by Stephanie Zonis
OK, this is...unusual. But ricotta is a great base for sweet as well as savory dishes, and unflavored pasta is a fairly blank canvas on which you can paint some good flavors. The sauce is optional, but it dresses up the dish; if you decide you want to use it, it can be made up to 5 days before serving or while the lasagna bakes. I tried to find fresh pasta to make this, but I couldn't do it, so I used dried lasagna. I know at least one company makes a no-boil dried lasagna, but I wouldn't use that here as I don't think there's enough liquid in the rest of the recipe to completely soften the pasta while it bakes. As it is, you cook the lasagna past the normal al dente stage before layering it with the ricotta filling. You only need 9 noodles for this dish, but I always cook a tenth to eat afterward or in case I drop one on the floor.
The filling, made with whole milk ricotta, is a snap in the food processor. I would have tried to make this with a part-skim ricotta, but oddly enough, I couldn't find that when I went marketing, either. I'd think that would work here, though, provided that you pour off any liquid that's accumulated on top of the ricotta before you use it. I have no idea whether a fat free ricotta would be successful in this recipe, and I don't intend to find out. The completed lasagna will keep for several days in the fridge, if tightly covered.
This will keep for up to several days in the fridge. I have eaten it cold, but much prefer it slightly warmed, most easily done by heating squares at 50% (medium) power in the microwave oven. It can also be frozen, but freezing will dry it out somewhat.
8 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Few grains salt
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1-1/2 lbs. (about 2-1/2 packed cups) whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs, graded "large"
2 Tbsp. almond liqueur
Grated zest 1/2 large orange
3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup (about 4-1/2 ounces) finely snipped dried apricots
Pasta and Cooking:
9 or 10 lasagna noodles
1 Tbsp. tasteless vegetable oil
Grated white chocolate
Generous 1-3/4 cups
In small heatproof bowl, combine chopped chocolate and salt. In small heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, heat cream, stirring occasionally, till very hot. Remove from heat. Pour about half of hot cream over chocolate. Allow to stand for a minute or two, then stir or whisk gently until smooth. (If necessary, place bowl of chocolate over simmering water on low heat—water should not touch bottom of bowl—and stir frequently just until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and hot water.) Gradually stir in remaining cream. If not using immediately, cool briefly, then chill, covering tightly when cold. Store in refrigerator for up to 5 days; reheat before using.
In work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, combine ricotta, sugar, and heavy cream. Cover, process at high speed about 20 seconds. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula. Cover again; process at high speed about 30 seconds longer, or until smooth. Add eggs and almond liqueur. Cover; process at high speed about 20 seconds, until well-combined. Mixture will be thin. For ease in handling, transfer to a liquid measuring cup or pitcher of at least 3-1/2 cup capacity. Stir in orange zest. Set aside in refrigerator until needed.
In small bowl, combine chips and apricot pieces. with spoon, blend to mix thoroughly. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature until needed.
For Pasta and Assembly:
Heat about 5 quarts of water to a rapid boil in a heavy-bottomed 6-quart pot. When water boils rapidly, add oil and about 1 teaspoon salt (it's not necessary to measure the exact quantity of salt). When water returns to rapid boil, add lasagna noodles, one at a time. Stir. When water returns to boil, begin timing. Noodles must boil until they are slightly past the al dente stage. If you use Ronzoni lasagna noodles, as I did here, boil them for 11 minutes.
While noodles cook, line two baking sheets with aluminum foil, shiny side up. When noodles are done, remove, one at a time, to one of the cookie sheets, spreading each noodle out to full length. Allow to cool till just warm (this doesn't take long). While noodles cool, adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 7 by 11 inch pan, at least 1-3/4 inches deep. Remove filling from refrigerator.
Line the bottom of the baking pan with three of the cooked noodles. Noodles may overlap slightly; if necessary, trim short ends so they'll fit into the pan. Carefully pour about half of the filling on top of the noodles; if necessary, spread to cover them. Sprinkle about half of the chocolate-chip apricot mixture evenly over the filling. Repeat this with three more noodles for a second pasta layer, the remainder of the filling, and the rest of the chip-apricot mixture. The top layer should be of cooked noodles; trim the short ends, but I also like to trim one curly edge from each noodle so there's very minimal or no overlap. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil.
Bake the covered lasagna for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Allow to stand, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes before serving (do not omit this standing period). While lasagna stands, if you're using the chocolate sauce, reheat it now: scrape as much as you think you'll need into a small heatproof bowl and place over simmering water on low heat water should not touch bottom of bowl—just until warm, stirring often. Remove foil—cover from lasagna. Serve lasagna in squares, pouring chocolate sauce over the top and sprinkling on some grated white chocolate. Alternatively, allow to cool briefly, then chill, covering tightly when cold. As this cools, some of the top noodles may curl up slightly, exposing some filling—OK. Store in refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze (if you freeze this, cut it into serving-size squares prior to freezing).
To reheat, if lasagna has been frozen, defrost, still in wrappings, in refrigerator. If necessary, cut squares of lasagna of desired size. Reheat in microwave at 50% (medium) power for short intervals, just until warm. Serve with warmed sauce, if desired.
Copyright © 2001 Francesca Chocolate Productions. All Rights Reserved.
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This page created April 2001
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