The first time I made ricotta cheese, it was a mistake. I was trying to make mozzarella, but for whatever reason my cheese never came together. When I tasted the curds, I realized that what I had was a really creamy ricotta-ish cheese. Now I make it whenever I have some milk nearing its toss-out date.
Fresh ricotta's fine for baking, but for this recipe I wanted to highlight the flavor and creaminess of the just-made cheese. This lasagna isn't served hot and gooey from the oven – it relies on the warm noodles and roasted tomatoes for warmth, though it's a fine idea to heat under the broiler before serving, to melt the mozzarella.
It's great served warm or at room temperature, but as with any fresh pasta, it doesn't refrigerate particularly well. If you don't have a pasta roller, don't have time to make fresh pasta, and can't find any fresh lasagna noodles, use the oven-ready sheets and boil until tender (the ruffled pasta is a bit thick for this recipe – the more delicate oven-ready sheets work better here).
Makes four approximately 4" squares of lasagna. —lizb
fresh lemon juice
distilled white vinegar
chopped garlic, about 6-8 cloves
salt and pepper to taste
loosly packed basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
toasted pine nuts
fresh ricotta, recipe above
fresh mozzarella, sliced
In This Recipe
Line a colander with cheesecloth or food safe paper towels and put in the sink.
Heat the milk and salt in a non-reactive pot over medium heat until it reaches 165 degrees, or until it starts to bubble around the edges.
Add the lemon juice and vinegar and stir until the milk separates into curds and whey. Scoop the curds into the colander and let drain for 15-20 minutes, until you have a soft, moist cheese, but firm enough that it holds it's shape. Less like cottage cheese, more like soft goat cheese. It will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Begin by making the pasta. Combine the flour and salt in food processor, and pulse once or twice. Add egg and process until a ball begins to form, about 30 seconds. Knead by hand (with a little flour if necessary) for a minute or two. You want a not-sticky, firm dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes
While the dough rests, slice the tomatoes into 1/4-1/2" slices. Toss with the olive oil, garlic, and a generous helping of salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast the tomatoes 35 minutes.
Make the pesto. Combine the basil, salt, garlic, nuts and about half the oil in a food processor. Process, adding the rest of the oil gradually. You may not want to use all the oil, or you may prefer a little more. Stir in the parmesan and set aside.
Roll out the pasta. Cut the ball in half and press each half down with your hand. Feed each half of the pasta roller starting on the largest setting, going down to the smallest setting. Cut each sheet into thirds.
At this point, the tomatoes probably have about 10 minutes left, so heat a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles for three minutes and drain well.
When the tomatoes are done, turn on the broiler and assemble the lasagna. On a baking sheet put down a little oil, so the lasagna won't stick. Place one of the pieces of pasta on the oil. Spread a tablespoon or so of the pesto on the pasta, top with a couple of tablespoons of the ricotta, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a generous helping of tomatoes and garlic. Top with another piece of pasta and repeat. Top with a third piece of pasta and spread another tablespoon of pesto. Top the lasagna with 1/2 of the mozzarella. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Put under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, until the cheese melts.