Mamma’s Famous Roman Lasagna, is not your typical lasagna with bechamel and ground meat ragu, but a delicious light layered ensemble of noodles with a blend of rich tomato ricotta sauce, parmigiano and mozzarella, plus minced mortadella, leaving its undeniable flavor.
[This post is sponsored by The Italian Centre Shop, we’ve been compensated but all opinions are our own.]
Mamma’s lasagna is really famous. At least among Nicoletta’s family, since it’s her mom’s recipe. Now it has become a huge favorite in our family here in Edmonton, too, because we made it once and everyone loved it. It is the only lasagna we eat nowadays, as it is lighter, and so rich in flavor, plus there is a battle over the crispy edges of the baked pasta.
Nicoletta said it all started with her mom’s passion for ricotta, and her prejudice against using butter. So, in order to replace the bechamel, but wanting to obtain that same creaminess, she thought of blending ricotta in the tomato sauce. And I have to tell you it makes for the creamiest sauce ever! Nicoletta is not fond of ragu and tomato sauces with ground meat she has a deep love and respect for animals and cares not for the carnivorous lifestyle. When she was around for lunch or supper, none in her family, grandma, mom, aunt’s, ever made ragu for her, they made sure to have a simple tomato sauce for her pasta. So, when it came to make lasagna her grandma and mom came out with this delicious and inventive use of the mortadella, to try and please everybody in the family. Minced and added to the layers with mozzarella and parmigiano, gives the lasagna a oh so tasty flavor. The fact is it melts into the pasta sheets, sauce and mozzarella. She feels guilty after eating it, but I tell her her respect for the animal and gratitude for the meal will deliver a great energy to the animals soul who sacrificed its life for us. I am not vegetarian or vegan, but have to say as I get older the desire for animal protein gets smaller and smaller. All in all I respect those who respect their food and what has been sacrificed to get it to our table. So enough of the sermon, shut off the church organ and let’s get into this wonderful dish, Mamma’s Famous Roman Lasagna, that Nicoletta’s grandma and mom made, and I am truly grateful for. Christmas is always a special day and when that lasagna hits the table nothing but passion and gratefulness can be felt.
When The Italian Centre Shop asked us to do some Christmas recipes, I immediately thought of the lasagna. The first time I tasted it I was going back for seconds and thirds. We were in Italy at the time, my son Joel and I, visiting Nicoletta in our first years of courtship. It was a small town called Agosta, set in the side of a mountain, with multiple houses lingering on the cliffs of this majestic place. From Nicoletta’s mom and dads window you get a clear view of the lower town and rambling foothills, absolutely beautiful. Lunch was being prepared and Nicoletta’s mom, Tonina had made the lasagna sheets early that morning. Thin golden sheets of pure goodness made by hand with an extreme amount of love and passion. My way of doing things. That is when I was brought into the family circle and the secret ingredient of mortadella, plus the ricotta in the sauce was revealed. Tonina said that when she does not have time to make the sfoglie (lasagna sheets), she uses the ones we found in the Italian Center Shop, made by DeCecco. We pre -boiled them a touch just to soften them a bit, to keep the lasagna moist, but it is not necessary, these are oven ready. It is just a personal taste and texture thing. I think both ways will still deliver a great outcome suited to your time and taste. Tonina says she pre boils them too, so whatever floats your boat I say. I have to also say that it is great to be able to find these authentic Italian products and gratitude for Teresa Spinelli’s passion for her culture.
Stages of Mamma’s Famous Roman Lasagna
- Tomato Ricotta Sauce
- Pre boil lasagna sheets
- Layering of sheets, sauce, parmigiano, mozzarella, and last but not least minced mortadella
- Top layer same as above, but no mortadella, then oven
The sauce is simple: some olive oil in a pan, a whole garlic pressed a bit to release the flavor, some great stewed tomatoes, in our case Mutti brand, which I would have to say is the best I have tasted thus far, and some fresh basil to work its magic. About 20 minutes on the stove till it begins to thicken, then turned off and after a bit, in goes the ricotta. The sauce will go from a red to a rosé and the look pure creamy bliss. This will add such a level of luxuriousness and richness.
With all the other ingredients ready, mortadella minced, parmigiano grated, fresh mozzarella chopped up, we are ready to get started on the construction of this Roman style lasagna.
Now I have said this before, there is no need to boil these sheets, they are oven ready and do soften up. We boil them a bit because we like the lasagna moist in the layers and those top edges nice and golden and crisp. What we do is pop a few sheets at a time in the boiling water for a few minutes, then take them out and place them in a bowl of cold water. From there they go on a clean tea towel to dry off. This does take a bit of time, so if time is not on your side just use the oven ready method, but remember to put more sauce on the sheets as they will absorb quite a bit.
