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Lasagna with FRESH Mozzarella?

I have never used fresh mozzarella with lasagna before, but I bought a really delicious double pack at Costco and thought I should actually do something with it besides stuffing the whole thing in my mouth :-D

Here is my question, if I use this mozzarella, should I omit the ricotta? They both taste so similar. Or should I just heavily season the ricotta?

I could really use some advice

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  1. My chief concern about fresh mozzarella in this dish would be the moisture content. Ricotta is itself a moist cheese, but mozzarella actually precipitates something more or less like water when cooked.

    You'd have to make a guess about how wet the mozza is and then try to reduce the moisture that you usually have in your dish before cooking. You might even consider pressing some moisture out first (like putting the cheese in a strainer and then resting some canned goods or other weight on them for a few hours).

    Omitting ricotta might be effective, but you can expect that the mozzarella will not melt and mix with other elements, like sauce, as well. You'd end up with more distinct separation between cheese and sauce in the interior. I don't think the substitution wouldn't call for significant seasoning changes, although the mozzarella might well have less salt (salt varies more in fresh mozzarellas than it does in ricottas, in my experience).

    1. I am thinking it might be okay to use the fresh mozzarella on the top of the lasagna, and don't cover the lasagna while baking? Sort of like how fresh mozz can be used on pizza and not make it too overly soggy...

      But you'll still get some water leakage from it, I suppose. Maybe try pressing as much water out of the fresh mozzarella as possible before using?

      1. I love using fresh mozzarella. I cut it into slices and press between paper towels first. And, I use a thick-ish bechamel sauce instead of ricotta.

        5 Replies
        1. re: chowser

          I made a lasagna with fresh mozzarella just last weekend and did not worry or bother to press out excess liquid. I had two globes of fresh mozzarella in the refrigerator that needed to be used so I decide to use them on a whim. Like chowser, I opted for a more classic bechamel instead of ricotta and topped the whole thing freshly grated parmesan cheese.

          Results: great lasagna that was finished before the day was out by the troops.

          However, I prefer ricotta with egg and fresh herbs so it probably will not be a staple in my lasagna recipe, which tends to change every time I make it!

          1. re: chowser

            There's a similar recipe in Giuliano Bugialli's first book. I don't have the time to hunt it down now, but it's basically what chowser says, except it's got a peculiar meat sauce (nothing tomato except a T of paste). I'll look it up when I get home.

            1. re: Jay F

              I would love it if you could post the recipe. It sounds like a great dish for meat eaters. Thanks!

              1. re: chowser

                chowser, I am reading this for the first time in May of 2013, nearly three years after you wrote it, so I'm not sure if you're interested any longer.

                Here's a copy I found online of the recipe for Giuliano Bugialli's Lasagne al Forno:

                http://www.recipesecrets.net/forums/r...

                You can also find the book it came from for a really good price, with free shipping, at thriftbooks.com.

                It's called The Fine Art of Italian Cooking:

                http://www.thriftbooks.com/searchresu...

                http://www.thriftbooks.com/viewdetail...

                Hope this helps.

                1. re: Jay F

                  Blast from the past and I can't remember asking. But a good lasagna recipe can't be beat--thanks. I've never had chicken breast in lasagna. I might use thighs instead. Funny how things change. Back then, I was really into making pasta from scratch and was doing a lot of lasagna (too lazy to cut the noodles probably). I can't remember the last time I've done it.

          2. I'm actually not a huge fan of melting fresh mozzarella - I feel like it exudes too much liquid and becomes tough, and my favorite thing about fresh mozz is its lovely soft texture. My favorite thing to do with it is make a riff on caprese - I use either cherry/grape tomatoes or plum tomatoes cut into smallish chunks, and roast them at 375 with salt and olive oil until they're softened and caramelizing on the edges. I usually add some chopped garlic and herbs about halfway through roasting, and deglaze with some white wine if the tomatoes are too dry or the juices are burning. Then I slice the mozzarella, add some warm tomatoes, and top with a dollop of pesto. The tomatoes warm the mozzarella just enough without melting it. DIVINE.

            1. I always use fresh mozz (probably from the same as the double pack that you buy), never use ricotta, do use bechamel. The lasagna is always good.. And while I love fresh mozz fresh, I also love the way it melts.

              1. The issue is not moisture but melting. This past weekend I made mozzarella and ricotta at home (very easy) and used it in a lasagna. It worked fine, but fresh mozzarella does not seem to melt the same as the packaged mozzarella. I used sliced mozzarella in the layers and shreaded mozzarella on top, and neither was as gooey-stringy the way I like. Moisture was not a problem as I also used uncooked, home-made pasta sheets that are looking to absorb some mousture. Also, I hung the ricotta - a major source of lasagna-muddling liquid - longer than usual to get it a bit dryer.

                1. I always use fresh mozarella in lasagna. And I always use fresh ricotta, but I bind that layer with an egg and some fresh basil.

