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Lasagna sans Ricotta?

boyzoma Oct 16, 2010 10:34 PM

DH loves lasagna. Unfortunately I don't like ricotta. It's a texture thing. Would love to see if someone has a really good recipe that would satisfy both our taste buds. We're anxiously awaiting some recipe's. He suggested I ask CH's. There has to be some meat sauce. Help me Obi-wans!

  1. a
    andieb Nov 16, 2010 09:38 AM

    Hi Boyzoma- A little late, but I just stumbled across this recipe:
    http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/al... It really does sound good!

    1. free sample addict aka Tracy L Nov 8, 2010 07:50 PM

      I don't like ricotta in lasagna either. Like others have sad a good bechamel is unbeatable. For me it can bring a lot elements together w/out being overpowering or underwhelming. The lasagna that converted me to ricotta free lasagna:

      http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

      1. boyzoma Nov 8, 2010 06:11 AM

        Well I thought I should report back as I made Lasagna last night. First of all, DH loved it. I did as well. I used some of DH's spaghetti sauce we had in the freezer for the meat sauce, then made a bechamel sauce with Parmesan cheese. I put some meat sauce in the bottom, then layered pasta, meat sauce, bechamel sauce, grated mozzarella. I made it up earlier in the day and then just popped it in the oven to reheat through and brown the cheese. Such a difference than eating with ricotta. I need to thank all who responded to my request. I will continue to try different tweaks as suggested. Success!!!!!!!

        2 Replies
        1. re: boyzoma
          c oliver Nov 8, 2010 07:48 AM

          Since I've started making Hazan's green lasagne I could never go back to the heavy, ricotta etc. version. I describe it as rich but not heavy. I think I have at least a pack of Bolognese in the freezer and we got our first (little bit of) snow last night. I should make some soon. Thanks for reporting back.

          1. re: boyzoma
            nomadchowwoman Nov 8, 2010 10:01 AM

            Bravo, boyzoma!

          2. i
            Isolda Oct 17, 2010 05:40 PM

            I have a redaction of a late medieval (14th cent) recipe for a lasagna ("loysyns" in my book) that is nothing more than sheets of pasta layered with cheese. I have never made this recipe because I'm not a big gooey cheese fan, but after reading it, I realized that I was free to make lasagna without ricotta and even without too much cheese. It is really nothing more than sheets of pasta layered with sauce. And no, you don't have to make the pasta unless you want to. I buy fresh lasagna sheets at whole foods, but also have good luck cooking dry sheets right off the shelf. I've done a butternut squash lasagna with bechamel seasoned with a little nutmeg and parmesan cheese, a vegan tofu lasagna with roasted red peppers (the tofu is kind of like ricotta) and a lamb lasagna. None of these contained ricotta.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Isolda
              c
              cacio e pepe Oct 17, 2010 05:50 PM

              That's fascinating! I *do* think that lasagne is always about the pasta first and last, which that 14th century recipe seems to attest to.

              For me at least, once I tried a lasagne with fresh pasta there was no way I could go back to the dried sheets. Way too thick to get that heavenly texture that comes from layering several very-thin sheets of the fresh stuff.

            2. d
              DishDelish Oct 17, 2010 04:33 PM

              I looked up authentic Italian recipe sites and found this one which is a new favorite of mine: http://www.italianfoodforever.com/ I posted a few of the delicious (no ricotta) recipes on this site. I am getting so hungry after reading them. I hope this helps! :

              )

              http://www.italianfoodforever.com/iff2008/index.php?
              UmbrianLasagna: http://www.italianfoodforever.com/iff2008/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4032:umbrianlasagna&catid=90:cdfreshpastabaked&Itemid=65

              Lasagna Bolognese: http://www.italianfoodforever.com/iff2008/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=341:lasagnabolognese&catid=90:cdfreshpastabaked&Itemid=65

              Nonna's Lasagna: http://www.italianfoodforever.com/iff2008/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=128:nonnaslasagna&catid=90:cdfreshpastabaked&Itemid=65

              Spinach Goat Cheese Lasagna:
              http://www.italianfoodforever.com/iff...

