I would like ways to use up a surplus of lasagne sheets – I have three children, and only two of us enjoy actual lasagne.
This question was in part prompted by a recent Yotam Ottolenghi recipe for dal pitta, which, for the sake of ease, swapped freshly made noodle dough for roughly broken up lasagne sheets. And, as with much in life, soup is indeed a good path to tread here.
“I would smash the sheets up really small with a little hammer, which is a fun job, or the kids can snap them with their fingers, then throw them into soupy stuff,” says Claire Thomson, author of Home Cookery Year. This could, she says, be a courgette, basil, cream and stock number, or a seasonal minestrone. “With spring coming up, I’d say peas, broad beans, a nice soffritto [chopped onion, carrot, celery], lots of herbs, chicken or veg stock, and then broken up lasagne to cook in the soup.”
That sentiment is echoed by our Roman food correspondent Rachel Roddy, whose new book The A-Z of Pasta is out in July: “I love lasagne sheets, and I’m a big fan of maltagliati [‘badly cut pieces’].” She breaks said sheets into shards and adds them to members of the thick bean-soup family – pasta e fagioli, pasta e ceci, pasta e lenticchie; essentially, anything in which you might normally use small pasta shapes. Keep an eye on it while it’s cooking, though, Roddy warns: “You’ll sometimes need to add a bit of extra water so it stays soupy.”
The brilliant thing about lasagne is, of course, that it can be treated simply as sheets of pasta. “If you parboil them briefly, so they’re floppy, you can then use a sharp knife to cut them into tagliatelle,” Roddy says. “Although they obviously wouldn’t be very long tagliatelle.” For Mitshel Ibrahim, chef-owner of east London’s Ombra, who has been running lasagne Sundays during lockdown, cannelloni are the obvious answer. “I’d boil the lasagne for a couple of minutes, then stuff them with ricotta and spinach,” he says, “or with a Neapolitan-style ragu.” Roll into tubes, submerge in tomato sauce and pop in the oven until slightly crisp on top. Although, Ibrahim admits, this is “still a pasta bake of sorts”.
If you’ve got fresh lasagne sheets knocking about in the freezer, take your lead from London pasta joint Bancone, which turns them into “silk handkerchiefs”. Cut the sheets into 12½cm squares, then cook in a pan of salted boiling water for two to three minutes and serve with a walnut butter and confit egg yolk. Granted, that might not exactly be up Sarah’s children’s alley, but she could instead look to Liguria in northwest Italy and serve those pasta hankies with pesto alla Genovese.
If in doubt, though, make like Roddy and break up any unruly excess lasagne sheets, then store them in a jar with other shapes from near-empty packets. “One of the nice things about a mixed jar of pasta is that the cooking times are all a little bit different,” she says, which proves particularly popular with her partner, Vincenzo, who likes his pasta properly al dente. Then, Roddy adds, just start experimenting.