On my way home from work, I often swing through the Union Square farmer’s market to survey what’s in season, wink at the ruggedly handsome vegetable growers and sample sparkling wines from up-state. On a recent visit, I was surprised to still see colorful piles of heirloom tomatoes, swollen to the size of grapefruits, glistening in the six o’clock sun. I began to contemplate dinner possibilities with the knowledge that a gas leak behind my oven had reduced me to using only the stovetop. A container of fresh ricotta caught my eye, then a bouquet of basil drew me in and... Voila! I had it all planned out. Traditionally, lasagna is baked in the oven for the better part of an hour, but this lasagna can be constructed entirely on the stovetop. It’s so good, you’ll want to eat it straight out of the bowl with a spoon.
Free-Form Lasagna with Heirloom Tomatoes and Baby Eggplant
(Serves 4) 1 pound lasagna, each strip broken in half
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 baby eggplants cut into thin semi circles
6 heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 small container ricotta
1 ball mozzarella
1 small bunch basil, cleaned and chopped
1 small bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley, cleaned
and chopped (stems removed)
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Bring a big pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic and a bit of salt and slowly sauté for ten minutes. Add the eggplant and tomatoes and continue to cook for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the ricotta, mozzarella, half the parsley and half the basil together with a fork. Salt and pepper to taste. Once the pasta water has come to a boil, add one tablespoon of olive oil to prevent sticking and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain. Add the rest of the herbs to the pasta sauce minutes before you intend to turn off the heat. Lay out four plates. On each, place a strand of pasta, then a thin layer of sauce, then cheese, then pasta, then sauce and so on until you’ve exhausted the ingredients. The cheese will melt on contact. Garnish with any left over herbs.