This is not your Aunt Mary’s lasagna—or one you’ve likely encountered from any family member! There’s no tomato sauce and no meat. Just fresh pasta sheets layered with four different kinds of delicious cheese.
This lasagna is golden with crispy-chewy edges on top and creamy insides in the middle. This makes a heavenly and decadent addition to a holiday table or midwinter feast.
I have been wanting to explore making lasagna with fresh pasta sheets for a while. I like the idea of using the pasta sheets in a simple way for a weeknight dinner instead of going full monty with the sauce and meat of traditional lasagna.
You can make your own pasta, of course, or look for fresh sheets in the refrigerator section at gourmet grocery stores like Whole Foods. (If you have trouble finding fresh pasta, or don't want to bother, no-boil dry lasagna noodles are a fine substitute! Instructions for that variation are below)
The filling for this lasagna takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and the noodles take no more time than that to boil. Yes, you'll still need to cook the pasta, even when using fresh sheets or no-boil dry noodles – there's no escaping this step, but at least it's quick!
Rather than assembling the lasagna in layers, as is traditional, I took a more freeform approach with this recipe. You fold a few spoonfuls of filling between each sheet of pasta and then arrange the folded pockets randomly in the pan. Then the whole dish is baked until the cheese is bubbly and the edges of the pasta are crispy.
The lasagna can be assembled in a skillet or a baking dish. You could make half a recipe or double the recipe as needed, depending on how many people you want to feed. The filling will also keep for a couple of days in the fridge if you want to make it ahead and assemble to order.
I still had some basil in my garden when I made this earlier in the fall, and I'm happy to report that it made a stellar addition to the melty chunks of fresh mozzarella and fontina in the finished dish. But any fresh herb you can get your hands on would be delicious.
I also thought about topping the lasagna with sautéed mushrooms, and I may still do that at some point if I want to serve this as a more complete meal on its own. I also think some roasted delicata squash would work well, or asparagus in the spring, or even ripe tomatoes in the summer.
Four-Cheese Lasagna With Fresh Pasta
- For the filling
- 8 ounces (1 1/2 cups) fresh ricotta
- 1 ounce (1/4 cup) finely grated Parmesan
- 1 large egg
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary, parsley or thyme, or a combination
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
- 3 ounces (1 cup) grated fontina
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- For the lasagna
- 8 large fresh pasta sheets (1 pound, roughly 6x8 inches in size), or 16 no-boil dry lasagna noodles (about 10 ounces)
- 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 ounces (about 6 tablespoons) finely grated Parmesan
- Chopped fresh herbs, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 450ºF:
Lightly oil a large (10- to 12-inch) skillet or a 9x13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have on hand a large bowl with ice water.
Make the filling:
In a medium bowl, stir the ricotta, Parmesan, egg, lemon zest and herbs together until combined. Fold in the mozzarella and fontina and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cut the fresh pasta sheets in half:
to make 16 sheets that are roughly 4x6 inches in size. (If you're using no-boil noodles, break them in half if they are longer than 10 inches. Otherwise use them as is.)
Cook the pasta:
Drop the pasta sheets in the boiling water and cook for 30 to 40 seconds. (If using no-boil pasta, boil for 2 to 3 minutes, or until softened. Yes, you still need to boil your no-boil noodles for this recipe!)
Using tongs and/or a slotted spatula, carefully transfer the pasta sheets, a few at a time, to the cold water to stop the cooking.
Fill the pasta:
Working with few sheets at a time, transfer the pasta sheets from the cold water to a cutting board. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
Scoop about 3 tablespoons of the filling onto each pasta sheet, and then fold the sheets in half so that the filling is sandwiched in the middle. (No need to seal the edges.) Brush the tops lightly with olive oil and place in the skillet or baking dish. You don’t have to be too precise about where you place the folded sheets; just layer them in a random pattern.
Continue to fill the remaining pasta sheets in the same manner. When all the sheets are assembled in the baking dish or skillet, sprinkle the top generously with Parmesan.
Bake the lasagna:
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the cheese is golden and the pasta is crisp and brown at the edges. Sprinkle with more herbs and serve hot.