                  Moisture does not seem to be an issue, but, as is traditional in Italian kitchens, I use fresh thin, lasagna noodles, many more and MUCH thinner layers...like 8-10 layers of noodles with very sparse layers alternating mozza, tomato sauce and ricotta-mix. My DH likes a sausage layer or two which does add bulk (to the lasagna, you understand, not my husband!).

                  It is not an "American-style" lasagna (which I have also made, but to me that has a meat sauce, 'dried' grated mozzarella and fewer, thicker layers but is also delicious).

                  I was also taken aback by a remark made above about "covering" the lasagna while baking...I have never done that...the top layer of fresh lasagna (and parmigiano) is the cover, surely?

                  1. Bugalli Foods of Italy is the only lasagna I make. It uses no meat, both ricotta(mixed with butter and parmigiano) and fresh mozzarella and a tomato sauce that's olive oil, salt and garlic. Layered with homemade sheets of pasta and lots and lots of fresh basil,it is absolutely heavenly.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: escondido123

                      Yep, that sounds very familiar, except for the use of butter in the ricotta...what proportions?

                      1. re: LJS

                        About a tablespoon each of butter and parmigiano for each 4 oz of ricotta--though I've been known to cut the butter by half.

                      2. re: escondido123

                        Where do I get the (Bugalli Foods of Italy) recipe from?

                        1. re: liketogag

                          Here is a link to Giuliano Bugialli's FOODS OF ITALY:

                          http://www.bugialli.com/page7-1.htm

                          You can find a nice, cheap used copy at thriftbooks.com, which also offers free shipping: http://www.thriftbooks.com/searchresu...

                            1. re: liketogag

                              I like his books as much as Marcella's, really. I make pasta his way rather than hers (adding EVOO and salt).

                      3. Traditionally, our family lasagna always had both ricotta and a little fresh, salted mozzarella, cubed for texture, from the local deli. Nonna (or mom or aunt Marianna) would drain the ricotta if too wet, and always add beaten egg and lots of grated pecorino romano (along with parsley, basil, salt, and pepper). Since we never had lasagna except on feast days, the sauce itself was a fairly dense, meaty ragu, and some of the meats (sausage fresh and dried, meatballs, pork, etc) was cut into small bits and mixed in with and thickened the layers. Once in a while, sliced hard boiled egg was added. Don' overstuff the cheeses, and watch how liquid the sauce is; finally, let it all rest before serving for a good 30 minutes, covered, which usually reabsorbs any really excess liquid.

                        1. Good ricotta has its own subtle taste, and if you are seasoning it heavily, you shouldn't be using it at all. What you have to do with ricotta is drain it overnight in a colander in the refrigerator. Likewise, if the mozzarella is very fresh and moist, you should probably at least blot the slices on paper towels. You can also put it, unwrapped, on a plate in the fridge overnight to dry out a bit. When I buy buffalo mozzarella for cooking, I always ask for yesterday's, while for eating I buy the freshest possible.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: mbfant

                            Agree that good ricotta deserves its own show, and can be exquisite as is or just lightly treated. Our dish reflected the lasagne di carnevale traditions of southern Italy that took hold in Italian American homes, where ricotta was used largely as a kind of binder-filler among many ingredients; loaded we also kept bowls of fresh ricotta on the table. We were lucky to have access to good latticini, where a just slightly drier fior di latte was sold as "scamorza" (which it kind of was, but not fully), and worked well. These were the days in New York before mozzarella di bufala, but I think I'd still stick with a fior di latte, treated as Maureen says.

                            1. re: mbfant

                              Bugialli's lasagna seasons the ricotta with butter, Parmigiano and salt and pepper. Where I live there is no fresh ricotta, so the seasoning is just fine.

                            2. I also agree with Bada Bing about the moisture content of fresh mozzarella. Lasagna can be a tricky dish in terms of the right amount of sauce to the pasta and I believe that fresh mozzarella will ooze some unwanted water. Not sure it is a good addition to your lasagna. As well am not the biggest fan of it so perhaps my view is biased.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Ruthie789

                                If you don't like fresh mozzarella fine, but please don't diss it for lasagna. I make Bugialli's lasagna with ricotta, basil and light tomato sauce and the mozzarella is what makes it perfect.

                              2. I've had some bad experiences with fresh mozzarella personally. I bought some fresh in a log a few times and tried to slice it up and put it on pizza and it wouldn't melt properly - it kept it's shape for the most part. I wonder if it has anything to do with how they pull and stretch it and wind it up when making it. I used to work at a pizza shop and we would grate high moisture mozzarella that would melt very easily.

                                I wouldn't omit the ricotta, it mixes together with the tomato sauce, which mozzarella doesn't do. Also, it's a lot less saltier.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Atomic76

                                  I have never had good fresh mozzarella that came in a log; I got some "fresh" mozzarella from Costco and it acted exactly as you said--very weird. The kind I get at Trader Joes works perfectly, though for a pizza I slice and salt it and then press it between paper towels before putting on pizza--it removes the excess moisture and makes a great pizza Margharita.

                                  1. re: escondido123

                                    what kind of "fresh" mozzarella is coming from trader joe's or costco? it seems an oxymoron.

                                    it's also not something that traditionally would be baked.