Friday, September 20, 2019

Not Your Mama’s Lasagna

April 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Main Blog, Recipes

Once again I find myself tackling the chore of recreating my Mother’s lasagna based on the recipe handed down to me. I strongly believe in wine inspired cooking, meaning as I cook, I drinka da wine! This element is of course crucial. So I crack a bottle of Nebbiolo in the spirit of Italy and begin preparing the sauce that will cook overnight…a splash in the sauce and 2 splashes for me-repeat as often as needed. By the time I go to bed the sauce is bubbling and I am sauced. The next morning I continue my labor of love and carefully layer the noodles, the ricotta mixture, the sauce and the cheese. I end up with 3 lasagnas, but I am confident that my friends will make quick work of the lot. A few hours later, we all sit down to enjoy my masterpiece. There is no denying the lasagna looks good. The cheese is at that perfect point where it is melted and bubbling with¬† a nice light brown crust, which releases aromas of tomatoes, meat and herbs as I cut the first piece. I am thinking to myself, “Hey. Not too bad. This is looking pretty yummy.” I pour everyone a glass of Barbera (ran out of Nebbiolo mid-stream in the cooking process, so switched up the “inspiration”) and, with no further ado, the crowd begins to devour the lasagna.

My thought as I savor the first bite is, “Why can’t I nail this recipe?” Mind you, no one is complaining. The lasagna is delicious, with gooey cheese and rich layers of meaty spicy sauce and creamy ricotta, but it is not quite what I remember enjoying growing up. I did everything right. I followed the recipe to the letter and I even channeled old world Italy through mass consumption of Nebbiolo and Barbera. What went wrong? I pick up the phone and call my mother in the middle of dinner to share my dilemma and ask for some of her wisdom. She is laughing as I recount the story I have just shared with you. She finally interjects and says, “Darling, I don’t use a recipe. I have been making this dish my whole life and it is all in my head, just like my mother. When I created the cookbook for you I just kind of estimated the amount of everything, but you have to improvise.” I do love to cook and I’m not too shabby in a kitchen, but my greatest strength is baking, which requires exact measurements of ingredients. I had gotten in my own way and I needed Mom to remind me. I decide to let it go for the moment and sit and enjoy the lasagna with my friends who are oohing over the dish and seemingly unaware that it is not perfect. I smile and say thank you and drink my wine. As I slowly savor my heaping plate of lasagna I am thinking, “okay a little more oregano, a touch more salt, less basil, maybe¬† more sausage, an hour longer on the stove for the sauce…” I will do whatever it takes-drink more wine-make more lasagnas-and drink more wine! The fun is in the trying. Cheers!

Lasagna Recipe:

Sauce

1 package Hot Italian Sausage
1 package Ground Beef (Use lean if you like, but fat=flavor!)
2-1/2 pounds of stewed, peeled and crushed Tomatoes (or 2 Large Cans Crushed Tomatoes)
2 6oz cans Tomato Paste
2 cloves minced garlic
Fresh Basil (I use about 8-10 large leaves)
1-1/2 tsp Salt
Splash (or 2 or 3) of Red Wine

Brown the meats and drain off most of the fat (I leave a little). In a large pot mix together the meats and all other ingredients. Bring to a boil and then simmer. If saving time is a consideration, give the sauce at least an hour. I like to give it overnight on very low heat, getting up and stirring it occasionally (maybe another splash of wine…one for the sauce and two for me!)

Ricotta Filling

3-4 cups of Ricotta Cheese
1/2 to 1 cup of grated Parmesan Cheese
1 lb. of shredded Mozzarella
2 eggs
2 Tbsp Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and then add the cheeses. Only use half of the Mozzarella. The rest will get used in the assembly. Mix well and season with other ingredients.

Cook a large package of Lasagna Noodles as directed. I prefer them al dente. Drain and rinse.

Assembly

Spread some sauce on the bottom of a large lasagna pan. Layer with noodles, cheese mixture, mozzarella and more sauce. This should yield 2 thick layers. Top with Mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake at 375* for 30-45 minutes (should be bubbly around the edges).

Note: If you have more than one lasagna, bake one and wrap the other one tightly and refrigerate or freeze. Next time you have a craving… bake ( a little longer than the original time) and enjoy! Leftovers are also amazing. The flavors get better and better!

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