Quarantine Cuisine: Enoteca Sociale chef Kyle Rindinella shares the recipe for his nonna’s lasagna
We’re asking Toronto chefs to show us what they cook up using basic pantry supplies while they self-isolate at home
Like many of us, chef Kyle Rindinella is confined to his home. We asked the social-distancing chef to whip us up a meal with ingredients he already had on hand. His recipe: an updated version of his grandmother’s lasagna.
After being the chef at Enoteca Sociale for three years, Kyle Rindinella was on the cusp of signing on as a partner. He spent much of the winter overseeing a major renovation planned for the trattoria’s 10th birthday. Now, his plans of becoming a partner have been delayed because the revamped restaurant was only open for a month before the pandemic shuttered its (brand-new) front door.
These days, Rindinella is self-isolating with his wife, Kristin, and their seven-month-old daughter, Sophia Maria. The young family has been limiting their trips out, so Rindinella recently whipped up an updated version of his nonna’s lasagna with noodles left over from Enoteca Sociale’s last service.
Rindinella’s grandmother was a purist. Her lasagna layered noodles, cheese and tomato sauce—no meat, no veggies. But Rindinella says you can add whatever proteins or vegetables you have kicking around—even that half-finished bag of peas living at the back of your freezer. “It’s a great way to use whatever you have in your fridge that’s on its way out,” he says about the dish, which he considers to be one of the ultimate comfort foods.
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 litre of tomato purée (passata)
1/3 of an eggplant, sliced into roughly eight discs
1/3 of a zucchini, sliced into roughly a dozen discs
1 box lasagna noodles
1 ball mozzarella, shredded
¾ grated pecorino romano
In a cold pot, add the onions and garlic to a half cup of olive oil and a tablespoon of salt. Turn the heat to medium and give the medley a stir every five minutes or so, to ensure nothing sticks. When the onions become translucent (20 minutes, give or take), they’re ready for the next step. Add the entire bottle of passata, and bring the tomato sauce to a boil before seasoning it with salt. Then reduce the heat to a simmer.
While the tomato sauce is simmering, it’s time to fry the veggies. Rindinella recommends filling your deepest pan with two inches of olive oil and cranking the heat to medium-high. Depending on the stove, oil will heat up at different rates, so test the temperature by placing one slice of eggplant into the pot. If the oil begins to bubble on contact, you’re ready to roll. Fry the eggplant and zucchini on both sides and then set the golden disks on paper towel to absorb some of the oil. Sprinkle the veggies with some salt while they’re sitting out.
Rindinella doesn’t grease his baking pan. Instead, he ladles some tomato sauce on the bottom to prevent anything from sticking.
Although he’s using fresh lasagna sheets here, he would normally just buy dry noodles from the grocery store. (He’s not a fan of the no-boil noodles, though, because they often don’t cook properly, leaving crusty sections.) Rindinella only boils one layer’s worth of noodles at a time, and places each sheet into the tray directly from the boiling water (it’s okay if they’re a bit damp).
Put a thin layer of tomato sauce on top of the pasta sheets, followed by a layer of mozzarella, then roughly a tablespoon of pecorino. With the second and third layer, add in the fried eggplant and zucchini between the tomato sauce and the mozzarella. Every layer—whether it has veggies in it or not—should also have sauce and cheese on it.
Continue layering pasta, sauce and cheese until you reach the top. Although you’re welcome to build a lasagna with as many layers as you want, Rindinella says you should make sure to leave about a quarter inch of room at the top of your baking pan. This ensures that the lasagna won’t bubble over, causing cheesy bedlam.
Once he gets to the top of the lasagna, Rindinella gets extra generous with the cheeses. The top layer should be entirely hidden by grated mozzarella and pecorino.
Wrap your tray in tin foil and bake it at 400°F for 30 minutes.
When the timer chimes, remove the tin foil (reserving it for later) and crank the temperature up to 425°F. Throw that sucker back in for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is gorgeously browned and bubbly.
Once it’s done, let it sit for 15 minutes or so, with the tinfoil on to keep it warm. Then cut yourself a hefty slab.