bits and pieces

Thursday, November 25, 2010

the best lasagna you will ever make

I'm not even kidding. I made this last week for about half a dozen friends and errrrone said it was simply the bestest. I'm not even sure what makes the difference - it could be the fennel or the slow cooking or perhaps even the sneaky sausage. I also think letting your lasagna 'rest' really helps. I made this the night before, stuck it all together, wrapped it up, and then put it in the fridge overnight until it was cooking time around 5 pm the next day. 

Lasagnas are great comfort food and you feel somewhat more accomplished than just eating spaghetti with tomato sauce. This one was fairly magnificent. Besides coming out of the oven looking and smelling like divine perfection - it weighed about 10 pounds which is an inspiring amount of cheese, meat, and pasta. The only alteration to this recipe I would propose is maybe buying some extra ricotta - when I was making mine I felt that I was laying it on a little thin - I wouldn't even make it up, but just have it lying around in case you need more.
Looking at the recipe it seems scary and labour intensive but it's really not. It's a little more work than your average lasanga - but trust me, it's worth it and most of these ingredients you should have in your kitchen (except maybe the fresh parsley and the fennel seeds). The most serious part is constructing your lasagna, and you feel like a champion once it's done and you heft your 10 lb lasanga.

1 lb italian sausage (the recipe I adapted from called for sweet, I used spicy, whatever)
1 lb ground beef
1 big onion, minced
1 big can of crushed tomatoes (drained)
2 cans of tomato paste
1 big thing of tomato sauce (use your judgement when adding this - I used a little less)
1/2 cup red wine (or water if you prefer)
2 tbsp sugar (I used brown, but it doesnt matter)
2-3 tbsp of chopped fresh basil (yum)
1 tsp of fennel seeds
1 - 1.5 tsp of italian seasoning
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
4 tbsp parsely (use fresh if you have it - and if not, use 2-3 tbsp dried)
1.5 cups of ricotta cheese
a few dashes of nutmeg (for your ricotta)
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt (again)
a fuckload of mozzarella, sliced (I just used cheap grocery store block o cheese)
a bunch of grated cheese (for on top - I used what I had in the fridge - parm, sharp cheddar, asiago, some left over mozza, etc).

other things you will need:
a cheese grater
a big pot to cook your sauce in
a big pot to cook your noodles in (and strainer to strain said noodles)**
a bowl to mix your ricotta in
a big pan to bake your scrumptious lasagna in.

**I have read that you don't actually have to cook your noodles and can just soak them in hot water for 20 mins - 1/2 an hour but I haven't actually tried this.
  1. Make your glorious sauce first. The more your sauce has a chance to sit and.. marinate? flavourize? I dont know - but the longer it has to sit, the better. Just make sure you refrigerate it if you're keeping it overnight
  2. in your big pot (with a dash of olive oil) cook up your onions and garlic for a minute or two. Add your beef and sausage and cook. Drain any excess grease from the beefiness.
  3. Add yo' wine, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and tomato sauce. Give it a lil' stir. Tomatoes for all!
  4. Add your italian seasoning, 2 tbsp of parsley, half your delicious basil, your fennel seeds, 1 tbsp salt, your pepper, and your sugar. Stirrrrrr.
  5. Simmer this sauce for about 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. Make sure you taste and adjust your flavours accordingly. I think I added a single dash of hotsauce, but I can't remember. It seems like a good idea now though.
  6. cook your noodlies. about 8-10 minutes in salted, boiling water. drain and rinse with cold water to a) stop the cooking process and b)so you don't burn your fingers trying to construct your lasagna masterpiece.
  7. Next up: RICOTTA. Dump your ricotta into a mixing bowl. Add a dash or two of nutmeg, a sprinkle of the remaining parsley, and some salt. Add your egg. Mix and set aside.
  8. if you havent already, slice your cheese and get ready to layer.
  9. the layering: 1. put 1 - 1.5 cups of sauce down on the bottom of your pan. 2. put dow a layer of noodles (you might have to cut/tear a couple to make sure everything is all covered). 3. put down about half the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles. you might have to do some creative sprinkling. 4. cover your ricotta with slices of mozzarella. it's almost like a puzzle made out of cheese! 5. cover the cheese with a layer of meaty sauce. 6. if you are so inclined, sprinkle a wee bit of shredded cheese on top of this meat. 7. REPEAT steps 1-5 and THEN cover this top layer of meat sauce with a noble amount of shredded cheese and any remaining basil.
  10. after this I admired my handywork, wrapped it up in saran, and stuck it in the fridge overnight. This badboy lasagna needs to bake in 375 F heat, for about 25 minutes COVERED IN TINFOIL, and then remove the tinfoil and bake for another 20-25. Let it sit for a good 10 minutes, top with remaining parsley/basil and enjoy.
NOTE: I also made a vegetarian version of this lasagna - all I did was swap sausage and beef out and included a zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms. You can make everything else exactly the same way, except you'll want to throw the veggies into the sauce later as opposed to earlier (they will get mushy and gross).

1 comment:

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