It’s finally feeling like a real New England winter here in Boston as temperatures have fallen into the teens and twenties.  That inspired me yesterday to pick up a container of ricotta and a box of Italian No-Bake Lasagne Noodles from Trader Joe’s in order to assemble a comforting Lasagne Bolognese for dinner tonight, with leftovers for sure.

I had 3 freezer bags full of my Bolognese Giordano from efforts a few weeks ago, and had already purchased a 12-ounce package of TJ’s shredded Quattro Formaggio, so quick prep of a ricotta/milk bechamel and the assembly was all the work required to get this ready for dinner tonight.

I like an assertive lasagne bursting with flavor, and tender noodles that define each layer.  That’s why I prefer the 4-cheese blend over mozzarella, and the no-bake noodles imported from Italy that I’m hard-pressed to differentiate from fresh lasagne sheets.

Here’s the recipe.  I haven’t tasted it yet but all my instincts and previous lasagne  experience tell me it’s gonna be great!



assembled and ready for oven



16 No-Bake Italian Lasagne Noodles, preferably from Trader Joe’s (best value) softened in hot water for about 10 minutes and  laid out on  tea towels to absorb  excess water.

5 cups Bolognese Giordano or your favorite Bolognese sauce

12-ounce package Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio shredded cheese

3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano

For Ricotta-Bechamel Filling

4 tbsp unsalted butter

4 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole milk (or add a bit of half & half to low-fat or fat-free milk)

1 cup whole milk ricotta

Pinch of salt

A couple grinds of black pepper


Make the bechamel…

In a medium sauce pan melt the butter over low heat and whisk in the flour until it’s incorporated.  Slowly add the milk, whisking, until the mixture is thick and smooth.  Remove from heat, add the ricotta, salt & pepper, and allow to cool in fridge about 15 minutes.

Use a 9 x 13 or similar size 3″ deep baking dish for this.  My Emile Henry baker is slightly smaller, about 8-1/2 x 12, but it worked out perfectly.

Spread 1 cup of sauce over bottom of baking dish.  Lay 4 noodles over this, slightly overlapping.  Spread 1/3 of the bechamel evenly over the noodles, then spread another cup of the sauce, sprinkle with 1/4 of the shredded cheese (3 ounces), and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese.

Make two more layers using 4 noodles, 1/3 of bechamel, sauce, 1/4 of shredded cheese, and 1/4 cup grated cheese.  Then finish with final layer of noodles topped with remaining 1 cup sauce and remaining 3 ounces of shredded cheese.

If baking right away, cover with foil and bake at 375º for one hour.  remove foil and bake a little longer until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Let sit 15 minutes before slicing and serving.


and done!

(prep can be done early in the day, refrigerated, and baked later after letting it sit at room temperature for about an hour)








Ultimate Macaroni & Cheese

Once realizing I’d never posted this recipe, I truly could not wait for this to be baked and photographed before sharing it.  So please imagine that buttery panko topping browned and crispy, and the cheeses just oozing a bit from beneath that crunchy blanket.

Yes, I do unabashedly declare this to be the ULTIMATE mac and cheese recipe, adapted from what I enjoyed years ago at Stephanie’s on Newbury in Boston’s Back Bay.  The restaurant is still there, having grown up into much more than the bistro it was in the ’90s, but still featuring this signature dish on their extensive menu.  You can make a reservation and pay $19 for a lunch portion of this dish, or you can make a batch serving  6  for about $9 in ingredients.  Easy, and yet truly sophisticated.  Never go back to elbows and orange cheddar again.


(adapted from Stephanie’s on Newbury Street, Boston)


(oven-ready, not yet baked – imagine crispy browned topping!)

8 ounces penne, rotelli,  cavatappi, or similar pasta shape, cooked al dente and drained

For sauce:

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp flour

2 cups  half & half  or light cream

1-1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

8 ounces shredded Vermont sharp cheddar

4 ounces Trader Joe’s Quattro Formaggio blend , or 2 ounces shredded romano & 2 ounces shredded asiago

For topping:

1 cup panko (do not substitute – this is essential for crisp topping)

4 tbsp melted butter

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

Melt butter in large saucepan, add flour and simmer 2-3 minutes on medium heat.  Add cream and whisk until dissolved.  Continue cooking on low-medium until thick & bubbly.  Add all the cheeses, and S&P – cook until cheese is melted.  Add to the pasta and place in buttered 2-quart baking dish.

Mix together the panko & melted butter, sprinkle evenly on top, and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Top with parsley.(optional)

For added depth of flavor, add 1/2 tsp truffle oil, or embellish with chopped broccoli, lobster meat, or prosciutto.

Wonderful winter comfort food, and a real crowd-pleasure on Superbowl Sunday.  This is a half-recipe, enough for 6 hearty portions.  Double it for a crowd and – of course – use a larger baked pan, but no need to increase the baking time.