3 April 2013

Liberated Free Form Lasagna with Arugula-Basil Pesto and Roasted Tomato Sauce For Two

Liberated Lasagna with Arugula-Basil Pesto and Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce For Two
I think it would be safe to say that we all have recipes on our culinary bucket lists from magazines, treasured cookbooks, folders on our computers, or even in recipe index boxes that we have every intention of preparing in our kitchens...one of these days. Our lists get longer, the seasons change and we have short term memory lapses. I am guilty as charged. Some time ago, maybe even a few years ago,  I had an "Aha" moment when I came across a recipe for a free-form lasagna from a friend of mine. When visiting friends in Vancouver last summer I purchased a package of Striped Lasagna Primavera sheets from Borgo de' Medici Pasta factory in Tuscany from an Italian market. But it has taken until today for all the stars to line up and this dish to come to fruition. What was my inspiration? Why today? It was more of a use up what you have in the refrigerator kind of a day. I had tomatoes, arugula, basil and a well stocked pantry and a longing for the hot, lazy days of summer.

In this in-between season tomatoes are more like ping pong balls than the sun-kissed visions we long for and are just as flavourless. While I was puttering around the house today I tucked a pan of store-bought tomatoes into the oven, came back 45 minutes later, and had a peak. Roasting concentrates and caramelizes the flavour of cherry tomatoes. The roasted tomatoes become a versatile ingredient, perfect for tossing into pasta or salads, layering on sandwiches, or just using as a terrific side dish for grilled or roasted meats. They keep in the refrigerator for a week (or longer, if you can manage not to eat them all first), and you can freeze them, too. We can certainly use this method this time of year while we are longing for warmer weather. We need to be patient just a little longer for sun-ripened tomatoes; mother nature needs time. Their intense flavour was perfect for this free form lasagna. I roasted them with some herbs, garlic and onion and blended them into an unctuous sauce saving a few for a pop of a garnish on top. The recipe below is for 2, so, you will have some leftover tomato sauce, so, perhaps add diced olives or capers, and spoon it over sautéed or baked chicken breasts; thin with broth, water, or heavy cream for a hot soup; or drizzle over broiled seasonal halibut.

The cooked lasagna noodles are cut into squares, brushed lightly with basil-arugula pesto and layered with this intensely flavoured roasted tomato sauce. Add a few slices of moist buffalo mozzarella cheese,  a quick trip into a hot oven on individual plates, and out comes these gorgeous dishes, the epitome of rustic elegance. That is the basic template since you are limited only by your imagination. For your own twist on this twist layer your noodles with lightly grilled zucchini or eggplant, roasted and peeled red peppers, wild mushrooms, or cooked winter squash, crumbled Italian sausage; the possibilities are endless.

But wait, you're saying, that's not lasagna. Well, in my home it will be from now on throughout the summer months. It's quick, it's easy and is open to any interpretation.  As you all know a traditional lasagna is an all afternoon affair from the making of the lovingly cooked ragù to the white sauce or "besciamella." From there you need to layer and bake, and allow it to cool slightly before you dig in. But strip away some of the lushness, pare the dish down to its essentials, and something new appears. You'll find that this lighter touch lets each ingredient shine through.

This looks like a large portion, but the size of the plate is deceiving. 

**Liberated Lasagna with Arugula-Basil Pesto and Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce**
from the More Than Burnt Toast Kitchen

6 sheets of lasagne noodles
1 large ball buffalo mozzarella cheese, cut in 1/4-inch thick slices (or use barrata)
1/4 cup Arugula-Basil Pesto (recipe below)
1 cup Roasted Tomato Sauce (recipe below)
Pecorino Romano cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350F. Cook lasagna sheets according to package directions. On an ovenproof plate create alternate layers starting with cooked pasta sheets, arugula-basil pesto, slices of buffalo mozzarella and roasted tomato sauce and ending with pesto. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, just enough to melt mozzarella. Sprinkle with grated Romano. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

**Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce**

1 pound red cherry tomatoes
1 pound yellow cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F.

In a large, glass baking dish, toss the tomatoes with the oil, onion, garlic, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes (if using), salt, and pepper. Roast until the tomatoes are tender, stirring occasionally, 45 minutes to an hour. Remove from the oven and add the basil, parsley, and oregano. Transfer mixture (including juices) to a blender; pulse several times, until smooth, (alternatively use a stick or immersion blender).