              Buon Appetito!

              -DD

              1. nomadchowwoman Oct 17, 2010 04:02 PM

                I never put ricotta (or cottage cheese) in my lasagne. I do a few variations (all of which are pretty high-calorie, but, hey, it's lasagne)--bolognese, chicken-mushroom, and two other mushroom versions (one w/wild mushrooms and a bit of prosciutto and another plainer mushroom version w/a mix of buttons and whatever others are available).

                The bolognese, which is DH'sfavorite is very rich, layered w/thick bolognese sauce made w/veal and pork, fresh mozzarella, and a paste made from cream and grated parmigiano (which is spread over the top and seeps down into the dish as it bakes.

                For the chicken-mushroom and the vegetarian mushroom versions, I use very cheesy bechamel (I add about 2 cups grated parmigiano and/or pecorino romano to the bechamel). And the wild-mushroom version simply has lots of grated cheese sprinkled over the mushroom ragu that's layered between the pasta and then a little cream is poured over the top.

                So, yes, boyzoma you can make (delicious) lasagne w/out ricotta. (My mother always has; the only cheese in her lasagne is the pre-packaged part-skim mozzarella sold in the dairy section. We always love it.)

                2 Replies
                1. re: nomadchowwoman
                  boyzoma Oct 17, 2010 04:20 PM

                  Nomadchowwoman - so I could use my regular meat sauce, add a layer of your cheesy bechamel and then sprinkle some grated mozz. on each layer? This is sounding so good. DH is open to options, but he does like his cheese. :-)

                  1. re: boyzoma
                    nomadchowwoman Oct 17, 2010 08:15 PM

                    Oh, absolutely.

                2. g
                  GertieHound Oct 17, 2010 03:06 PM

                  You don't mention if the two of you like it made with cottage cheese? I really prefer ricotta if I am actually making lasagna, but I have run into others that don't like the texture. Sometimes it is just a matter of there being way too thick layer of ricotta and nothing has been done but blob it on there. Whether using ricotta or cottage cheese, I first chop up a mix of Italian fresh herbs, whatever comes to hand, just no basil as it doesn't seem to do well in there. I usually make my lasagna in the large classic pyrex baking dish. I use only the small container of ricotta or cottage cheese, I think it contains 8 oz. I will mix that with about half a cup freshly grated parm, two tablespoons of herbs and spices - usually heavy on fresh parsley, plus oregano, leaf or two of sage, bit of thyme, little rosemary, plus sprinkle of paprika, marjoram, and savory from the spice rack. Mix that up with an egg, which helps to smooth it a little, then layer pasta, a thin spread of the mix, marinara, meat (I never cook it in my sauce as I make a vat of marinara and can or freeze for all our pasta happiness), mozzarella.

                  If I am using cottage cheese, I just drop it in the food processor with the herbs and a few odd ends of parm too small to hold on to for grating and process up nicely. You can also add 3/4 cup of a less firm tofu to this mix, or just use the tofu and no ricotta or cottage cheese at all. I've got a friend that can't eat dairy that likes the tofu, and another friend that does the low carbs thing who likes hers made with the tofu cottage cheese mix, usually with eggplant in place of the pasta.

                  The mix herbs into the ricotta thing is an Italian friend's "family secret" and I really find it adds so much to lasagna.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: GertieHound
                    boyzoma Oct 17, 2010 04:17 PM

                    Good question on the cottage cheese. I can eat it all by it's self (but not very often), but can't stand it in anything baked. Just call me weird. Hope that helps answer the c.c. question.

                  2. w
                    walker Oct 17, 2010 03:02 PM

                    I, too, love Hazan's lasagna -- if it's too much work for you to make the fresh pasta, just use her recipe and sub boiled lasagna noodles or the Barrilla no boil ones.

                    One idea: could you make one side of the pan with a ricotta layer for him and have the other side the way you prefer?

