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Italian-American Heritage Month: Easy meatless lasagna recipe

Written By | Oct 15, 2017

FORT WORTH, Texas October 16, 2017 — October is Italian-American Heritage Month. In honor of the celebration, you should give this meatless lasagna recipe a try. I’m pleased to say that it turned out to be one of the very best lasagnas I have ever made.

My paternal grandparents immigrated to the United States from Sicily and grandma’s food could bring people visions from God. No, not really. It was sure close though.

When people ask me to make Italian food one of the most requested entrées is lasagna, which can be a labor rich process requiring hours in the kitchen.

Shortcut Lasagna tastes like it took all day to make it (Photo/Claire Hickey)

It’s been about 45+ years since first learning grandma’s recipe, but I have recently learned a couple of new tricks.

A favorite lasagna shortcut is, instead of cooking the lasagna noodles, then dealing with the hot, slippery sheets of pasta, place them in an oblong pan and cover them with very hot water (not boiling). Let them sit for about thirty minutes.

They will be just wiggly enough to construct a lasagna, but not cooked all the way through. They will also absorb sauce easier than dry oven-ready noodles.

Also, instead of taking all day to make grandma’s sauce, or using a jar sauce, buy two large cans of whole San Marzano plum tomatoes. Sprinkle with basil and oregano as you assemble. Be sure to distribute dried herbs sparingly as they are much more potent than fresh.

Alton Brown’s show “Good Eats” is set to record indefinitely on my DVR. My kids and I love to watch and learn about cooking from a scientific perspective and to laugh.

It was from Brown’s “Slow Cooker Lasagna” episode that I learned these shortcuts but in my making, I baked the dish in the oven, not a crock-pot.

Shortcut Lasagna main ingredients: Ricotta cheese, San Marzano plum tomatoes, and lasagna noodles (Photo/Claire Hickey)


Claire’s Short-Cut Lasagna

1 – 1lb. package lasagna noodles
1 – lb. ricotta cheese
2 – 28oz. cans Marzano plum tomatoes
1-2 eggs
Parmesan cheese
Mozzarella cheese
Parsley – 2 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried
½ to 1 teaspoon – Garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350˚.
2. Open ricotta cheese and put in a colander or other strainer over a bowl to drain for at least an hour or up to twenty-four hours. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Discard whey.
3. In clean bowl mix ricotta, egg, parsley and salt. Add Parmesan to taste – I use about ¼ cup. If ricotta won’t spread well add the second egg.
4. Drain noodles and pat dry with paper towels. Spray a 9”X13” oblong pan with cooking spray.
5. Cover the bottom of the pan with juice from canned tomatoes – just enough to cover. Sprinkle with basil and oregano.
6. Place three pasta strips next to each other lengthwise in pan.
7. Place a scoopful of ricotta at one end of each noodle. Spread to the other end of each noodle using a fork to keep pasta stable.
8. Sprinkle with about two tablespoons parmesan and handful of mozzarella.
9. Using your fingers to cover the open can, drain tomatoes. Spread over cheese. Ricotta with still be very visible. Sprinkle with basil and oregano. Repeat process until pan is full, ending with noodles.
10. Pour just enough sauce from tomato cans to cover lasagna. Sprinkle with parmesan and mozzarella to cover.
11. Bake for thirty minutes. If cheese begins to brown before fully cooked, spray foil with cooking spray and loosely cover pan, bake another thirty minutes or until fully warmed. If not, remove foil and bake another ten to fifteen minutes. Cover. Bake another fifteen minutes for a total of sixty. The spray keeps the cheese from sticking to the tinfoil.
12. Let stand, covered, for about fifteen minutes before serving.

Buon Appetito!

For more information:

Alton Brown

The Committee to Observe October As Italian-American Heritage Month

The National Italian American Foundation

What Sets Italian Americans Off From Other Immigrants?

10 Ways the Italians Changed the Way America Eats

Read more of Claire’s work at

Feed the Mind, Nourish the Soul in the Communities Digital News and Greater Fort Worth Writers Group.

Join her on Twitter and Facebook


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Claire Hickey

Claire Hickey was born the last year of the Baby Boom and spent the first half of childhood in Chicago. She has always loved to write but wanted to create pieces worth reading. Her curiosity and love of research lead her to create her column based on the “garbage in garbage out” theory to provide interesting and thought-provoking pieces that enrich her readers. She also believes life is a banquet and loves to learn new things. Her professional pedigree includes Cosmetology, Surgical Technology, and the Culinary Arts. When not working she loves to spend time with family and friends. She lives in Fort Worth.