ZUCCHINI NOODLE LASAGNA WITH SAUSAGE AND HOMEMADE RICOTTA
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small fennel bulb, chopped (bulb and some of stems, about 1 cup)
1-pound sweet Italian bulk sausage
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons Dish off the Block Ciao Bella Italian Spice Blend
½ cup dry red wine
1, 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes (San Marzano are the best if possible)
1, 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons sugar
3 medium-large zucchinis
¼ cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 cups ricotta (see recipe below or use whole milk store-bought)
1 cup parmesan
1 egg, beaten
4 cups shredded mozzarella
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons good white wine vinegar
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet over medium high heat. Cook the onions, garlic, and fennel for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Add the sausage to the pan and cook until the sausage is cooked through, breaking it up into small pieces with a spatula, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and Italian seasoning to the pan and continue cooking for 1 minute to let your spices bloom. Add the red wine, all of the tomatoes, and sugar to the pan. Bring to boil and then turn your heat to medium low. Let cook at a low boil while you prepare the zucchini, stirring occasionally.
Preheat grill or oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the ends off the zucchinis and then, cut them lengthwise into ½” thick slices. If they are very long, you can cut them in half across the middle to make the slices easier to manage.
Lay your zucchini out, in one layer on foil-lined baking sheets. Drizzle on the first side with half of the olive oil and spread it evenly over each slice with your fingers. Season with half of the salt and pepper. Flip them all over and repeat. If you are baking just slide the pans into the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes until tender and they begin to lightly brown. If you are grilling, place them on the hot grill and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, flipping with tongs.
Combine the ricotta, parmesan, and egg in a bowl and set aside.
To assemble your lasagna. Place about ½ cup of sauce in the bottom of a 9” x 13” baking dish or large oven proof skillet and spread to coat the bottom. Place a layer of the cooked zucchini slices to cover the sauce, slightly overlapping. Top with half of the sausage sauce, followed by half of the ricotta mixture in dollops and 2 cups of the mozzarella cheese.
Repeat with the remaining zucchini, sauce, ricotta, and mozzarella. Bake for 35-45 minutes until lightly browned and bubbly. Let rest for 15-20 minutes which will allow it to settle and be easier to cut. Top with basil leaves and another dollop of that amazing ricotta! Devour!!
Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Pour the milk and cream into a large pot. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Stir in the salt. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 30 minutes until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).
Pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined sieve or strainer, in the sink or over a large bowl (with plenty of room under the sieve to drain). Allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for at least 1 hour, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. (I tend to like mine on the thicker side and let it sit for up to 2-3 hours). Depending on the size of the holes in your strainer, you may need to gently stir the cheese occasional to help the liquid to drain out.
When the ricotta has reached the desired consistency, transfer to a clean bowl, discarding the cheesecloth and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (it will also get thicker in the fridge). The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.