                    1. l
                      lidia Oct 17, 2010 10:37 AM

                      This cookbook has a ton of variety:
                      http://www.amazon.com/Lasagne-More-Tr...

                      1. boyzoma Oct 17, 2010 10:07 AM

                        Wow, everybody. These are some great suggestions. I'm definitely going to have to try some of these. I've never seen lasagna without ricotta, so this is really helpful. I'm going to have to experiment. We went out to a little Italian restaurant and DH had lasagna, but it also had ricotta in it. This will be fun! DH makes a mean spaghetti sauce with ground sirloin, italian sausage, peppers of all colors, onion, garlic, etc. and I could probably use that for the meat sauce.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: boyzoma
                          c oliver Oct 17, 2010 10:11 AM

                          You might like this photo of Hazan's Green Lasagne.

                          1. re: boyzoma
                            c
                            cheesemonger Oct 17, 2010 10:14 AM

                            late to the game, but I also never make my lasagna with ricotta- I do use lots of mozz (buffalo mozz, but I always have access to short-dated product). I make a meat sauce with italian sausage and layer with pasta sheets, spinach, mozz, and top with parm.

                          2. biondanonima Oct 17, 2010 09:35 AM

                            My mother's recipe can be used with or without ricotta - she never used ricotta when I was growing up, and although I prefer it with, it's quite good without. She made a meat sauce with 1.5 lbs of hamburger, onion, garlic, a can of tomato paste, red wine, water and various dried italian herbs. A little meat sauce on the bottom of the 9x13 pan, then 3 cooked noodles (I wouldn't use the no boil kind here, there isn't enough moisture to cook them properly), sauce, then a generous handful of shredded mozzarella. Repeat twice (three noodle layers) so you finish with mozzarella cheese (I use about 2 lbs of cheese for a single lasagna, but I am a cheese wh*re - mom used less, maybe 1 lb). Put some parmesan on the top layer and bake. It's definitely not authentic Italian, but it's good.

                            I also second the motion for traditional lasagna bolognese - we had some last night that I made using the leftovers of my Hazan vs. Batali bolognese sauce cookoff and it was GOOOOOOOOOOOOD.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: biondanonima
                              b
                              bear Nov 8, 2010 06:21 AM

                              Did you post your thoughts on the Batali vs. Hazan bolognese? Sounds fun.

                              1. re: bear
                                biondanonima Nov 8, 2010 08:23 AM

                                I did on another thread, but I can certainly summarize here - both my husband and I preferred the Batali version by a narrow margin when served over fresh tagliatelle. There was a touch too much acidity for us in the Hazan version, which makes sense as her recipe has a much higher ratio of wine to meat than Batali's (both recipes call for a cup of wine, but his has 2lbs of meat to her less than 1lb). Hers also uses tomatoes rather than tomato paste, which added to the brightness. My husband also felt that the nutmeg was out of place in her recipe (I liked it though). These were subtle differences though - honestly, I'd be happy to eat either recipe, anyplace, any time! However, when I make it at home I will stick with Batali.

                                I should probably have made two separate lasagnes to use the leftovers so that I could compare the sauces in that form as well, but there really wasn't enough of the Hazan recipe left so I just mixed them together. There was just enough Hazan to perk up the overall flavor, and I think the brightness of her sauce was good in the lasagne because it stood up well to the besciamella.

                                1. re: biondanonima
                                  b
                                  bear Nov 8, 2010 09:49 AM

                                  Thanks so much. Sounds like they are both worth it. I avoid making meat sauce since it brings me back to 1960's bland spaghetti sauce, but have been wanting to make a bolognese to erase those memories. Sounds like just the ticket!

                                  1. re: biondanonima
                                    c oliver Nov 8, 2010 01:43 PM

                                    I need to make a batch before terribly long so I'll give Mario a nod. I make a 5x recipe so that I can keep it in the freezer.

