In this recipe for Perfect Cheese & Tomato Lasagna, you’ll learn how to make perfect lasagna noodles every time!
I’m by no means a vegetarian, but let me tell ya about this Cheese & Tomato Lasagna that I made and absolutely loved. Even if you’re a diehard meat lover, you won’t miss the meat in this delicious lasagna. Don’t think for one minute that this lasagna lacks flavor just because it doesn’t have meat in it. Oh no! This lasagna has an awesome flavor and a “meaty like” texture and I’m about to tell you why but first things first.
Let me share a tip with you on how to cook perfect lasagna noodles every time! Whether you decide to use this lasagna recipe or a different one, you can always use this technique for cooking perfect noodles.
Top Left: Place all of your uncooked noodles in your baking dish,
Top Right: Pour boiling water over the noodles. Allow the noodles to stay submerged in the boiling water for exactly 15 minutes. Use a knife or fork to separate the noodles once or twice during the 15 minutes if necessary to keep them from sticking together.
Bottom: Drain the noodles and rinse them. Rinsing them removes any extra starch. Arrange them side by side on a dry kitchen towel. Pat the tops dry with a second towel. At this point the noodles will be pliable and very easy to handle. They will finish cooking once the lasagna goes into the oven to bake. The result will be noodles that are perfectly cooked, not undercooked and not over cooked and mushy.
Let’s get back to talking about what makes this lasagna so delicious, shall we…
Texture: Both diced and crushed tomatoes are used to add a meaty like texture to the lasagna sauce.
Robust Sauce Flavor: Tomato paste is pre-cooked and add deep flavor to the sauce and tomatoes add even more flavor. Oregano, garlic, salt, onion and Pecorino Romano Cheese all come together in this simmered sauce to add an even more deep flavor and a small amount of red pepper flakes gives it just the perfect touch of warmth
White Sauce: Most lasagna recipes have a red sauce and either Ricotta or Cottage cheese dollops throughout the sauce and tucked between noodles. Not this one! This lasagna has a white sauce. You might think Ricotta cheese is better than Cottage cheese in lasagna, but you might be surprised to know that Ricotta cheese actually has a chalky like taste, more like skimmed milk. Cottage cheese has more of a tangy flavor…more rich and creamy. In this sauce, cottage cheese is whisked together with Pecorino Romano cheese, heavy cream, garlic, salt , pepper and cornstarch. Why cornstarch? Cornstarch helps to keep the dairy components from breaking down and having a curdled texture.
Flavor from Cheese: You might expect this lasagna to have Parmesan and Mozzarella cheese tucked between the layers of noodles and on top. Nope! Not in this delicious lasagna. There’s two rich and flavorful cheeses in this recipe. When combined, they add lots of flavor to this lasagna.
– Fontina: A rich and creamy cow’s milk cheese that has a nutty flavor and melts beautifully in sauces, pasta and fondue.
– Pecorino Romano: A rich and nutty flavored cheese made from sheep or cow’s milk. It has a crumbly dense, grainy texture and is used for grating finely over pasta dishes. It is a sharper alternative to Parmesan cheese and on the salty side.
Finally, all of those wonderful flavors coming together in one dish, tomato sauce, noodles, white sauce and cheeses. Notice how the noodles are placed…3 long noodles plus 1/2 noodle on the end. On the next layer of noodles I just reversed it, placing the 1/2 noodle on the opposite end. If you want to add vegetables to this recipe, add cooked vegetables that have been well drained.
I served this with homemade crusty garlic bread.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- 1/4 cup EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
- 1 medium yellow onion diced small
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar (this helps to temper the acidity)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper fllakes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 garlic cloves chopped small
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 can diced tomatoes, 14 ounce, drained
- 1 can crushed tomatoes, 28 ounce, or 2 - 14.5 ounce cans
- 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated fine
- 8 ounces cottage cheese, small curd
- 4 ounces Pecorino Romano Cheese, grated fine
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pressed in a garlic press
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 bar, 9 ounces, Boar's Head all natural Swedish style Fontina cheese, shredded and divided.
- 1/8 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
- 14 Curly edge lasagna noodles, (not no boil)
- Optional: 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil
- Add the EVOO to a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Add the onion, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano and salt. Stir frequently and allow sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes, just until onions are soft but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for about 2 more minutes over medium heat. Add tomato paste, tomatoes and Pecorino Romano cheese. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce to medium low heat and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the white sauce.
- Add the cottage cheese, Pecorino Romano Cheese, heavy cream, garlic cloves, salt, pepper & cornstarch to a medium bowl. Whisk for about 1 minutes to break up all of the curds. Set aside.
- See layers below. You will use 1/2 cup of the shredded Fontina in each layer, mixing the cornstarch and the Pecorino Romano with the last 1/2 cup.
- Place the noodles in a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour boiling water over the noodles, making sure water covers all of the noodles. Allow noodles to set in the water for exactly 15 minutes. Use a knife or fork a couple of times throughout the water process to separate noodles if they begin to stick together. After 15 minutes, drain then rinse noodles to remove excess starch. Noodles will be pliable. Spread the noodles out on kitchen towels and pat dry. Cut 2 of the noodles in half crosswise. Set noodles aside.
- Spoon 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce into the bottom of the baking dish. Place 3 noodles lengthwise over sauce. Place 1/2 noodle across the end of dish where the noodles are quite long enough. Spread 1/2 of the white sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of shredded Fontina over the white sauce.
- Add three more noodles, starting at the other end of dish this time, and placing the 1/2 noodle at the opposite end this time. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the Fontina cheese over the sauce.
- Add three more noodles, starting at the opposite end of the dish from the last layer, placing the 1/2 noodle at the opposite end this time. Spread the rest of the white sauce over the noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the shredded Fontina over the white sauce.
- Add the final layer of noodles and spread the remaining tomato sauce over them. Sprinkle the last 1/2 cup of the shredded Fontina mixed with the cornstarch and Pecorino Romano.
- Spray underneath of foil with non stick spray. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes. Turn heat to 500 degrees. Remove foil and bake for about 10 minutes.
- Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving
- Optional: Sprinkle with 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped basil.
- Vegetables can be added to this recipe, but make sure they are cooked and drained well. I didn't add vegetables. This lasagna was delicious without them.
- You can save time on preparing the lasagna, by shredding and grating the cheeses a day in advance.
- Lasagna can be frozen for up to 3 months.