for the love of a summer lasagna

Summer weather and lasagna. Maybe these aren’t two things you think of together. But you should.

What’s bursting in the garden at this time of year? Juicy tomatoes and herbs. Celebrate the season and the bounty of fresh produce with a lasagna highlighted by a tomato sauce that only gets heat from being in the oven. This is not a deep flavored sauce that simmers on the stove when the wind is howling outside. It’s a basic tomato sauce that has a summer tomato flavor paired with fresh basil.

Thanks to companies who have come up with no-boil lasagna noodles this dish can come together in the kitchen with a few simple steps. When purchasing the no-boil noodles go for a box of noodles that contain flat noodles. Most boxes provide enough noodles for a three layer lasagna.

Chop some garlic and shallots and place in a cold pan with about 1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Use your good olive oil. When there are a just a few ingredients you want to use the best. Gently warm for about 1 1/2 minutes and pour into a blender. Allow to cool.

Use about 8-10 medium size tomatoes. Remove the top of the tomatoes and the seeds inside. Toss in the blender with the oil, garlic and shallots. Add some Kosher salt and puree mixture until smooth. Add a handful of fresh basil and pulse the blender once for a quick chop.

Spoon some tomato sauce in the bottom of a lasagna pan and smooth to coat. Assemble four of the no-boil noodles in the pan. Coat the noodles with enough sauce to cover the surface area of the noodles. This is important to help the noodles bake evenly. Uncovered parts of the noodles can be unpleasantly crunchy. Continue adding some creamy ricotta cheese and shredded mozzarella and parmesan. Sprinkle some chopped basil and start with the next layer.

Finish the top layer with sauce and your combination of cheeses. Set oven at 350 degrees. Before placing your assembled lasagna in the oven give the dish a tap on the counter once or twice. This helps everything settle. It also startles the dog who has been patiently dozing nearby hoping for some extra cheese.

The lasagna is ready in about 50 minutes to an hour. Yes, you’re turning the oven on in August. Leave the kitchen while it bakes. Allow the lasagna to cool for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle some more wisps of basil on top and grated parmesan.

The bright flavors of summer tomatoes and sweet basil mix with the melted cheese. A no-cook tomato sauce and no-boil noodles make for a summer meal outside with a nice glass of wine. And an extra piece of cheese for the dog. He was very patient.

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