                                    1. re: c oliver
                                      biondanonima Nov 8, 2010 01:46 PM

                                      Mario actually has several recipes out there - I used this one, from Food Network:
                                      http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ma...

                                      I chose it because it was the first one that came up when I searched, and because it didn't call for any unusual/untraditional ingredients, which some of his other recipes do. It calls for 2 lbs of meat, so it's already double the amount of the Hazan recipe - just bear that in mind when multiplying!

                                      1. re: biondanonima
                                        c oliver Nov 8, 2010 02:46 PM

                                        I have several of his books and he hasn't failed me yet.

                              2. Hank Hanover Oct 17, 2010 09:25 AM

                                My wife hates most cheeses. About the only cheese she can eat is mozzarella. I like cheese but I really don't care for ricotta and won't abide cottage cheese in my lasagna. We use sliced hard boiled eggs in our lasagna. The egg really adds a lot of flavor and texture.

                                I don't have a specific recipe handy but here is a synopsis.

                                Use whatever pasta sauce you want. Want to use bottled marinara sauce? It's fine with me. Sweat some onions and garlic into some sauteed ground beef and sweet italian sausage. Mix in the pasta sauce. Layer the whole thing with meat sauce, noodles and grated mozzarella. At the top of the stack, add several slices of hard boiled egg and cover the whole thing with more mozzarella. Throw it into the oven and your done.

                                Unfortunately, I suspect it will make the lasagna purists a little upset. Before you criticize it too much, give it a try. You could even try the eggs on your more "pure" recipe.

                                If you want the dish even faster and easier, you could make a skillet version. Use the small lasagna noodles and break them up into 2-3 inch pieces and mix everything together in a skillet. I would still put the eggs and another layer of cheese on top. Serve.

                                1. t
                                  tastesgoodwhatisit Oct 17, 2010 09:08 AM

                                  My usual version doesn't involve ricotta at all, although I am familiar with that version.

                                  I make a classic bolognese sauce the day before (Marcel Hazan's recipe). For the lasagna, I layer homemade noodles, then the aforementioned sauce, then a simple bechamel made with milk, butter and flour, then a sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan. On the very top, the final layer is the meat sauce, and then a light coat of mozzarella.

                                  I very quickly parboil the noodles first, as the bolognese sauce is not vary liquidy, and I find using uncooked noodles leave it a bit dry.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                    c oliver Oct 17, 2010 10:01 AM

                                    I first made this about a year ago and there's no turning back. It's rich but not heavy, IMO. I think I still have a couple of packets of Bolognese sauce in the freezer (I make 4x or 5x at a time) so it makes it quite a bit easier.

                                    1. re: c oliver
                                      Caitlin McGrath Oct 19, 2010 09:08 PM

                                      If you make other meaty ragus, consider using this recipe with them, too. I made a delicious version using a duck ragu, thin fresh pasta sheets I bought locally, and her bechamel and instructions.

                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                        c oliver Oct 20, 2010 07:35 AM

                                        Mmm, duck sounds terrific. Great idea. Thanks.

                                  2. iL Divo Oct 17, 2010 08:48 AM

                                    my take on lasagna is almost always sans ricotta.
                                    I've never been a fan of it either and being the cook, I can delegate what goes in a recipe or what doesn't. my choice has always been cottage cheese with a bechamel a very far second. if I do a bechamel, usually it gets a cheese of some sort added to it when making the sauce so it has more of a consistency instead of just being a white sauce, so either mozzarella or a mix of mozzarella and parm, just to give it an edge.

