Three-Cheese Lasagna

Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

Three cheeses and three layers. Mangiamo!

I was going to call this recipe “Three-Cheese, Three-Layer Lasagna with Burnt Marinara.” What? you might ask. Let me explain.

Robin makes a wonderful marinara sauce that takes a couple of hours to reduce down and is amazing. Is it burnt? Kinda-sorta. Maybe. I prefer to say it is slow-roasted on the stovetop. This is something her mother taught her to do many moons ago. I’d never had anything like it until she made it for me 35 years ago. It is the perfect sauce for my three-cheese lasagna.

Now, something about three cheeses and three layers. You may have seen recipes for lasagna with Parmesan, mozzarella and ricotta cheeses. I use an aged Parmigiano-Reggiano instead of the finely grated parmesan packaged in the grocery store’s grab-and-go tub. I also like Provolone because its flavor and texture are the perfect complement to the Parmigiano-Reggiano and mozzarella cheeses.

If you can’t find or don’t want to use a nice, aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, use whatever parmesan you like. But try it, at least this once, with a good quality Parmigiano-Reggiano. It makes a big difference in taste.

This recipe makes a bunch of lasagna, but not to worry. If you and your tribe don’t polish it all off in one sitting, it is just as tasty when reheated the next day. Or cut it into serving sizes that suit you and your family, freeze, and bring it out for dinner a week or two later. They’ll wonder why you didn’t bring it out sooner!

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup onion (chopped fine)
4 cloves garlic (peeled and minced)
6 ounces tomato paste
2  26-ounce boxes Pomi strained tomatoes
12 lasagna noodles (cook according to package directions)
6 ounces fresh baby spinach
6 ounces sun-dried tomato strips (not in oil)
9 slices mozzarella cheese
9 slices Provolone cheese
2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (grated fine)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir, and cook for another 3 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook this thick onion/garlic/tomato paste for about 5 minutes while stirring occasionally. Add Pomi, stir to combine and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover, remove from heat and set aside.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the noodles. Bring a large pot of water (add a pinch of salt) to boil and cook the noodles according to package directions. Remove the noodles from the water and lay out on a clean towel. Cover with another towel and set aside.

Spread 1/3 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Layer 3 of the noodles over the sauce (trim to fit the length of the pan if necessary). Spread another 1/3 cup sauce on top of the noodles. Make a layer of spinach on top and layer the sundried tomatoes on top of that. Layer the 9 slices of mozzarella on top. This completes the first layer.

Create the second layer by layering 3 noodles on top of the first layer. Spread another 1/3 cup sauce on top of the noodles. Make a layer of spinach on top and layer the 9 slices of Provolone on top of that. This completes the second layer.

Create the third layer using another 3 noodles. Spread another 1/3 cup sauce on top of the noodles. Make a layer of spinach on top and sprinkle 1½ cups of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top of that. Layer with the last 3 noodles and spread another 1/3 cup sauce on top. This completes the layers.

Cover and bake for 45 minutes. Remove cover, sprinkle remaining grated Parmigiano-Reggiano over the top and return uncovered to the oven. Bake for another 15 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool for approximately 10 minutes before serving.

About Valley Vegetarian

The fresh chef providing consistently good vegetarian comfort food recipes.
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