Okay we are ready to assemble:
The first thing is to get some of that sauce on the bottom of a baking dish. Next place a layer of the lasagna sheets covering the whole bottom of the dish. Another layer of sauce goes on then a sprinkling of parmigiano and mozzarella, then the secret ingredient, minced mortadella. The second layer of lasagna sheets will be put perpendicular to the first so remember which way you had the first layer. This will hold the lasagna together when you cut into it. Repeat with the sauce, parmigiano, mozzarella, and mortadella steps. Our lasagna is usually only four layers. It keeps the dish light and easy, plus the flavors are all present and not lost, and if you know Italian meals especially around Christmas there are more dishes to come.
The last layer I call it the topper, is just sauce, parmigiano, and mozzarella. We like to keep that secret ingredient to Mamma’s Famous Roman Lasagna, just that, a secret hidden inside.
Into a nice 400° F oven and baked until everything is nice and golden on top, and you see those edges starting to crisp up. When it is done, take it out of the oven and let it sit a bit so it can set up and not fall apart when you cut into it. That setting time usually has everyone hovering over the lasagna waiting impatiently for it to be ready for serving. The next part is to chop up some fresh basil, sprinkling on top, and maybe for the absolute cheese lovers grate some more parmigiano on top. Then, enjoy!
Christamas day and everyone is getting up a bit late except for the excited kids begging their parents to wake up as Santa has made his visit and presents are under the tree. In our family the smell of sauce is in the air and lasagna is being prepared, people starting to arrive and a meal will be shared. The dish most waited for, this Roman lasagna.
The flavors are incredible, the pasta al dente, tender, infused with that rich tomato ricotta sauce. The parmigiano adding an acidity and punch to the mix, while the fresh mozzarella is oozing with its creaminess and crispness reserved for the top layer. The mortadella with its Italian cured peppery moist flavor running through each ingredient like a velvet glove, deliciously flavoring each bite having people wonder what is that taste, and a lot of vocal admiration coming from the taste buds. The top gives us gifts of crispy pasta edges with that slight char flavor and in accompaniment with all the other golden goodness on the top has everyone wanting seconds and debating thirds. Be prepared, there may be a battle for the edge pieces.
So from our family here at SugarLoveSpices to yours, wishing you a most joyous Christmas and New year.
Song of the day: “Santa Claus is coming to Town”, by Michael Bublé, one of Nicoletta’s favorites.
- 1 liter Mutti strained tomatoes (Passata)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 6 large fresh basil leaves
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
- 225 g ricotta cheese
- 12 sheets De Cecco oven ready lasagna sheets
- 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
- 250 g fresh Santa Lucia Mozzarella
- 100 g San Daniele Mortadella
- In a deep sauce pan heat up olive oil and garlic.
- When garlic starts to sizzle throw in the basil leaves, and pour strained tomatoes in.
- Turn to low to medium heat, partially cover stirring occasionally.
- Cook for 25 minutes, take off heat.
- Let cool a bit then add the ricotta and stir until completely dissolved and you obtain a creamy tomato sauce.
- In a large pot of salted boiling water cook 4 lasagna sheets at a time for 4 minutes.
- When done lay out a clean kitchen towel and lay cooked sheets on to dry.
- Spread some of the tomato and ricotta sauce on the bottom of a 9"x 13"x 1 1/2" oven safe baking dish, making sure bottom is well covered.
- Take three of the cooked lasagna sheets and lay next to each other covering the bottom of the baking dish.
- Spread some of the sauce covering the pasta sheets.
- Sprinkle some grated parnigiano.
- Toss on the mozzarella bits, and then the minced mortadella.
- Next layer the 4 lasagna sheets perpendicular to the last layer.
- Cut the sheets to fit the dish and stagger the joints.
- Repeat the sauce, parmigiano, mozzarella, mortadella layer.
- Place another layer of lasagna sheets, sauce, parmigiano, mozzarella, and mortadella.
- The last layer is all the same but no mortadella on this one, just sauce, parmigiano, mozzarella.
- So your layers will be 3 lasagna sheets, 4 sheets, 3 sheets, last layer 4 sheets.
- Pre heat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Place lasagna on the middle rack and cook for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes turn the oven to high grill for 2 minutes or until top gets crispy and cheese is a nice golden brown, and edges have crisped up.
- Remember to check the lasagna, as cook times may vary with different stoves.
- Take out of oven and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to give it time to firm up a bit and pieces of lasagna will keep shape.
- Cut and serve.
If you don't want to boil the lasagna sheets, you can assemble the lasagna with the dry sheets, but add more sauce as the sheets will absorb quite a bit. You may even want the sauce a bit thinner for the oven ready noodles.
We have a vegetarian white lasagna, too, if that is more your thing. Recipe here:
LASAGNA “BIANCA” WITH ASPARAGUS, PEAS AND MUSHROOMS
[This post is sponsored by The Italian Centre Shop, we’ve been compensated but all opinions are our own.]