                                    I have gone here many times in my quest for good information:

                                    http://www.italianchef.com/recipes.html

                                    1. jmcarthur8 Oct 17, 2010 08:35 AM

                                      This is the one I grew up on. Back in the day, in the Midwest, ricotta was unheard of and the moms in our neighborhood made lasagna with cottage cheese. My mother told me when she gave me this recipe that my 3 sisters and I thought that the cottage cheese in it was gross ( it was!), so she found this and used it for years:
                                      ( I'm copying this down just as she wrote it out)

                                      Mince and brown in a little oil:
                                      1 large onion
                                      1 clove garlic
                                      6 sprigs parsley
                                      Add and stir until well mixed:
                                      1 small can tomato paste
                                      1 No. 2 1/2 can tomatoes (I had to look this up! 1 lb. 13 oz can)
                                      2 bay leaves
                                      1 tsp salt
                                      1/4 tsp pepper
                                      1/2 cup water
                                      Add:
                                      1 lb. ground beef, breaking into little pieces with fork.
                                      Cover and simmer over low heat 45 min., stirring occasionally.

                                      Chop and saute in 4 Tbs butter:
                                      1 small onion
                                      Mix in until smooth:
                                      3 Tbs flour
                                      Add:
                                      3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
                                      dash of salt
                                      Gradually stir in:
                                      2 cups milk
                                      Continue cooking over low heat, stirring constantly til sauce is as thick as heavy cream.
                                      Beat slightly:
                                      2 egg yolks
                                      Mix a little hot cheese mixture into eggs slowly (to prevent egg from curdling), then mix all cheese mixture and yolks together and cook over low heat for 10 minutes longer.

                                      Cook 1 lb. lasagna noodles as directed on package, drain. Start oven at 325' and grease medium baking dish. Put a layer of noodles on bottom of dish. Pour over enough tomato sauce to cover noodles and add some of the cheese sauce to this. Continue with layers until all ingredients are used. Finish off with a covering of cheese sauce. Bake 20 minutes, then set under broiler until surface is bubbly gold. Serves 6 amply.

                                      Now, I follow her recipe loosely - I do brown the ground beef with the onions and garlic instead of putting unbrowned beef in the tomato sauce. Usually I throw some shredded mozzarella between the layers and on top. I use no boil lasagna noodles to save the aggravation of dealing with wet noodles. And I do bake it longer than 20 minutes and forgo the broiling. I also put the Parmesan in the sauce after thickening the milk and yolk mixture.
                                      My mother was of Polish and Slovac descent, so whether this was authentic Italian wasn't an issue. It is delicious, and that's all that matters!

                                      1. Cheese Boy Oct 17, 2010 01:04 AM

                                        Search for Lasagna alla Siciliana for recipes. Typically no ricotta in any of them.

                                        Here's one --> http://www.italian-food-recipes.net/2...

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Cheese Boy
                                          Jay F Oct 17, 2010 09:50 AM

                                          That looks good, Cheese Boy. I"m saving that recipe.

                                        2. mbfant Oct 16, 2010 11:36 PM

                                          Who says lasagna has to have ricotta? I'm not even sure I've ever seen lasagna with ricotta. Make a Bolognese-style lasagna with spinach pasta (but forge ahead even with plain), ragù bolognese, and bechamel and plenty of parmigiano-reggiano. Or just make what you like and eliminate the ricotta. In any case, lasagna is very flexible and forgiving. You can vary the format till the cows come home.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: mbfant
                                            hotoynoodle Oct 17, 2010 07:03 AM

                                            ricotta is very typical in italian-american lasagne. i also don't think you need to make fresh pasta if you have fresh sheets available from a good grocer or specialty store.

                                            agree with the others about using a bechamel though, you need something creamy to hold everything together as it all melts into gooey goodness.

                                          2. c
                                            cacio e pepe Oct 16, 2010 11:14 PM

                                            Any traditional Lasagna Bolognese won't have ricotta. Instead it should have a besciamella. There is one huge caveat though: if you aren't willing to make fresh pasta then don't bother. The lack of fat layers of ricotta place the focus on the pasta and the dried variety will be way too thick and toothsome.

                                            Here's a nice place to start:

                                            http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ma...

