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How do you make your cheese only lasagna?

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I am doing Christmas Eve. But I am not with my family, only my in-laws, who are not Italian. But after years of being nice and quiet, I am now refusing to eat meat on Christmas Eve.

There is no point to doing any traditional Italian fish dishes with which I grew up; no one will eat them. I am thinking a baked ziti type dish, maybe a spaghetti type dish, and a lasagna.

My quick and dirty non-meat, non-veg lasagna is just noodles, ricotta, mozz and sauce. No spices (except what is in jar sauce) or anything else.

I would like to make it a little nicer than this "recipe" and could use some ideas/ recipes.

Thanks!

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  1. Does it have to be a "cheese only" lasagna? I think i would go for a wonderful mushroom lasagna, maybe even with spinach noodles if you wanted.

    My mushroom lasagna is a bechamel based lasagna. I get some dried mushrooms and reconstitute them with hot milk. Use this milk as the base of a bechamel (or technically more of a mornay since I like to add romano and pecorino to it). Saute up some mushrooms, onions, shallots - layer and go.

    I love it. . . .

    1 Reply
    1. re: thimes

      I love mushrooms in lasagne, both in a "white" lasagne with bechamel and in red-sauce lasagne with ricotta and mozzarella. Spinach is also terrific. I really like butternut squash lasagne as well - just layer roasted squash with your cheeses, bechamel and pasta (sauteed leeks are a nice addition, plus lots of sage). There are plenty of ways to make a non-meat lasagne dish interesting!

      That said, if you really want to keep it all cheese, I'd mix up the cheeses and try using some fontina, gruyere or maybe even a bit of gorgonzola, plus a variety of fresh herbs. Make your own ricotta, too - it's super simple but a MAJOR upgrade to store bought.

    2. My vegetarian lasagna comes from Bugialli's "Foods of Italy." What makes it special is fresh pasta, butter and Parmigiano mixed into the ricotta and a simple sauce made from a little garlic, olive oil and good canned tomatoes. A lot of fresh basil, distributed between the layers is what gives it a light, fresh flavor.

      1. A second note. You have listed three pasta dishes, which I find very unbalanced for a meal. There are wonderful vegetables you could do and I would certainly consider serving one seafood dish even if I was the only one to eat it. What about shrimp or simply fried cod or snapper with an Italian sweet/sour sauce?

        6 Replies
        1. re: escondido123

          I heartily agree with this post, after rereading the OP. There is no need to have three pastas, nor to deny yourself a lovely fish dish if that's what you like. I would do one hearty pasta, one vegetable side and one seafood dish, even if the seafood was just one serving for me, myself and I!

          1. re: escondido123

            Except it sounds like no one will eat fish. Nor does the OP want to eat meat.

            This is a wonderful lasagna using fresh mozzarella. Except I have never used the orange juice -- too weird. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

            1. re: escondido123

              how do I get this new system to post a reply?

              1. re: escondido123

                grrr, I dislike this new Chowhound!

                No vegs in the lasagna, or any pasta dish. Except for my mother, no one will eat it.

                I am not making fish/seafood. What fishes I would make would require me to run all over heck and back. I am not up for putting so much effort into something that not only will no one eat, but they will also be quite nasty about it.

                1. re: escondido123

                  Any veg dishes I make will be a separate issue. these are just the pastas I was going to make.

                  1. re: lalajane

                    are there 50 people coming to this dinner? i can't fathom why you will need 3 different pasta dishes, especially with something hearty like lasagne.

                    you may want to do layers of different cheese. start with a good smoked mozz on the bottom, feta or asaigo in the middle and then a lighter, fluffy ricotta/herb/egg mixture on the top. use a tomato bechamel as your "sauce". another good alternative to jarred sauce is to buy grape or campari tomatoes and cook them down, very slowly, with olive oil, to a confited state. use that mixed in the layers too.

                    i don't ever use recipes for lasagne, so can't be more specific. but using good quality ingredients will make this a much better dish than just using jarred sauce and cheap supermarket cheese.

                    if food is a power struggle, just make one nice dish that you will enjoy. make a veggie side dish if you want, like roasted green beans or zucchini, and be done with it.

                2. Try bulking it up with sauteed eggplant, zucchini, crook-neck squash, chard, kale, or broccoli rape. I think it would be nice w/ a putanesca, spicy chunky red, or a red bell pepper, and tomato combo sauce.

