Some of my favorite local farmers market stalls here in the San Francisco bay area are the ones with fresh pasta makers. I always love seeing what seasonal flavors have made their way into the ravioli, and making an alfredo with fresh fettuccini is to die for! A lot of the local pasta makers now have their goods in our food markets as well, so it is even easier to find them during the week. If you have never tried fresh local pasta, I highly recommend that you seek some out. This fresh pasta sheet lasagna recipe is a great place to start. Fresh pastas are head and shoulders above the dried ones in my book. And supporting your local small business owners is always a great idea!
One of my Favorite Things
Lasagna is one of my favorite things to make in the Instant Pot. I find myself making it quite often. Prior to the IP, I may have made one for a special occasion every few years, so when I say this is a game-changer for me, I mean it. However, I am not a fan of the no-boil pasta that most recipes call for. In addition to not caring for the texture when cooked, it’s a bit of a pain to try to fit the hard rectangles into a round springform pan. Okay I admit, I am more than a little OCD, and like my pasta layers to look perfect. Chipping away at hard noodles to make shapes that fit my pan was one of my least favorite things to do. That’s why when I was at the market and saw full sheets of fresh pasta, a light bulb went off in my head. I could use the wide sheets and easily cut them to the exact shape I need. Couldn’t be easier! and the texture of the cooked pasta in the sauce turns out divine!
Fresh pasta is the best!
When you use full round sheets of pasta, you don’t have to worry which direction the pasta layers are going when you cut the lasagna (a bonus when making a round lasagna). And I love the way they expand and form frilly waves throughout the lasagna. Also, starting from fresh, the pasta cooks perfectly and you don’t have to worry about it being under-cooked.
You can use the bottom of your springform pan to cut rounds the exact size you need. I like to fold the full sheet into a triangle and cut two rounds at a time by running a paring knife around the edge. The remaining cut-off bits I stick in an airtight container and store in the fridge. You can make wide slices and create an easy papardelle (fancy word for wide flat noodle shape) dish later in the week.
Customize your filling: meat or veg
For sauce I always have a jar or two of tomato sauce on hand, or if I’m lucky there will still be some of Trilo’s Monster Tomato Sauce in the freezer. I like to use a meat sauce in my lasagna, but if you aren’t eating meat, you can choose a pre-made vegetable tomato sauce. You can also start with a tomato basil sauce and sauté up some veggies to add to it. Try onions, zucchini, black olives, or whatever vegetables you love. You’ll want a chunky sauce because it will add some texture to the dish. I prefer to make the ground beef (or sautéed veg) and combine it with the sauce before doing the layering. That way I only have three parts to layer: sauce, ricotta filling, and fresh pasta rounds.
To bake or not to bake
I personally love the lasagna straight out of the pot (with resting of course), but my BF was missing the crispy bits you get when cooking lasagna in the oven. So for this recipe I decided to try doing an oven bake after removing it from the Instant Pot. We spent a lot of time discussing whether the pasta sheet lasagna should be baked with or without the springform still on it. In the end I was afraid the whole thing would go sideways (literally!) without the form to keep it upright, so I left it on, even though that meant the sides didn’t get direct heat. I’m not sure if I would bother with this step in the future. It did give the top noodles some crisp, and the cheese browned. But the rest was largely the same. I don’t think it was worth having to put off eating it for another 15 minutes (your mileage may vary).
So here are the steps. Let’s get cooking!
- Gather your ingredients.
- Gently unfold pasta sheets onto a cutting board. Fold oven corner-to-corner to make a large doubled-up triangle. Use the bottom of your springform pan, position it on the pasta, and run a paring knife around the edge, cutting through both layers. Repeat with all pasta sheets.
- My package of pasta contains 3 sheets, which gives me 6 rounds. Set aside.
