“This pasta dish combines flavor, finesse, and a very creative presentation,” says chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson. We couldn't agree more.

By Bridget Hallinan
April 20, 2020
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Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Thom Driver

Your idea of classic lasagna might involve tomato sauce and cheese (maybe a little meat) all layered between stacks of pasta and baked to bubbling, golden-brown perfection. Our May cover recipe from chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson of Frasca Food and Wine is no ordinary lasagna—it’s woven, and it swaps red sauce for a bright green spinach sauce, too. 

“This pasta dish combines flavor, finesse, and a very creative presentation,” Mackinnon-Patterson told Food & Wine

Inspired by a visit to La Primula restaurant in San Quirino, located in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy, the dish is built with homemade pasta sheets, which are folded over piped lines of filling (Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta, prosciutto, heavy cream, and rosemary) for a grand total of four layers. After the lasagna is baked, slices are cut and served on their side so that you can see the show-stopping interwoven layers of cheese and pasta, with super crispy edges and a rich filling balanced with a fresh, light sauce.

The best part? Some of the steps for this lasagna can be done in advance, so it makes for the perfect weekend project you can take at your own pace. Check out our key tips for making the dish below, compiled from the recipe and the Food & Wine Test Kitchen.

Take It a Step at a Time

If you’d rather not do this ambitious recipe in one sitting, make the process easier by doing certain steps in advance. The pasta dough can be made and chilled overnight before rolling—the next day, let it stand at room temperature for an hour first before you roll. You can also assemble the whole lasagna up to 24 hours beforehand, and make the spinach sauce one day in advance as well. (If it seems too thick when you're about to use it, add a splash of water to thin it.)

If You Want to Weave the Lasagna, Make Your Own Noodles…

Although we’d normally be all for using store-bought fresh pasta in a pinch, in this case, we strongly recommend you make your own pasta. The specific length and texture of the noodles allow them to be woven into the lasagna without breaking. However, if you like the idea of the filling in this recipe but don’t have a pasta machine and/or don’t feel like weaving, feel free to pick up pre-made lasagna noodles. You’ll need roughly seven–eight sheets, and you can pick up at step five in the recipe.

…and Be Precise

You’re making two long sheets of pasta. After the dough has rested at room temperature, you cut it in half and roll out each portion to a 1/3-inch thickness. Then, it’s time to roll it through a pasta machine—and the dimensions are important. You want to make sure the width of each noodle is about five inches (typically the width of a pasta machine), and that the pasta is thin and even. If it isn’t, it won’t cook through by the time the filling and edges are done when it bakes.

If you’ve rolled out the pasta correctly and boil each sheet for 1 minute before building, it will hold up to weaving well. Using a 9- x 5-inch loaf pan will ensure the perfect amount of overlap in the middle. See the illustration below for executing the technique.

Winslow Taft

Feel Free to Use All-Purpose Flour

Can’t find low-gluten Italian "00" flour? No problem. Senior food editor Mary-Frances Heck used all-purpose flour when she made the dough and it worked perfectly well.

Want to Omit the Prosciutto? No Problem

The prosciutto brings salty flavor and fat to this dish; however, if you’d rather keep the dish meat-free, you have two options. The first is to swap in a mushroom duxelles, a classic French preparation of finely chopped mushrooms cooked down with aromatics. You’ll want about one cup to replace the prosciutto, which can be made from either one pound of fresh mushrooms or a few ounces of dried, rehydrated mushrooms. Blitz the mushrooms up in a food processor until they’re finely chopped—then, cook them down with finely chopped shallots and butter and a pinch of salt and pepper, deglazing the pan with a splash of white wine. You’ll get rich flavor from the caramelization and fond scraped up from the bottom. 

Alternatively, you can simply skip the prosciutto and increase the filling proportionally. We’d recommend increasing the filling ingredients by 50 percent. (So you'll need 1 1/2 pounds of ricotta, three teaspoons of chopped fresh rosemary, etc.) 

Note: We would not recommend substituting in a vegetarian-friendly Parmesan for this recipe. You’ll want the flavor and texture from a true Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Save Your Fingers, Use a Food Processor

Using the food processor is a great way to quickly grate cheese to the right texture, like in this recipe when you break down the Parmigiano-Reggiano into small crumbles. (And it’s a lot easier on your fingers than using a microplane.) To save a little time, stores like Whole Foods carry high-quality pre-grated crumbles that you can pick up.

Keep the Leftover Sauce

The spinach sauce (essentially, a straight puree) is simple and lovely with the lasagna, helping to cut through the richness of the cheese, prosciutto, and eggs. If you have extra puree, stir a few spoonfuls into leftover soups to give them a boost, or add to a pan sauce for pulled-from-the-pantry pastas. You can also steal a chef's trick and use the puree to bring a fresh-looking appearance to items that have gone brown, such as pesto sauce or cream of broccoli soup.

Freeze It Before Baking (If You'd Like)

To freeze the lasagna, prepare it through step 8 (finishing assembling the pasta and chilling it until it’s set). Then, run a small offset spatula around the lasagna’s edges so it loosens from the pan, unmold it, and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap followed by aluminum foil. You can freeze it up to three weeks—once you’re ready to bake, place it in the fridge for 24 hours so it can thaw. Unwrap and then continue with step nine, disregarding the unmolding instructions.

You Can Weave Other Lasagnas, Too

Once you get the technique down, you can apply it to tons of different flavor profiles in the lasagna universe. Just make sure the lasagna recipe involves ricotta and/or other thick ingredients—it wouldn’t work for a bolognese version or other bechamel-based lasagna, for instance, since it would be too slippery. Just like any kind of weaving, the more you do it the easier it gets.