**Arugula and Basil Pesto**

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves
2 generous handfuls (loosely packed) fresh arugula
1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons lukewarm water

Place 1/2 cup oil basil leaves, arugula, Romano cheese, pine nuts, garlic, and  lemon zest in processor. Process to a thick paste. With motor running, add remaining 1/4 cup oil and 2 tablespoons water to processor. Blend until smooth. Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. If so, pour a thin layer of oil over pesto; cover and chill.)

Layers of creamy buffalo mozzarella, pesto and roasted tomato sauce
You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
Best Blogger Tips


  1. This has to be the prettiest lasagna I've EVER seen!

  2. I don't often feel like making a huge lasagna for just two people, so this free-form version is perfect! Total comfort food.

  3. "liberated" hahaha

    Love, love, love this ... pinning!

    1. The idea for the recipe came from one you posted back in 2011 Joan, hence the link back to your site.

    2. So funny, I didn't even notice that. Yours looks sooooooo much better. I'd like to think I've improved my plating and photography since then too. :)

    3. The link is a little hidden. I'd say we have both improved in our writing, our photography and in my case in the kitchen. You have worked very hard on your photography Joan and it shows in spades.

  4. Absolutely beautiful and surely delicious, since it is full of my favourite things. I have made a free-form version with burrata cheese in the past, but am going to try your version as well. Soon!

  5. Peek a boo..under those beautiful sheets..Oh my I will have to try one day! Love that pasta:)

    I have long ones..like this..And the colors stay so nice..My daughter gave me black and white bow ties at Easter..wonder if they will stay so nice too!

  6. The colour does stay beautifully Monique. They have twirled ones and bow ties too. I haven't tried the black and white ones yet.

  7. This caught my eye immediately Val! The colors are beautiful, it's nice and light and just perfect for summer, but I would have it now if I could find those sheets, I have seen the twisted and bow ties but never this! Love it!

  8. I love it "Liberated Lasagna!" It looks beautiful. What a perfect dish for the upcoming warmer months! Brava!

  9. Gorgeous is right! Wow, Val, this is a spectacular dish. I love your simplified version of lasagna. I can't wait to try this. I have never seen pasta like that and hope I can find something similar. Beautiful.

  10. I love it. I have a bag of this pasta but bow ties and still in pantry waiting for inspiration which I just got...LOL

  11. How can anyone say, "not lasagna"? The word lasagne simply refers to the style of noodle. Broad flat noodles with curly edges are called lasagne (plural, lasagna singular). In fact, if you are using vegetables or tortillas instead of noodles,then it's not lasagne!

    This looks lovely. Some of my favorite ingredients. There is a great restaurant in NYC called Lasagna that specializes in doing little individual baked dishes like this. Some people might call it inauthentic, but the noodles are correct!

  12. The striped noodles look beautiful! The entire plate of lasagna has me drooling. It's pretty and it looks absolutely delicious.

  13. What a grand idea. I love lasagna but rarely make it because it is too much for just two people. This is a perfect solution. Love it!!! Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  14. One of my favorite 'summer' lasagnes is just layers of pureed summer tomatoes, lots of basil leaves and fresh mozzarella - barely warmed (the noodles cooked first, of course). This looks delicious - I love the stripes!

  15. I love the idea of 'liberating' lasagna :) I've seen that gorgeous striped pasta in pappardelle-sized shapes but never those lovely big sheets. Beautiful!

  16. I'm trying to get better about making dishes from my "bucket list"

  17. i love the use of the word liberated here--how clever! it's a gorgeous and appetizing plate, val!

  18. I recognized these rainbow noodles from my last trip to Tuscany. These rainbow lasagna noodles are so vibrant and pretty just like your lasagna which is much more lighter and fresher than traditional lasagna. Your pesto and arugula sauce sound divine. You are making me miss Italy. Chow, BAM

  19. This looks yum!! I love making pasta with stripes, not that difficult if you have a pasta machine! And when the pasta looks good an open lasagna is a must!


  20. Wow. That is totally smashing, Val. Those colors and flavors. Amazing dish.

  21. I love the pasta sheets that you used - this looks lovely!

  22. ah Val this look absolutely beautiful!!

  23. Wow! Val! The most beautiful and simplified lasagna I've ever seen! This is such a cool post! I can't wait to play with that pesto recipe too!

  24. Umm. I just found my dinner for tomorrow night.

  25. What a gorgeous pasta! Thanks for being a part of the YBR this month.:)


Welcome to my home. Thank you for choosing to stay a while and for sharing our lives through food. I appreciate all your support, comments, suggestions, and daily encouragement.


This blog uses comment moderation therefore SPAMMERS, SELF-PROMOTERS and ADVERTISERS will be deleted.