                  1. My vegetarian lasagne is alfredo based - I'm allergic to tomatoes. I usually layer sauce, noodles, ricotta (I don't put eggs in - I'm allergic to those too, but if you stir it up a bit it is much easier to spread) and spinach, then repeat. Top with a little more sauce, sprinkle with some mozzarella and a little chopped basil if you like - or dried Italian seasoning if you are lazy and your fresh basil is slimy and gross.

                    1. Why not make both versions (meat and non-meat) in the same pan. Just put a dividing layer of foil to create separate sides. Then one won't bleed into the other.

                      1. sorry about they way I am replying; I cannot get this to work properly!

                        1. well if you really do want just a "cheese" only lasagna but you wanted to try something different I would still go for a lasagna that alternates between layers of a nice homemade marinara and a cheesy bechamel layer. The bechamel (with some parm and pecorino) really does lighten the mouthfeel of the lasagna a lot (though not necessarily the calories. You could still add some mozz to the layers if you wanted but the bechamel would replace the ricotta.

                          1. I have a vegetarian niece and often make a meat free lasagna. Her two favorites that I make are a non traditional one (butternut squash and veggie) and the other is more traditional. The "spin" I put on it is
                            1) to make a really good sauce with roma tomatoes, lots of onion, garlic, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. I try to make it at least a day in advance so I can get it really cooked down and thick
                            2) jazz up my ricotta layers by processing it in the FP with baby spinach, shredded fresh parmesan and freshly cracked pepper. Turns a wonderful light green color
                            3) use shredded mozzarella in the layers but top the lasagna with good fresh bufala or whole milk mozz.

                            Serve with buttery garlic bread.

                            1. You can always improve the jarred sauce with fresh basil and little anchovy paste (as long as there are no seafood *allergic* people eating it). Sub provolone for part of the mozzarella for more flavor, and add some good Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino.

                              1. My mom always made meatless lasagne (though she served it with sausage and/or meatballs on the side), and we all loved it, still do.

                                If you want to make it special, start by making your own sauce--a quick and easy job, actually. Saute a little garlic, some chopped onion if you like, in olive oil. Add good quality canned tomatoes and a sprinkle of dried basil and maybe some oregano and thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Crush the tomatoes in the pot with your spoon (or give them a whiz with an IB). If you want to add a glug of wine, do that. No need to cook this sauce all day. In 30 minutes, you'll have a nice, fresh-tasting sauce.

                                If you aren't up to making your own pasta sheets (though nice thin pasta noodles really make lasagne wonderful), buy some of the "fresh" sheets available in the refrigerator section of many supermarkets these days.

                                And, as others have said, go for a nice mix of cheeses. I'd stir a good bit of grated parmigiano or pecorino into the ricotta, maybe some chopped fresh parsley and/or basil. I love fresh mozzarella in lasagne, so that's another option.

                                You can make an excellent meat-less lasagne even with the restrictions you've noted. Whether your in-laws will appreciate it is another question--but I bet you will.

                                1. This is America's Test Kitchen recipe. It's the best cheese lasagna. You can skip the Gorgonzola, but I love the flavor it brings to the dish.

                                  http://www.food.com/recipe/four-chees...

                                  Here's a fun blog discussing it.
                                  http://oughttobeworking.blogspot.com/...

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: FoodChic

                                    sometimes something as simple as using smoked mozz or provolone can make a big difference as well.

                                    1. re: FoodChic

                                      I like this! I love Gorgonzola (or any blue cheese, really); not sure how well it would go over. It looks really good!

                                      Actually, in looking at the blog link, they have a good idea for a bruschetta bar. Good idea for pre-dinner!

                                      thanks for the links!

                                      1. re: FoodChic

                                        This is a very interesting approach (the different cheeses for each layer)! I may try this.

                                        With the MIL, everything is a power struggle. LOL!

                                        1. re: FoodChic

                                          So many good ideas!

                                          1. re: FoodChic

                                            There are some really great ideas here! I feel like I have some great ideas to use now rather than just my "boring" (but delicious) usual cheese lasagna.

                                            RE: the smoked cheeses. I love them and think they are great for so many things. I like making pizza w/ smoked mozz, and I make a really good 4 cheese mac and cheese using a smoked cheddar. I think that I will use the smoked mozz in another pasts dish I make (e.g., baked ziti). I had not considered the smoked cheeses in this context, but they would be as good as in any other.

                                            Thank you so much!