- Note: If you are using pre-made sauce, you can skip ahead to the next section.For meat sauce, brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking up chunks. A few small chunks are okay. Remove from heat. Drain off excess fat. Pour in sauce and stir to coat. Set aside.If you are meat-free, you can sauté onions, mushrooms, zucchini, or whatever veggies you enjoy. Cut them into small cubes, and cook them for a few minutes to soften. Pour in sauce and stir to coat. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup of the shredded mozzarella (reserve 1/4 cup for topping), shredded asiago (or parmesan) cheese, egg, and spices.
- Stir well to combine with a silicone spatula.
- Be sure to scrape around the sides and turn over from the bottom to mix well. Set bowl aside.
Prepare your pan
- Put the bottom back in your springform pan, making sure it sits flat on the table when you snap the sides closed.Take a piece of aluminum foil and lay it on the table, set the pan in the center of it, and wrap the foil up on all sides., pressing it up against the sides to hold in place. fold the tops down at the upper edge.Spray the inside of the pan with olive oil baking spray.
Assembling the lasagna
- Clean your work area. Place your pan in front of you, and around that gather your pasta rounds, ricotta filling, and meat (or veg) sauce. You will want a large spoon for the filling, and another one for the sauce.
- In the bottom of the pan, spoon some of the sauce, covering the base.
- Take one round of pasta and press it into the sauce all the way around.
- Spread more sauce on top of the pasta.
- Add a few dollops of the ricotta filling, breaking it up with the spoon so that it is spread evenly across the layer.Note: You want to try to portion the ricotta so each layer has roughly the same amount. This does take some practice, and it certainly doesn’t affect the taste at all if one layer is thicker than another.
- Lightly press another pasta round into the filling. You want to get the air bubbles out, but not squeeze it too much.
- Continue to layer with sauce on top of pasta, filling spread across the sauce, then another pasta round.
- The top layer of pasta should be just about at the top of your pan sides. Cover with a layer of sauce.Note: I have had shorter lasagna, and even some that rose a bit over the sides. They all turned out great.
- Sprinkle the reserved 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella on top.
- Make a dome of aluminum foil to cover the top. It is important that the foil isn’t touching the cheese on top.Set pan on a silicone trivet with handles. This will make it easier to raise and lower the springform pan into the Instant Pot.
- Add 1 cup of water to your pot liner, and lower the lasagna into the Instant Pot.Close the vent, and cook on manual, high for 20 minutes. Let naturally release pressure until pin drops.
- Remove the foil from the pan. Be careful when removing the foil from the bottom, it may have some liquid drained from the lasagna in it, and will be very hot. Using oven mitts, set the lasagna pan on a cooling rack to rest.Note: If you don’t want to try crisping the lasagna in the oven, skip ahead to plating.
- To get the cheese on top browned, and the edges a bit crispy, you can place the springform pan on a metal tray and put it under the broiler for 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on it! You don’t want to burn the cheese.
- The top should look browned and bubbly, with crisp edges on the pasta.Set the pan on a cooling rack or plate to rest for 15 minutes. Don’t remove the sides until it has rested, or your layers will slide!
Plating and serving
- This is a really impressive-looking lasagna when it is unmolded. If you have a fancy dish, bring it out! Luckily the 7″ size of the springform pan means that it will fit on most dinner plates, but don’t be afraid to use a larger one if you have it. (Even if you are eating it on your own, it will make for pretty pictures!)
- After letting the lasagna rest, set the springform pan on your platter. Run a butter knife around the sides to loosen the lasagna (try not to scrape the pan). Remove the sides by releasing the latch. Carefully lift the sides over the lasagna.
- I like to slice my lasagna down the center, and then make 3 perpendicular slices, giving me 8 roughly rectangular pieces (you can also cut it into wedges if you like).
- When you use full round sheets of pasta, you don’t have to worry which direction the pasta layers are going when you cut the lasagna. I also love the way they expand and form frilly waves throughout the lasagna. And starting from fresh, the pasta cooks perfectly and you don’t have to worry about it being under-cooked.I hope you’ll give it a try! Enjoy.