Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
Mary Ann's newest book contains over 150 recipes, 60 gorgeous food photos, and many scenic pictures of Italy taken by Mary Ann on her travels through the years.
SERVES 8 TO 10
Lasagne is an ancient food. The Romans were dishing it out during the heyday of the Roman Empire. A 14th-century cooking manuscript directs the cook to boil the lasagne noodles (made without eggs) in capon broth and then layer the noodles with grated cheese. In my version, freshly made noodles are layered with thin, lengthwise slices of eggplant and topped with tomato sauce.
2 tablespoons Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 large white onion, peeled and minced
2 28-ounce cans plum tomatoes, crushed
½ cup water
½ cup dry red wine
3 or 4 fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil, add the garlic and onion, and sauté until soft.
Lower the heat; add the tomatoes, water, wine, basil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Simmer the mixture for 20 minutes. Set aside.
Peanut oil, for frying
1 firm medium eggplant, about 8 to 9 inches long
½ pound lasagne noodles or ½ recipe Basic Egg Pasta
1 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
Wash and dry the eggplant. Cut into 1/8-inch lengthwise slices and place in layers in a colander. Sprinkle salt between the layers and let sit for 1 hour. Rinse and dry the eggplant slices with a towel.
In a skillet, heat enough peanut oil to coat the bottom. Add a few eggplant slices at a time and sauté quickly, about 2 minutes on each side or until soft. Drain the pieces on brown paper. Set aside.
If using homemade pasta, cut the dough into 3 pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time and roll the dough 1/8-inch thick. Cut 2 sheets from each piece to fit a 9- by 13-inch lasagne pan. Set aside on a floured towel in a single layer.
In a large pot, bring about 8 quarts of water to the boil. Add a few homemade lasagne strips at a time and parboil for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the noodles to a waiting pan of ice water. This will cool the noodles and allow you to handle them. Continue cooking the remaining noodles in small batches. Drain the noodles on dry towels. (If using store-bought noodles, skip the parboiling step and layer the noodles uncooked.)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Spread 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the lasagne pan. Add a layer of lasagne strips. Cover the strips with ½ cup sauce. Add a layer of eggplant. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add a layer of cheese. Spread ½ cup of sauce over the cheese. Make 2 more layers of lasagne strips, sauce, eggplant, salt and pepper, and cheese. Spread the top layer with 1 cup sauce. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.
Note: Make a day ahead of serving. After baking, remove the foil and cover the pan with a sheet of waxed paper, then replace the foil. This prevents the acid in the tomato sauce from eating through the foil and leaving little bits of foil on the top of the sauce.