April 10, 2018
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I Created Nutellasagna. It Was a Monster.
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When Robicelli’s bakery introduced their dessert lasagna, it was all supposed to be an innocent joke. Little did they know it would become a viral sensation.

Viral frankenfood Nutellasagna was born at the intersection of sheer genius and utter stupidity. It began way back in 2014 under the guise of a marketing ploy for Robicelli’s, the bakery my husband, Matt, and I ran in Brooklyn. But truthfully, upon reflection, Nutellasagna was a middle finger to every person in “lifestyle media” (hi, BuzzFeed!) who perpetually asked when we were going to invent “the next Cronut”—something to outdo Dominique Ansel’s hysteria-inducing croissant-doughnut hybrid. We just wanted to make food that tasted good, but alas, in a post-Cronut society, that was no longer enough.

And so the mockery began. We started by making a list of the unsexiest desserts we could think of, and then merged it with our list of every ridiculous piece of food clickbait we could think of. For example: If you take green Jell-O—the signature dessert of hospital cuisine—and mix it up with a healthy dose of 1980s nostalgia, you end up with Artisanal Ecto-Cooler Snack Packs.

While every entry on the list was worthy of attention, like a layer cake made of waffles and maple custard, and a Canadian bread pudding made of Crown Royal Maple and Tim Horton’s doughnuts, it was our final creation that ended up making it to market. It started as a riff on noodle kugel—a delectable mashup of buttered egg noodles and cheesecake, baked in a casserole with cinnamon and raisins until golden brown. As wonderful as it is on its own merits, it didn’t quite have what it takes to be a real Frankenfood. Growing up Italian-American, my family never had kugel on the table, but we did have plenty of another baked pasta dish: lasagna. As I’m a very perceptive person, I noticed that the word lasagna begins with the letters “LA,” and it just so happens that Nutella—the most fetishized of all dessert spread—ends in the letters “LA”! That, dear reader, is how a genius’s mind works. That is how you change history.

It was released into the wild, and Nutellasagna did what Nutellasagna was born to do. It spread from the local news to national, and then international. We made television appearances on five different continents, the subject of media attention from the BBC to the Instagram feed of Kim Kardashian’s close friend Jonathan Cheban (also known by his chosen nickname of the “Foodgod”). Other Instagram accounts started filling up with pictures of knock-offs at bakeries in far-flung places like Qatar, Australia, Peru and, as one would expect, Italy. It became such a sensation in the Italian media that the heir to a Nutella fortune flew to America to try a piece, which he declared to be “a thing of beauty” before his people mailed us a cease-and-desist letter for trademark infringement.

Our bakery in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, had lines down the block, with people driving hours to get a slice of their own. Due to the fact that we had only two convection ovens and a staff of four, it was impossible to keep it in stock, and I had quite a number of people say very, very not nice things to me when I’d run out. I started getting nasty emails from people who had bought our cookbook specifically for the recipe, only to be disappointed as the book had been published a year before Nutellasagna had been invented.

In spite of all of the attention, no one quite got the joke, which made us sad. Sadder still was watching the reputations we had spent years earning slowly dissolve, as more and more people began referring to us as “the Nutellasagna people.” Less than two months after Nutellasagna fever infected the globe, it was over. Instagram had moved on, and press requests that filled my inbox were now featured questions about what we’d be making to top the newest viral sensation: the rainbow bagel.

A few months later we closed the bakery and moved out of Brooklyn. We’re planning on opening a new one in Baltimore that will feature no foods covered in rainbows or glitter or any other popular crap that will be “over” in two months’ time. And there definitely won’t be Nutellasagna. We never want to make it again. Now you’ve got the recipe—go make it your goddamn selves.

