Temperature Is The Key To Flawless Rolled Lasagna

It's not uncommon for a dish from a New York City eatery to gain popularity far beyond the borders of the Empire State. On the sweet side, there's the iconic banana pudding from Magnolia Bakery, which started in New York City and is also sold in pre-assembled kits for home bakers. More recently, the signature lasagna pinwheels at the former Michelin-starred West Village Italian gem Don Angie have gone viral. Naturally, folks at home are keen on tucking into the crispy twist on classic lasagna without tracking down a notoriously hard-to-get reservation at the restaurant. 

Lucky for those who want to turn out a replica, the rotolo-like recipe gets top billing in "Italian American: Red Sauce Classics & New Essentials," a cookbook by Don Angie co-owners and spouses Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli. Indeed, the cinnamon-roll-inspired lasagna at Don Angie — and other takes on rolled lasagna — requires a different kind of finesse than the square-sliced version you may already know how to make. Just like pie dough, making perfect rolls starts with super-cold ingredients, which help ensure precise layers every time. 

Ice bath, baby

Whether you're using pasta sheets à la Don Angie or reverting to ultimate comfort food with ruffle-edged lasagna noodles, chilling your starch before assembly is key when making rolled lasagna, as warm noodles are far less likely to hold their structure when topped with fillings. After parboiling your noodles for about 15 seconds, place them gently in a large bowl of ice water for another 15 seconds. Pat them dry and place them on a sheet tray, working in batches and separating each layer with a sheet of parchment. 

Once your noodles are ready and it's time to layer your fillings, continue to keep things cool. That goes for your béchamel sauce, your marinara sauce, your veggies, your bolognese, and any other lasagna flavors you may have in mind. In fact, in an interview with Food & Wine, Tacinelli said it's best to make the fillings the day before so they'll be properly chilled come assembly time. Once rolled, the finished log gets at least another hour in the fridge to make slicing easier. Only then are the individual pinwheels baked in the oven. 

Choose your fighter filling

Speaking of fillings that can chill in the fridge overnight, there are tons of different directions you can go with rolled lasagna. Rito and Tacinelli, for instance, merge flavors with a combination of bolognese and San Marzano tomato sauce, both of which can be made ahead. If you're not a meat eater, you might replace sweet Italian sausage with cauliflower for a vegetarian bolognese.

For a more svelte version that's even easier to roll, channel Popeye by pulsing a heap of sautéed spinach and garlic in a blender with ricotta cheese and a little squeeze of lemon juice. If you don't polish it off as a dip before it's time to assemble your lasagna, you'll find that the spreadable filling makes quick and tidy work of the rolling process. Whatever you do, don't forget to top the whole dish with plenty of mozzarella and parmesan.