Updated: 11/23/2016 3:24 PM | Print Story |  Email

Raghavan Iyer’s Potato Lasagna

Minneapolis chef Raghavan Iyer is an award-winning recipe developer. The 2016 James Beard Award winning cookbook author was featured in the New York Times, Weight Watchers Magazine, and Fine Cooking. He’s back in the TCL kitchen to chat about his latest cookbook, “Smashed, Mashed, Boiled, and Baked – And Fried, Too!” and share a recipe for Italian Potato Lasagna.

You can purchase Raghavan’s latest cookbook here.


Potato Lasagna

A good lasagna is satisfying, but a great one is lusty. I am the first to admit this is a production, but the promise of leftovers for those nights when all you want to do is reheat a portion after a long workday makes it worthwhile. Even though I go to the effort of making my own sauce and ricotta (give it a try, page 148), you can opt out and use store-purchased versions. Serves 8

For the Sauce

4 pounds grape tomatoes
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns

For the Ricotta

2 cups ricotta cheese (recipe follows)
Zest from 1 large lemon
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt

For the Vegetable Medley

1½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, fresh finely chopped
8 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 ounces stem, ribs, and seeds discarded, baby spinach, thoroughly rinsed and dried
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea or kosher salt

For the Pasta and Assembly

Cooking spray, for greasing the pan
12 ounces fresh lasagna sheets (see Tater Tip)
12 ounces shredded Italian cheese blend

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper.

2. To make the sauce, place the tomatoes in a large bowl and anoint them with enough olive oil to give them a glistening coat. Sprinkle the salt and peppercorns over them and give it all a good toss. Spread the tomatoes in the baking pan and roast, stirring them once in a while, until their skins shrivel and they are brown, 45 to 50 minutes.

3. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and lower the temperature to 350°F. Transfer the tomatoes to a blender jar and puree them until smooth, scraping the inside of the jar as needed. If you are okay dispensing the sauce from there when assembling the lasagna, just leave it in the jar. If not, pour and scrape it into a bowl.

4. Place the ricotta in a medium-size bowl and stir in the lemon zest, eggs, basil, red pepper flakes, and salt.

5. To make the vegetable medley, scrub the potatoes well under cold running water. Fill a medium-size bowl with cold water. Slice the potatoes into ¹⁄8-inch-thick planks with a chef’s knife or mandoline. Submerge the planks in the bowl of cold water to prevent them from graying and to remove excess surface starch. Allow them to soak while you work on the vegetables.

6. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil appears to shimmer, add the onion, red bell pepper, and garlic and stir-fry the medley until the onion and red pepper are light brown around the edges, 7 to 10 minutes. Add half the spinach leaves and cover the pan. The steam will wilt them in 2 to 3 minutes. Pile in the remaining leaves and cover the pan to wilt them, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the peppercorns and salt and give it all a good stir.

7. Drain the potatoes in a colander and run them under cold running water to rinse off any surface starch. Give the colander a good shake or two to rid the potatoes of excess water.

8. Now you are ready to assemble the lasagna (finally!). Spray the inside of a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. (A clear glass pan will certainly look pretty.) Pour in enough sauce to thinly coat the bottom. Place one third of the pasta sheets (4 ounces) to cover the bottom. Spread half of the ricotta over the sheets. Arrange a layer of half the potatoes on the ricotta. A little overlapping of potato planks is okay, but not much. Follow this by half of the vegetable medley. Pour and spread some of the remaining sauce, then sprinkle on one third of the cheese. Place another third of the lasagna sheets on top and repeat the layering, using up all the ricotta, potatoes, and vegetables, and half of the remaining sauce and cheese. Place the last of the sheets over this, followed by the remainder of the sauce. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it on a cookie sheet in case the cheese and sauce spill a bit during baking.

9. Bake the lasagna until the sides look bubbly and the center of the lasagna, when pierced with a knife, reveals a hot, cheesy, bubbly interior, 1 to 1¼ hours.

10. Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top and return the uncovered pan to the oven. Let the cheese melt, about 2 minutes. If you wish for a deeper brown color, turn on the oven broiler and place the pan under it. The cheese will melt and also acquire that reddish-brown color that makes it so appealing.

11. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and allow the lasagna to cool and set a bit, about 15 minutes. Slice the lasagna into portions and serve warm.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Housemade ricotta cheese served under a light pool of extra-virgin olive oil is all the rage in restaurants. Now you can impress your friends by making your own. My way of making it is as easy as boiling milk. The right temperature and the right amount of acid yield incredibly creamy curds. If you drain them in a fine-mesh sieve, you won’t need cheesecloth. If your mesh isn’t fine, line it with damp cheesecloth. Save the whey and use it as the liquid in dough. Both curds and whey will keep, refrigerated, for up to four days. Makes 2 cups

1/2 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar

Pour the milk into a Dutch oven or large heavy saucepan and heat it over medium heat, stirring regularly. Stick a candy thermometer into the milk; when it registers around 175°F, pour in the vinegar and give it a good stir. The milk will start to curdle and soon the curds will separate, leaving behind a watery greenish-gray whey. Place a fine-mesh sieve in a colander in the sink or over a deep bowl and scoop the curds out of the pot into the sieve. Allow the curds to drain for about 30 minutes before using.