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Joe Isidori, the chef-owner of one of New York City's most buzzed about Italian restaurants, Arthur & Sons, shares his famous 50-layer lasagna, which he serves at Thanksgiving. Yes, Thanksgiving. It's an Italian-American tradition! "This is our Super Bowl!" he says. "If you're not unbuttoning your pants and popping Tums, you're not doing it right! But lasagna is served on its own as its own course before the turkey. No self-respecting Italian American would ever admit they wanted the turkey over the lasagna. We have to be us. We start the whole day with antipasto, then the lasagna, then we eat the American food!" And he has something else to say about his lasagna: "It doesn't actually have fifty layers, but it is so dense and delicious, it feels that way. And besides, it sounds more fun!"
Pro Tip from Joe: For the best results, make the lasagna the day before you plan to serve it. Weight it down in the fridge overnight, then reheat it. The exact directions are in the recipe.
For the tomato sauce, in a large pot over medium-low heat, toast the garlic in the oil until golden. Add the onions and cook until soft, adding the granulated garlic, oregano, salt and pepper to release the aromatics. Add the tomato paste and cook until the bright red color turns a lighter rust color. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 3 hours.
When the sauce is ready, make the lasagna. Preheat the oven to 375°F for the first round of cooking.
In order to avoid being gummy and too heavy, the pasta sheets need to be quickly blanched and placed on clean, dry kitchen towels for the layering process. Using a saute pan filled with water, blanch the pasta one sheet at a time, leaving each sheet in the boiling water for approximately 30 seconds.
Spray a 10 x 13 x 3-inch casserole dish with cooking spray, then spoon some tomato sauce on the bottom. Start the layering process: sauce, pasta sheet, dollops of ricotta, mozzarella, provolone, pecorino and salt and pepper to taste. Continue layering the ingredients until the dish is full. Be sure to press down the ingredients after each layer using a large metal spatula and reserve enough pasta sheets for a final layer that you will place as a cap over the other ingredients. Once the final layer of pasta sheet is added, top with sauce and sprinkle with pecorino.
Cover the casserole with foil and bake in a shallow water bath for 45 minutes. I use a sheet pan and keep an eye on the water, refilling as needed. Increase the oven temperature to 475 to 500°F, remove the foil and continue baking for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. After removing from the oven, the lasagna must sit and rest so you don't have a soupy casserole on your hands.
While you can eat the lasagna now, I typically make my lasagna the day before serving and cool it overnight in the fridge with a little pressure on the top to help all those layers compress into deliciousness! I recommend putting a damp cloth over the top of the lasagna, laying a sheet pan on top of that and then weighting it down with large tomato cans, which are nice and heavy. The next day, I place the lasagna in a 350°F oven until heated all the way through, about 1 ½ hours.
Cut into square portions, serve with additional tomato sauce and get ready to shave the Parm on top! My favorite is when the crazy uncles fight over the corner pieces—the best part!