Victor Protasio
Active Time
1 HR 5 MIN
Total Time
3 HR 10 MIN
Yield
Serves : 8 to 10

As we soar into Salt Lake City, Utah, my boyfriend Tom is looking through one of the plane’s tiny oval windows toward the snow-capped mountains, noting weather conditions in anticipation of a weekend shredding powder. Meanwhile, I’m checking for a Wi-Fi signal so I can find a grocery store where I can shop for our après-ski meals.

Early spring ski trips with friends are kind of a thing for Tom and me. Tom and said friends are accomplished skiers. I am not. My strength in the group is serving as chef for the weekend. So before I strap into ski boots and ascend the mountain, I’m thinking about the details of the feast to follow. Last winter, in a cabin outside of Park City, Utah, I made an old-school lasagna that was such a hit everyone emailed me after the trip demanding the recipe.

You’ll find no handmade pasta or béchamel sauce in this lasagna. When cooking in a remote locale, I take pleasure in such conveniences as a box of noodles and a can of tomatoes. And instead of that classic combination of ground beef, pork, and veal, I find that Italian sausage flavored with fennel seeds and other Italian seasonings makes up for the fact that I’m simply not going to buy several jars of dried herbs of unknown freshness at peak prices while on holiday. But fresh basil brings brightness, sliced mushrooms lend earthiness and toothsome texture, and ricotta delivers the creaminess between the layers.

Since you’re eating Italian food in an alpine setting, what better wine to pair with this casual lasagna than an Alpine Italian red. These rustic wines typically have lively acidity and a medium body to play well with the richness of the dish. So check a bottle of Nebbiolo from Valle d’Aosta or Nerello Mascalese from Mount Etna. When cooking for famished friends in a kitchen of modest means, the key is to make hearty food that satisfies a crowd and can either be made ahead or pulled together quickly after a long day on the slopes. Build the lasagna the night before so all it needs is an hour or so in the oven while your crew showers up. (This is a great strategy not only for ski vacations, but for busy weeknights, too.) Then you’ll have a comforting meal that’s eaten in long johns and Wigwams, with full wine glasses, in front of a crackling fire.

How to Make It

Step 1    

Heat a 6-quart Dutch oven over medium-high. Once hot, add sausage, and break it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Add mushrooms and garlic; cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot, until meat is browned and mushrooms release their liquid and soften, 18 to 20 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes, 1 cup water, tomato paste, 1/4 cup basil leaves, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer. Decrease heat to medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors meld, about 1 hour. Stir in remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Keep warm.

Step 2    

While sauce cooks, chop remaining 1/2 cup basil leaves. Stir together chopped basil, ricotta, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Step 3    

Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water 8 minutes, stirring often with tongs to keep noodles from sticking together. Drain and rinse noodles briefly under cold water. Separate noodles a bit, and set aside.

Step 4    

Preheat oven to 375˚F. To assemble the lasagna, spread 2 heaping cups hot tomato sauce in the bottom of a 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Place one-third of noodles over sauce, overlapping just slightly. Spread half of ricotta mixture over noodles, and top with one-third of the mozzarella slices. Spread another 2 cups sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat layers a second time. Top with remaining noodles, remaining sauce, remaining mozzarella, and remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Step
Step 5    

Cover lasagna with a large sheet of aluminum foil that’s been lightly sprayed with cooking

spray (to prevent the cheese from sticking to it). Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes. Remove foil, and bake until cheese is lightly browned and sauce is bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes. Cut lasagna into slices, and serve with additional Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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