Nutellasagna

Nutellasagna

6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • For the Noodles
  • 20-24 oven ready lasagna noodles (2 boxes)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • Zest of one large orange
  • For the Hazelnut Layer
  • 8 ounces chopped hazelnuts
  • ½ tablespoon butter
  • Hefty pinch kosher salt
  • For the Nutella Sauce
  • 2 7.7 ounce jars Nutella
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • ¾ teaspoons kosher salt
  • For the Cream
  • 16 ounces mascarpone cheese
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1¼ cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup whole milk or half and half
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • For the marshmallow topping
  • 4 egg whites
  • ⅔ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • 2 separate pinches of cream of tartar
  • ½ packet gelatin
  • ¾ cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon hazelnut extract (optional)

Nutellasagna was an inherently silly premise, but while we admittedly are ridiculous people, we are highly serious when it comes to writing recipes. Naturally we began with pasta, which got fancied up with a light brushing of orange-infused brown butter. Tomato sauce was replaced with generous amounts of thinned-out Nutella, and toasted hazelnuts came in to bat for sprinkled Parmesan cheese. Ricotta was always a switch hitter, so it got to cross over from savory lasagna with the addition of creamy mascarpone, powdered sugar, and whipped eggs. Finally, it was topped with a layer of bruleed hazelnut marshmallow to add a bit of extra sweetness and a lot of “TA-DA!”

Like every family’s lasagna, you should feel free to make this your own. Just do us a favor: If you decide to make this, especially if you’re a professional, tag us and give us a little credit. We may despise what it’s come to represent, but it’s still our baby.

  1. Begin by preparing the cream: Using a mixer, beat together the mascarpone, ricotta, powdered sugar, milk and cornstarch extremely well until smooth, then beat in the eggs and vanilla. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and toast until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Immediately toss with butter and salt; set aside to cool.
  3. Cook the stick of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until it turns a medium shade of amber. Remove from heat; add orange zest and stir well. Keep warm.
  4. Fill a large baking pan or pasta pot with hot water from the tap. Add the noodles one at a time to prevent sticking. Allow to sit for five minutes until softened; drain into a colander. Place a large piece of parchment paper on your counter, about 2 feet long. Using your fingers like a squeegee, wipe any excess water off each noodle, then lay on the parchment. Lightly brush the tops with orange butter.
  5. Scoop the Nutella into a large heatproof bowl. Heat the cream to a near boil, then pour over the Nutella while whisking vigorously.
  6. Brush a lasagna pan with orange butter, making sure the bottom of the pan is well coated. Layer noodles to cover, then pour on a thick layer of mascarpone cream, spreading with a spatula to even out. Next, grab the Nutella sauce and generously drizzle across the cream layer, then sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts. Repeat until you have used up all the ingredients, ending with a thin layer of cream on top. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake on the center rack of the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until the top layer looks puffy.
  7. Nutellasagna can be served hot, room temperature, or cold. If serving hot, make the marshmallow while the Nutellasagna is baking, then allow to rest for 15 minutes before proceeding. Otherwise, wrap well and place in the refrigerator or freezer until the day you’re intending to serve, as the marshmallow tastes best when it’s made the day of.

Marshmallow Topping

  1. Combine ½ cup water, ½ cup sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of cream of tartar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan affixed with a candy thermometer. Cook over high heat to soft boil.
  2. In the meantime, beat the egg whites with a pinch of cream of tartar until soft peaks form, then add the remaining sugar and continue beating to medium peak, then turn off mixer in anticipation of the sugar. Sprinkle the gelatin over the remaining water to soften; set aside.
  3. When the sugar reaches soft boil, turn the mixer back on to medium speed. CAREFULLY drizzle in the hot sugar down the side of the bowl, going very slowly so that you don’t scramble the eggs. The marshmallow will gain significant volume during this step. Once all the sugar is added turn off the mixer, add the gelatin and salt, then turn back onto medium-high speed. Beat until the bottom of the bowl is cool to the touch, about 10-15 minutes. Add vanilla and hazelnut extract, if using, and beat for an additional minute to incorporate.
  4. Raise your oven rack up to the ⅔ high position, then preheat the broiler to high. Unwrap the Nutellasagna and, using an offset spatula, cover with peaks of marshmallow. Place under the broiler until brown and toasty, 5-10 minutes depending on your personal tastes. If desired, cover the top with additional Nutella cream and toasted hazelnuts before serving.

Allison Robicelli

Allison Robicelli is a D-list celebrity-chef chef, author, humorist, entrepreneur, general polymath, and all-around good time. You may remember her from such places as Food52, Eater, Food Network, VH1, and many other quirky corners of the food Internet. She is the author of the critically acclaimed cookbook/memoir Robicelli's: A Love Story, With Cupcakes, which has been called one of the funniest food-related books of all time. You should buy it.

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