Wednesday, August 7th, 2013
I don’t eat lasagna often as it’s not exactly a light dish. Sure there are all sorts of varieties with vegetables, gluten free noodles and imitation cheese. And some people may be able to convince themselves that a vegan lasagna is wonderful, you just won’t convince me. You can’t eat like this every day, that would be suicidal. But it was Sunday and family and friends were coming to dinner. Hey, I can eat broccoli tomorrow.
Video Note: Some of the titles didn’t render properly and the tops and bottoms of the script were cut off. Proportions are listed below in the recipe.
August 4 is National Lasagna Day
The basis to any lasagna is the meat sauce and you can use any type of sauce you want. For this lasagna I made a classic bolognese sauce with the added flavor of sweet Italian sausage. Sausage is not usually used in a bolognese but is essential for a great lasagna. I also use more cheese than most recipes call for. I made fresh pasta and was able to make the noodle thinner than what you get in a box and was therefore able to add a third layer of noodles covered by more mozzarella on top.
The Bolognese for Lasagna:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrot, finely, chopped rough
2 medium onion, chopped rough
2 rib celery, chopped rough
1 clove garlic, sliced
1.3 pound ground beef, I use Kirkland Organic
1 pound ground sweet Italian sausage, I use Johsonville All Natural
1/2 pound pancetta or slab bacon, chopped
1/2 tube tomato paste
1/2 cup beef stock
1 cup dry red wine (most bolognese sauces use white wine but for lasagna lets use red)
2 14 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
2 Bay leaves
4 sprigs of thyme
1 tsp dry basil
1/2 tsp dry oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2 or milk
Put the onions, garlic, carrot and celery in a food processor and chop until fine and set aside. In a 6 to 8-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, cook the bacon until browned but not crisp. Remove the bacon and all but a table spoon of the bacon fat. Add the onions, celery, carrot and garlic (the Sofrito) and sweat over medium heat until the vegetables are translucent and soft but not browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. If it starts to stick add some olive oil. Brown the beef and Italian sausage, pouring off any excess fat. Add to the sofritto along with the bacon to the the vegetables.
Stir the tomato paste into the beef stock and add to the meat along with the wine, crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, dried basil and oregano. Simmer over low heat for 2 to 2.5 hours. Every 20 minutes or so add some of the 1/2 and 1/2 until it is all incorporated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaves and the thyme sprigs. This can be done up to two days in advance. When ready to assemble the lasagna reheat and check seasoning.
2 15 oz containers of whole milk ricotta cheese (2 pound container.)
2 eggs beaten
2 tsp salt
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1.5 pounds of fresh mozzarella
1.5 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 lb cooked lasagna noodles.
ASSEMBLE THE LASAGNA
Preheat over to 375
Mix the 2 eggs with the ricotta and add salt, pepper and nutmeg. NUTMEG?
Some classic Italian lasagnas use a béchamel sauce instead of the ricotta. The béchamel sauce is a butter and flour roux with warm milk added and cooked until thick. Traditional béchamel sauce calls for nutmeg. So why not add that to the ricotta? It’s not over powering but adds a subtle taste that people won’t be able to figure out.
I brush the bottom and sides of a 9 X 13″ baking dish with olive oil.
Start with a thin layer of sauce.
Arrange a layer lasagna noodles on the bottom of the dish
Spread 1/2 the ricotta mixture over the noodles
Sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella over the ricotta
Spread 1/2 the remaining meat sauce over the mozzarella
Sprinkle 1/3 of the parmigiano over the meat sauce
Add another Layer lasagna noodles
Spread the other 1/2 the ricotta mixture over the noodles
Sprinkle another 1/3 of the mozzarella over the ricotta
Spread 1/2 the rest of the meat sauce over the mozzarella
Sprinkle another 1/3 of the parmigiano over the meat sauce
Add another Layer lasagna noodles
Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the noodles
Sprinkle the remaining parmigiano over the mozzarella
Coat one side of a sheet of aluminum foil and carefully cover the lasagna. You don’t want the top layer of cheese to stick to the foil. You can create a tent to help keep the cheese from sticking.
Place covered into the 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and return to the oven for another 25 minutes or until the cheese is browned on top and the sauce is bubbling.
Let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes before slicing into large pieces. Serve with a large salad and a nice Italian bread. I will sometimes make a side sauce for people to pour over the lasagna if they like a wet dish. This recipe certainly doesn’t need the sauce as it is packed with flavor.