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Lasagne during the holidays is a tradition in my family, and one I dread. I'd like to take the lasagne cooking reigns this year and kick the heirloom recipe (tomato paste, hamburger, cottage cheese) to the curb.

I'm ideally looking for a dish that doesn't involve tomatoes (I love tomatoes more than any other fruit when they're fresh, but don't like them canned or gassed). I'm open to suggestion, though, so if you have a red sauce recipe you think is worth it, I'd love to hear it.

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  1. blkery, have you ever tried a red pepper (sweet bell) sauce? That you can make from fresh produce. Sometimes I make it for pasta; obviously, not tomato, but good in its own right.

    1. My new favorite is eggplant lasagne (no pasta). It has tomato, but is so much lighter and tastier. No one seems to miss the pasta at all!

      1 Reply
        1. The bolognese has some tomato in it but it is background flavor versu a ragu.


          1. Cooks Illustrated did a mushroom lasagna a few years back that was fantastic.


            I made it and served it with some expensive Italian sausages on the side for the meat portion of the dinner and it was incredible.


            1. Firstly, something that I've found makes an incredible world of difference is using fresh pasta sheets rather than dried. I've seen them at most Whole Foods and many Trader Joes. The frozen ones work fine too, they just need to be defrosted so the process takes longer. Lots of thin layers rather than much larger thick ones. I make a quick bechamel sauce, roux + milk, little pinch of nutmeg. I love tomato sauce in my lasagne, so I usually alternate layers. A layer of bechamel with spinach leaves, then a layer thinly spread with ricotta, i usually include slices of sweet italian sausage, and then thin layer of tomato sauce (I don't usually bother to make this, I just buy good quality jarred but obviously this can be omitted). Repeat until I run out of space for layers. Top with rest of bechamel, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and bake!

              1. I would recommend a mushroom ragu, per Davwud's response. It's seasonal, and not as outre as some other things that get done to lasagne. I think it's generally a *big* mistake to alter hallowed holiday foods too much: people bring major expectations to these meals, and get sorely dissappointed when they are screwed with.

                Don't use regular dried lasagne sheets: either use fresh (lasagne is probably the easiest fresh pasta to make yourself) or no-boil (Barilla has a silkier texture, more like fresh, than Ronzoni); be sure to use recipes designed for the type of noodle you will use, as each type will absorb different amounts of liquid, and you risk failure if you try to mix and match recipes.

                1. I recenlty did a roasted butternut squash lasagna and loved it - this was my inspiration (although I didn't follow it to the t, I used what I had):

                  1. I buy egg roll wrappers, frozen, at the Asian market and use that for my lasagna pasta. I blanch each sheet before adding to the lasagna.

                    One could conceivably stew some pumpkin in an intense beefy/oniony stock, and use that in your (otherwise traditional) lasagna in lieu of tomatoes. I must say I concur with others who said that *some* tomato is essential.

                    I always have a Bechamel layer (or three) in my lasagna. The egg whites are beaten to a froth before adding ricotta and shredded asiago for the cheese layer (I add the yolks with the cheese). The meat layer is really luxurious if you stew some chuck until you can fork it apart and use the shredded braised meat instead of ground beef.

                    Good luck!

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: shaogo

                      I use these as well as I have yet to tackle fresh pasta...some day though...

                      1. re: shaogo

                        Wow, that sounds like a pain. I just use fresh sheets, don't bother to cut, except to fit the pan. Don't bother to par cook, either, again, another extra step. I also like to use Ina Garten Portobello Mushroom Lasagne that uses a bechamel sauce instead of a red sauce. I usually assemble it overnight, and let it sit. Use extra sauce, and it won't be dry. Cover when baking. Always gets raves.

                        1. re: Phurstluv

                          The Ina Garten recipe is total killer. You have to love mushrooms, of course, but if you do you will go crazy.

                          1. re: Nyleve

                            I know, isn't it wonderful? I think I get more requests for that one, than the usual meat sauce version.

                        2. re: shaogo

                          why eggroll wraps instead of pasta sheets? you can run pasta sheets through a pasta maker to make them thinner, or even use a rolling pin.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            Not sure about Shaogo, but for me since I haven't tried from scratch it is at least a step up from dried.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              I'm embarassed to say that I couldn't tell you *where* I'd go to get pasta sheets. Whole Foods? My restaurant supplier?

                              I *do* make fresh pasta with my pasta rolling machine -- and love the way it comes out. But sometimes I'm too lazy to make the dough, and let it rest. Lazy, lazy, lazy -- sloth, thy name is shaogo!

                              1. re: shaogo

                                It's okay, friend, we all need to take short cuts when we can!! If it works for you, then all the better!!

                                1. re: shaogo

                                  i never make pasta from scratch, lol. too much bother, but i have easy access to the stuff when i want it. but the egg roll wraps aren't durum flour, are they?

                                  1. re: shaogo

                                    I make my own, too, but have seen it at Costco on occasion and wondered how it is.

                              2. Thanks everyone, this is all immensely helpful. The Cooks Illustrated mushroom lasagne is especially enticing. I've never made a lasagna with true bechamel before; is it possible to make the whole thing ahead?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: blkery

                                  I haven't but I'm sure it'll be fine. You have some time. Maybe you can do a test lasagna.


                                  1. re: Davwud

                                    It's always best to test a recipe before presenting it at a major gathering to which people bring much expectation.

                                    1. re: Davwud

                                      you can make bechamel ahead and keep it in the fridge.

                                      if not using tomatoes, i would definitely do a bechamel. i've done a "white" one, with mushrooms, bechamel, ricotta, mozz, parm and goat cheese, with copious amounts of garlic confit. it gets hoovered by guests every time.

                                  2. Since it is the holidays, why not consider a seafood lasagna? You could do layers of whatever seafood you like (I've used a combination of scallops, shrimp & salmon) alternated with sauteed shallots, garlic, carrots, spinach, mushrooms. Use the bechamel in between the layers and to top it off. I like to add a little cooked bacon on top to give it some crunch; garnish with fresh basil. There is never any of this left when I serve it.

                                    1 Reply