Lasagna is a powerful, thoughtful act of love, care, and precision. Lasagna is an art form. Lasagna cannot be just thrown together last minute to get dinner on the table. Good lasagna is better than the greatest casserole, and great lasagna is a desert island dish, a death row request for a last supper. A good lasagna can be achieved with store-bought noodles, a good meat sauce, creamy ricotta and mozzarella. A great lasagna is about a zillion layers of super-thin homemade noodles, rich béchamel sauce, homemade ragu made with three to four meats, fontina and Parmigiano reggiano.
On the rare occasion I make it, I cannot help but overindulge, including warming slices of the leftovers for breakfast. Which got me thinking: Instead of just having leftover dinner lasagna for breakfast, what if I made breakfast lasagna?
For starters, I swapped out the noodles for homemade crepes. Italians have done this for ages, making crespelle and swapping them for noodles in all sorts of dishes. Crepes are much easier than homemade noodles, and I am a big believer that breakfast should be easier than dinner. Not wanting to start the day with a long-cooked ragu, I looked to my husband’s Southern roots for inspiration, landing on a classic sausage gravy. Breakfast sausage suspended in a rich creamy sauce essentially covered the béchamel and meat in one fell swoop. I went with roasted tomato slices which are easy to make and bring all the tomato flavor without adding an extra sauce element, some ricotta to lighten it up a bit, soft scrambled eggs, and a blanket of mozzarella and Parmesan to hold everything together.
Is it a quick before-school breakfast? No more than lasagna is a quick weeknight dinner. But it is the perfect thing for a weekend breakfast when you can assemble most of it on Saturday and then finish Sunday morning as an act of devotion for the ones you love, which I sincerely hope includes your own fabulous self. No one deserves lasagna more than the cook.
- Yields: Serves 8
For the crepes:
Mix the eggs into the milk in a small bowl and stir in the melted butter. Sift the flour and salt together, and put into a medium bowl. Add the wet ingredients and mix until well combined, I sometimes use an immersion blender to get it super smooth. It should be slightly thicker than heavy cream, but very fluid and pourable. Let sit at room temperature for 30-120 minutes before making crepes.
Heat a small nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of butter to the pan and tilt it around to cover. Pour in a small amount of crepe batter, about an ounce, and quickly tilt and move the pan so that the batter covers the bottom in a thin layer. Let cook for 60-90 seconds, when the top starts to look dry, flip the crepe over and cook another 30 seconds then remove to a plate. Repeat until all the batter is gone, and set aside your stack of crepes.
For the sausage gravy:
In a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat, cook the sausage, using a spatula to break the meat up into crumbles, and cooking until browned and cooked through. Remove the sausage to a bowl, leaving the fat in the skillet. Eyeball how much fat is left, you want about 3 tablespoons. If you don’t have that much, add a bit of butter to get to that 3 tablespoon mark.
Sprinkle the Wondra flour over the hot fat and stir, until all the flour and fat have fully combined. Cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly. Add in 1/4 cup or so of the milk and stir well until it is absorbed. Repeat with another 1/4 cup, so that the mix starts to loosen. Then add the rest of the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat a bit and let it simmer until it has thickened slightly. Remove from the heat and stir in the cooked sausage meat, and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. If your sausage is highly seasoned, you might not need much of either. You can also add hot pepper flakes if you want it spicier. Set aside at room temperature.
For the roasted tomatoes:
Note: I often roast fresh tomatoes in large batches and freeze them in the summer when tomatoes are ripe, but this calls for roasting canned tomatoes, which is easier and doesn’t rely on seasonal produce. If you have roasted tomatoes in your freezer, use them.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Grease a large baking tray with olive oil.
Drain the tomatoes. Slice each tomato in half lengthwise if small, in three slices if larger, and use your fingers to remove as much of the seeds and interior juices as possible. Pat dry with paper towels and arrange the slices, cut side up, on your baking tray in one layer, preferably not touching. Drizzle more olive oil on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour. Set aside.
For the ricotta filling:
Beat the egg with the olive oil until smooth. Mix with the ricotta until you get a soft blend, then add parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Make the lasagna base:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Layer 2-3 crepes to cover the bottom of a greased 9x13 casserole dish. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the crepes. Layer 1/2 of the tomatoes over the cheese mixture, then pour 1/2 of the sausage gravy over the tomatoes. Repeat this layering. Add a last layer of crepes on top of the last layer of gravy. Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 30 minutes. At the 20 minute mark, make the eggs.
Make the eggs:
Beat the eggs in a medium bow with the grated butter until combined. Melt the last tablespoon of butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Scramble the eggs to soft curds. You want these looser than you might think because they will continue to cook in the casserole. Set aside.
Finish the lasagna:
Remove the lasagna from the oven and discard foil. Turn on the broiler. Spread the eggs on top of the dish and then sprinkle the top with 2 cups shredded full-fat mozzarella and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan. Return the dish to the oven for 4-5 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly browned.
Let rest for 10 minutes at room temperature before cutting into portions, and garnish with chopped parsley if you like.
Note: You can make the dish ahead without the eggs. Store covered in the fridge and just bake at 350°F covered for an hour or so before finishing the dish per recipe instructions.