Everyone who likes to cook has their favorite lasagna recipe. I’m particularly fond of this version, which is lighter and fresher tasting than most, but still familiar and satisfying, with richly flavored layers of pesto sauce, herbed tomatoes and creamy ricotta. Be sure you use a baking dish that is exactly 9-by-13 inches, preferably with straight sides, or the noodles will not cook properly.
Herb Garden Lasagna Recipe
• One 28-ounce jar, plus one 14.5-ounce can crushed tomatoes
• 1/4 cup chopped marjoram
• Kosher salt
• 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
• 3 cups milk
• 1 pound whole milk ricotta
• 4 ounces basil, stems removed (2 cups gently packed)
• 1 cup flat-leaf parsley, gently packed
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
• 8 ounces oven-ready lasagna noodles (12 noodles)
• 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded
1. Make tomato sauce. Boil tomatoes in a large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until they turn into a thick sauce. Stir in the marjoram and1 teaspoon salt.
2. Make white sauce. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook the roux for about a minute. Pour in the cold milk all at once. Whisk until all lumps disappear, then occasionally until sauce comes to a full boil and thickens. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Blend ricotta with one-third of the white sauce in a food processor until smooth. Scrape cheese out into a bowl.
3. Make pesto. Without washing food processor, pulse basil, parsley, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt until finely chopped. Add remaining white sauce and Parmesan, and process until well combined.
4. Prepare lasagna. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread half of the tomato sauce in bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange 3 noodles on top of the sauce; they should fit without touching each other or the sides of the pan. Dab half of the pesto over the noodles, covering pasta as best you can. As you build the lasagna, spread filling just over noodles rather than worrying about gaps between and around noodles, but if some spills over that’s fine. Top pesto with 3 more noodles in the same position. For the next layer, distribute the entire amount of ricotta by scooping it in spoonfuls onto the top noodles and spreading it a bit, pressing down as little as possible. Top with 3 more noodles, then the remaining tomato sauce. Finally, put the last 3 noodles in place and spread the top with the remaining pesto sauce.
5. Bake. Cover dish with foil, tenting it a little so it doesn’t touch the lasagna, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle mozzarella evenly over top. Bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, or until cheese is evenly browned. Let lasagna rest for at least 15 minutes before serving; it will firm up as it sits. The lasagna can be assembled ahead and kept refrigerated until you are ready to bake it (allow an extra 10 minutes in the oven under the foil), or baked ahead of time and reheated in a 350-degree oven. Makes 8 servings.
Learn more about cooking with culinary herbs in Traditional Herbal Recipes from Around the World.