Come smell my pot - Lasagna

Here is a borrowed recipe – I don’t remember where it came from, but this is the basis for my lasagna. It’s not the simplest recipe, and generally I like simple – a relatively short ingredient list, just a handful of steps. What makes this recipe much simpler is to make two and freeze one (see notes at the bottom).

I always make modifications to this recipe. I don’t like to measure when it’s unnecessary, so I end up using approximations of what the recipe calls for – and then increase amounts of the things I want to stand out, like fennel and parsley in this dish. And of course, I always add more cheese on top. Because there’s no such thing as too much cheese.

1 pound sweet Italian sausage
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 ounce) cans canned tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
12 lasagna noodles
16 ounces ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a Dutch oven, cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar (I usually omit the sugar), basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Simmer, covered, for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook lasagna noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain noodles, and rinse with cold water. (I don’t like to pre-boil the noodles, so I make about 2 cups more sauce so that the noodles will cook in the sauce. As you’re assembling the lasagna, you’ll want it to be kind of liquid but not swimming in soupy sauce. It may take a bit longer to cook, but plunging a fork or butter knife into the lasagna before you cook uncovered will give you a sure indicator of whether the noodles are done or not.) In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
3. Preheat oven to 375
4. To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups of meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 6 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce. Spread with one half of the ricotta cheese mixture. Top with a third of mozzarella cheese slices. Spoon 1 1/2 cups meat sauce over mozzarella, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers, and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil: to prevent sticking, either spray foil with cooking spray, or make sure the foil does not touch the cheese.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil, and bake an additional 25 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before serving. NOTE – I always put the lasagna pan on a larger cookie sheet, in case the sauce bubbles over. It’s easier to clean a cookie sheet than your oven. Minimum maintenance!
This makes a great pre-made frozen meal. Assemble the lasagna, and cook it covered for about 25 minutes or until the noodles are cooked through. Take it out, uncover, and cool to room temp. Wrap it tightly in a few layers of plastic wrap and then cover it with tin foil. I always label a piece of masking tape with the dish, the date made, and the cooking instructions, and put the tape on the foil. Let it thaw in the fridge for 24 hours, and then re-heat in the oven, which will take at least 25 minutes. Liven it up with some fresh parsley & freshly grated parmesan and pepper.

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