Leonardo Foschi hails from the Bologna province in Italy. Of course he’s a pasta guy, and that is why he chose to share his recipe that combines fresh ricotta and vegetables with pasta.
“I wanted to make something that would remind me of home but also include something fresh,” said the 32-year-old student in the chef apprentice program at the Hospitality and Culinary Academy at Johnson County Community College.
Foschi initially pursued a career in architecture, but it wasn’t the right fit. A few years ago, he followed his girlfriend to the United States; he entered the culinary program two years ago. He is serving his apprenticeship at Lidia’s Restaurant, an Italian eatery in the Crossroads.
Recipe and food styling by Leonardo Foschi, a second-year student in the Johnson County Community College culinary program. He is an apprentice at Lidia’s in Kansas City.
About the column
Cooking 101 is a bimonthly column exclusive to The Star designed to introduce home cooks to basic cooking techniques. The recipe, food styling and photography are a joint project between culinary students and instructors at Johnson County Community College’s Hospitality Management Program.
Lasagna With Fresh Ricotta and Roasted Vegetables
Makes 8 servings
For the ricotta:
1 gallon whole milk
4 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons sea salt
1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
For the vegetables:
2 red bell peppers
2 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into long strips
Olive oil, for brushing
For the pasta dough:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups fresh ricotta
1 large egg
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 large leaves basil, chopped
2 cups Parmesan, divided
For the green sauce:
2 cups spinach leaves
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups heavy cream
Salt to taste
Drizzle of olive oil
To make the ricotta: Combine the milk, heavy cream and salt in a stainless steel or enameled saucepan. Slowly bring the mixture up to 180 degrees on a thermometer, being careful not to scorch it. Remove saucepan from the heat, add the lemon juice; the mixture will coagulate. Skim the coagulated milk curds off the top of the watery whey and place in the center of a cheesecloth square. Draw up the corners of the cheesecloth and hang, allowing ricotta to drain for 45 minutes. (This will yield about 4 cups; keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.)
To prepare the vegetables: Place the whole peppers on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in a 450-degree oven and roast until the skin begins to puff and char, about 20 minutes. Flip the peppers with a pair of tongs and continue to roast 20 minutes more. Brush zucchini with olive oil and roast on a separate parchment-lined baking sheet for about 15 minutes, turning once half way through. Remove both trays from the oven, allow vegetables to cool; remove stem, papery skin and seeds of pepper, then cut into strips.
Cut an “x” on the bottoms of the tomatoes. Blanch the tomatoes by immersing them in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove tomatoes using a scoop or tongs and plunge into a mixing bowl of ice water for 30 seconds. When tomatoes are cool to the touch, remove the skins and dice the tomatoes into small pieces.
To make the pasta dough: Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the center of flour and add egg. Use a fork to mix the ingredients until dough pulls together. Knead the dough lightly for several minutes but be careful not to overwork as this can make the pasta sheets hard to roll and toughen the final product. Wrap the disc of dough in plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to rest.
Unwrap the dough and cut into 4 pieces. Flatten the dough into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle, lightly flour and feed through a pasta machine to create 4 thin sheets that match the size of a 4-by-12-inch terrine or bread pan.
Cook pasta sheets in boiling salted water for 3 to 5 minutes and cool in ice bath; set aside.
To assemble lasagna: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of ricotta with 1 egg, salt and basil. Add half of the tomatoes and 1 cup of Parmesan. Set aside.
Line the bottom and sides of a greased terrine with a cooked pasta sheet, then layer with pepper and sprinkle 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan over it. Top peppers with 2/3 cup ricotta. Top first layer with a second sheet of cooked pasta, then layer the squash and sprinkle 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan over all. Top squash evenly with 2/3 cup ricotta mixture and 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Top with third pasta sheet. Top with remaining tomatoes and spread remaining 2/3 cup ricotta and Parmesan evenly; cover the layers with the final piece of pasta. Cover lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lasagna from the oven and allow to cool for another 30 minutes before serving.
To make the green sauce: Blanch the spinach in hot salted water and cool in an ice bath.
Warm vegetable stock in a saucepan over low heat, then whisk in flour to make a veloute sauce. Add heavy cream and simmer for 5 minutes.
Place slightly cooled veloute in a blender with spinach; puree on high for 45 seconds (be sure to vent the blender to avoid an explosion).
Return the contents of the blender to the pan and cook over low heat until sauce thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Season sauce with salt.
To serve: Place a pool of green sauce on each serving plate, top with two slices of lasagna each and garnish with 1/4 cup fresh ricotta drizzled with olive oil.
Per serving: 642 calories (67 percent from fat), 48 grams total fat (29 grams saturated), 239 milligrams cholesterol, 24 grams carbohydrates, 29 grams protein, 772 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.