no preparation so lock your knives in the kitchen cupboards! Add garlic, and Italian oregano, if you are so inclined (for this lasagna I would highly recommend it). This is a show-stopping, voluptuous sauce that has us all drooling at the mere mention of its name. The sauce bubbles away and the butter separates and creates pockets of flavour. The butter bolsters the sweetness of the tomatoes and balances their acidic edges, while the halved onion simmering slowly in the sauce, lends a subtle, savoury note. The onion is meant to be discarded but my adopted imaginary nonna cooking alongside me wouldn't allow it and true to my imaginary Italian roots no ingredient shall be wasted, so, I enjoyed it's buttery mouthwatering lusciousness chopped up in my lasagna.
Add additional layers of buffalo mozzarella, a blend of shredded provolone and mozzarella, fresh basil leaves for a little added flavour or even some Parmesan if you like for a sumptuous lasagna that is sure to please your guests. Like the bubbling pot of well-balanced sauce the aromas coming from the kitchen teased and tantalized and I was not disappointed! I served this lasagna with a tossed salad and garlic bread baked in parchment paper, a recipe from Jamie Oliver below.
**Thousand Layer Lasagna **
heavily based on a recipe from 101 Cookbooks
- 1 pound fresh egg pasta sheets (or make some from scratch)
- butter to prep baking dish
- 1 recipe Marcella Hazans Infamous Tomato Sauce
- 3 (4-ounce) balls of fresh Buffalo mozzarella, torn up into pieces
- a large handful of basil leaves
- 1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella and provolone
- freshly grated Parmesan (optional)
Make your sauce.
Lavishly butter a deep, square baking dish. The one I use is 9x9 and 2 1/2-inches deep.
Thin out your pasta using a pasta machine. Start by cutting the big sheets into 2-inch(ish) wide ribbons. This means making 2 cuts along the sheets. This should yield you about 12 2-foot strips. Run them through the pasta machine. I go to the 8 setting, one shy of the very thinnest setting. The sheets should almost be translucent. Cut the strips into manageable rectangles roughly 4-inches in length.
Pull it all together. Ladle a bit of the sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover the bottom with a layer of pasta sheets. Now a thin layer of sauce, fresh basil and a bit of cheese. Go for another layer of pasta, then sauce, then cheese...and so on. Alternate cheese layers by using buffalo mozzarella and shredded cheeses. Keep going until you have used up all the sauce and pasta. You want to finish with a layer of pasta. Top with the last of the sauce and the very last of the cheese so you have a nice cheesy top.
Bake until everything is melted and fragrant, 35 minutes or so. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving, so everything has a chance to set up a bit. Dust with parmesan and a bit of basil.
**Garlic Bread Baked in Parchment**
Here’s another easy recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 30-minute meals. This one is quick to assemble and quite forgiving in terms of timings (the ‘water on the wrapping’ technique ensures the bread does not dry out)....which means you can afford to be a little forgetful about it once in the oven.
Slice a large ciabatta lengthwise, making sure you do not go all the way through the bottom crust! Now cut crosswise at 3 cm intervals...again, making sure you don’t go all the way through. Scrunch up a large piece of greaseproof paper under the tap and then lay flat on your counter. Place your ciabatta on the paper. Sprinkle a small bunch of finely chopped parsley all over the ciabatta (including under). Drizzle olive oil over (and inside) the ciabatta. Scatter 3-4 finely chopped garlic cloves between the slices. Season with sea salt and pepper. Seal up the package quite well and place in a hot oven 350F.
The ciabatta should be ready in about 20 minutes. You can probably delay taking it out of the oven for another 20 minutes by reducing the temperature down to 300F -keeping the bread warm and toasty.
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