Growing up in a pretty traditional Italian family, Sunday nights were spent with my entire family around the dinner table. Everyone – my grandparents, brothers, cousins, aunt and uncle, and parents – all gathered at one of our homes for our Sunday feast.
Every dinner included pasta. It was a staple in our family and I have to admit there is no other pasta sauce that comes close to my grandmother’s. Even though there are a few Italian restaurants in town that I truly love, my “mama’s sugo” tops my list. Because we share a love for the kitchen, both cooking and eating, she has made her sauce with me countless times since I was a child so that I can make it with my own family now.
Of course, pasta was never alone. Some weeks my grandfather, papa, would make homemade Italian sausage or his pizza which was always loaded with everyone’s favorite toppings. He recently sent me his recipes and process so that the kids and I could make this at home. My mom often contributed lasagna, which I promise is the best I’ve ever had. She uses my grandmother’s sauce so how could it not be?
Before my son was dairy free, my husband and I enjoyed lasagna at home often. It’s the perfect meal to make ahead and toss in the oven when you’re ready to eat. And leftovers almost taste better than the first night!
Even though my son has been experimenting with having a bit of dairy here and there, the thought of cheese-heavy lasagna just seems like too much at once. I’m confident Daiya’s mozzarella-style cheese would make an incredible lasagna but recently I wanted to try something different.
Just like we deconstructed tostadas, I wanted to deconstruct lasagna to make it easier, lighter and hopefully healthier.
A light and healthy lasagna recipe? Yes!
We used real dairy products like ricotta and parmesan cheese but I want to try the same concept with dairy alternatives next. My daughter took pleasure in picking fresh tomatoes from our garden and only ate a few on her way to the kitchen. Since we have a few still ripening on the vine, I’m hoping for one more dinner using our very own tomatoes.
The end result was beautiful, full of flavor and easy to make. We all enjoyed it and will continue to even after tomato season. It certainly looks (and tastes) very different from my mother’s lasagna, but I like this method of making lasagna just as much, especially on a busy weeknight.
No Bake Lasagna Recipe: Not Your Italian Mama’s Lasagna
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped fine
3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (approx. 2 pints)
1/2 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock to keep this vegetarian)
8 lasagna noodles, broken
1/2 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
Bundle of small basil leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Shaved hard cheese, if desired
Heat large pot of water to boil. Cook lasagna noodles according to instructions to al dente. Drain, drizzle olive oil and toss. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat skillet and add olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook about 2 minutes until golden. Add tomatoes and salt. Cook until tomatoes are soft. Poke at them a bit with a wooden spoon so they start to make a bit of a sauce. This should take about five to eight minutes. Add your stock and let the sauce simmer another three minutes.
Stir in half of the ricotta cheese until mixed well. Be careful not to over-stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. To the skillet, add pasta and basil, mixing gently until noodles are well covered.
Serve in a shallow bowl. Place small dallops of remaining ricotta cheese around pasta. Sprinkle shaved hard cheese on top, if desired.
Notice that I suggest to break up your lasagna noodles before cooking. The first time we made this, we left them whole and the kids had a hard time dealing with twelve-inch long noodles. The next few times we broke them prior to cooking and it was so much easier for them to eat.
My kids are really getting into this idea of taking potentially complex meals or recipes and deconstructing them into something simple and easy. Have any ideas on what we should deconstruct next?