I discovered this lasagna recipe over at Jenn Segal’s blog, Once Upon A Chef. She shared it from a cookbook of Julia Turshen’s. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the recipes at Once Upon a Chef that I have made, and I marvel that Jenn is a true chef. Most of her recipes are just that… hers. I’m less creative and more calculated. I love measuring and implementing other peoples’ recipes and will happily share them here. But apart from guacamole, I generally don’t cook without a recipe.
The original recipe includes homemade pasta, though I have excluded that here. I use oven-ready lasagna noodles, and they cook perfectly in this sauce. If you want to make your own pasta, follow the link at the bottom of the recipe to hop over to the original recipe.
What I love about this lasagna is that it’s so creamy and cheesy and fresh tasting. There’s no ricotta and no meat, so the texture is smooth. After making the tomato sauce (nearly effortless, I promise!), crème fraîche is added, and it’s truly amazing. The sauce and the fresh basil make this meal. Whatever you do, do NOT substitute dried basil here.
I love making this meal for guests because I can make it ahead of time if I need to and be present while it’s cooking in the oven. Serve it alongside a salad and garlic bread, and you’ve got yourself a cozy dinner.
**Note: I may have been a bit of a crazy lady with lots going on when I made the lasagna in these photos… including assembling it in our driveway so I could take photos with natural light before the sun set. All while my younger boys were bouncing balls off the wall above my head and promising not to come near me/the food. That being said, I did not measure my cheeses, so the grease you see in the well-lit photos 😉 is the result of a heavy hand with the mozzarella. Too much cheese is never a bad thing in this household.
"A Nice Lasagna"
For the sauce
- Two 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup crème fraîche
- 12 no-boil oven ready lasagna noodles
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1-1/2 cups coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese
- 2 large handfuls fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces if large
For the sauce
In a large bowl, crush the tomatoes with your clean hands until they are in bite-size pieces. (This is surprisingly enjoyable and recommended as a job for kids... I generally don't trust the cleanliness of my kids' hands, so we would be doing a good, long scrubbing before I let them put their hands in food I'm preparing).
In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil, add the garlic, and cook, stirring, until it begins to sizzle, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer, stirring every so often, until it is slightly reduced, about 30 minutes.
Whisk the crème fraîche into the sauce and season to taste with salt. Set the sauce aside to cool to room temperature.
For the lasagna
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Ladle a thin layer of room-temperature sauce onto the bottom of a 9-by-13-in baking dish. Spread the sauce with a spoon to cover the surface of the dish. Add a layer of 3 sheets of pasta. Spoon over just enough tomato sauce to cover the pasta and then scatter over some of the Parmesan, mozzarella, and basil. Repeat the layering process until you’ve used up all of your components (4 layers of noodles; I do one layer with the lasagna vertically as pictured, the next horizontal, breaking the third piece in half). End with sauce and cheese (not naked pasta or basil, both of which would burn if exposed).
Bake the lasagna, uncovered, until it’s gorgeously browned and the edges are bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes, just like you would a steak, before slicing and serving. This lets the pasta fully absorb all of the bubbling sauce, so you don’t end up with soupy slices.