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: cacio e pepe
                                              iL Divo Oct 17, 2010 08:56 AM

                                              hey cacio, question for you.
                                              I have two rounds of fresh pasta I just made.
                                              they are different though and I'm wondering if either of them would be suited for lasagna.
                                              1. whole wheat flour and water only, no salt, no oil no egg.
                                              2. white flour, water, olive oil, eggs, salt.
                                              they are both good but the one sans all of the good stuff is very bland and mild.
                                              while the other one had a good texture and there was more to it.
                                              which one would you use or is there another recipe for a good lasagna pasta that you'd recommend?

                                              1. re: iL Divo
                                                alanbarnes Oct 17, 2010 10:34 AM

                                                A pound of flour (I use unbleached white bread flour), four eggs, and big pinch of salt makes pasta that's perfect for lasagna. For an extra hit of color and flavor, cook 12 ounces of frozen spinach, wring out as much moisture as you can, and include it when you're mixing the flour and eggs.

                                                1. re: iL Divo
                                                  c
                                                  cacio e pepe Oct 17, 2010 05:24 PM

                                                  I think both would be excellent, as long as you roll the dough out thin. Personally, I prefer fresh pasta with eggs in it and I think that extra spring really shines in a Lasagne Bolognese. I would recommend that you make it at least once with the more common egg pasta.

                                                  That said, I love experimenting with different grains, ratios, etc., with both pasta and bread dough so go nuts.

                                                  1. re: cacio e pepe
                                                    iL Divo Nov 8, 2010 06:04 AM

                                                    oh I do, go nuts that is.
                                                    love experimenting with NYTimes Bread.
                                                    love experimenting with pasta's too.
                                                    last night, did ricotta filled fresh pasta with meat sauce.
                                                    all from scratch, well, I didn't make ''the sausage in casing''.
                                                    so very good, could have rolled the pasta thinner though.
                                                    didn't know it could take another roll through.

                                                2. re: cacio e pepe
                                                  Jay F Oct 17, 2010 09:47 AM

                                                  I agree completely with cacio e pepe, with a caveat.

                                                  If I'm feeling too lazy, or don't have enough time to make my own pasta, I still like either cavatappi or fusilli baked with both besciamella and Bolognese. You just boil the macaroni a little bit, then mix them with your sauces and bake them in a buttered baking dish. Just like mac & cheese, really. Serve with fresh parmigiano-reggiano.

                                                  Oh, and I never make lasagna with mozzarella and ricotta.

                                                  1. re: Jay F
                                                    g
                                                    GertieHound Oct 17, 2010 02:53 PM

                                                    If I am feeling lazy, or short on time, I don't use pasta in my "lasagna". Instead, I will use eggplant sliced thin. I saute the eggplant while I am getting everything else ready. I particularly like this without ricotta as I don't like the texture with the eggplant. Instead, I layer eggplant, home made marinara, light layer each good home made mozzarella and freshly grated parm. Eggplant never seems to need meat to me, but my family likes it served with a good scoop of meaty sauce over the top.

                                                  2. re: cacio e pepe
                                                    greygarious Oct 17, 2010 11:15 AM

                                                    Use Barilla no-bake lasagne sheets. They are very thin, and contain egg, so they are delicate and tender. I would think they were fresh if I didn't know better. It's a good idea to soak them in warm water so they are a LITTLE bit softened, so that you can cut them if you need to piece them to make even layers in your baking dish.

                                                    1. re: greygarious
                                                      c
                                                      cacio e pepe Oct 17, 2010 05:27 PM

                                                      I haven't tried these before. Sounds like a great shortcut. *However*, I think the more a person makes fresh pasta the easier and faster it is to make. Besides, if you're making a a slow-cooked bolognese sauce then I'm assuming you have a little time on your hands!

                                                      1. re: greygarious
                                                        chef chicklet Nov 16, 2010 04:39 PM

                                                        I agree, these pasta sheets are perfect and make a very nice lasagna. At first I fought the idea of using these, but they are much thinner and don't have that flabby feel the other boxed pasta does, or those awful curly edges. I think the they take on the sauce better and are easier to work with.

                                                        You can make a lovely bechamel sauce it's wonderful in lasagne. There are no rules, just use what you like.

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