A lot of really good things come in layers.
Neapolitan ice cream.
Your immune system. My immune system. Everyone's immune system.
(Bet you didn't think I was going there now did you!)
In fact. Let's talk about your immune system for a minute. Shall we?
Life may be like a box of chocolates. But your immune system. Is kind of like a piece of lasagna.
Let me explain.
First. You have the noodle. Which, while admittedly the simplest of all of the lasagna components, is also the most integral. You need it to hold everything together. Otherwise what you'd have is a huge pile of cheese and, in this case, vegetable filling. Not a bad thing. But not lasagna.
So the noodle. Is kind of like the skin. We all have it. We all need it. And without it, we'd just be a huge pile of viscera, water, and fat. Yuck.
Let's all take a minute and appreciate our skin. Give it a pat on the back. Or a hug. Let it know we care.
Next. We have the cheese. Just as integral. Because, well, let's be honest. The noodles are good. But the whole point of eating lasagna is to gorge yourself on mass amounts of ricotta. It's the closest we can come to just sticking a spoon into the container and going at it. Without seeming like a totally indulgent lunatic (not that that's ever stopped me. But you know. Some people have a semblance of self respect).
The point being that the ricotta is what makes us so impulsive about lasagna. It's the reason why we sit there eating it out of the tray with a fork with no regard for portion control. At all. Whatsoever.
Like the innate immune system. Macrophages, dendritic cells, mast cells. Who just jump into staving off infection. Without a thought as to how their actions might impact the body as a whole. They go for it. Hell or high water. Sometimes rightfully so. When the pathogen in question is something like an adenovirus or streptococcus. But not so much when it's something benign. Like cherry blossoms. Or that adorable puppy next door who you have to pet on your way to work everyday.
Yeah. It can be a bit overzealous.
Finally. The filling. The only truly variable part of lasagna. Meat. Veggies. Both.
A little more thought goes into this layer. It is pensive. Restrained. It can be adapted to taste.
Like the B cells and T cells of the adaptive immune system. It reflects where you've been and who you are. It is history. And future. All rolled into one.
You have antibodies against varicella zoster? Then I can tell you that you had the chicken pox when you were five. Along with everyone else in your kindergarten class. And I can also tell you that you will never get it again. No matter how many times you cross paths in the future.
How's that for fortune telling?
Similarly. What you choose to stuff your lasagna with. Speaks volumes about your childhood. Your lifestyle How clogged your arteries are going to be in ten years.
Whether or not you will ever get someone to marry you for your cooking.
You know. The critical things.
I made this lasagna for my friend Mari when she came over last week. Not to toot my own horn or anything. But it was the best lasagna I've made so far. The bitterness of the broccoli rabe played really well off of the almost sweet, rich, creamy ricotta. An unlikely duo. But, hey. That never stopped anyone.
Vegetarian Lasagna with Broccoli Rabe
9 sheets lasagna
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (I used the one above. Yes, I cheated. But it's only ingredients are San Marzano tomatoes, fresh onions, extra virgin olive oil, salt, fresh basil, and pepper. You can't go wrong there.)
2 cups part-skim ricotta
1 bunch broccoli rabe, rinsed
1 cup shredded mozzarella
salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
pecorino romano, for sprinkling on top
1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Boil the broccoli rabe for two minutes. Drain and blanch immediately with cold water.
3. Mix together the ricotta, egg, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
4. In the bottom of an 8x8 inch pan, spread a layer of the tomato sauce. Top with three sheets of lasagna (or enough to line the pan). Cover with 1/2 of the ricotta mixture and 1/2 of the broccoli rabe. Top with a layer of sauce.
5. Cover with another three lasagna sheets. Add the rest of the ricotta, the rest of the broccoli rabe and some more sauce.
6. Add one final layer of lasagna sheets. Top with sauce, the mozzarella, and a sprinkling of pecorino.
7. Bake, covered with aluminum foil, for 30 minutes. Then uncovered for fifteen minutes.
8. Let stand for five minutes before cutting. Serve.
This is my submission for Presto Pasta Nights, which is being hosted this week by Ruth of Once Upon A Feast.