Mangia! Mangia! Lasagna!

Wow. I look at the picture above in disbelief. I can’t believe that I made that. Me. Lasagna-lly challenged. The thought of lasagna used to make me cringe with the multiple steps of cooking noodles, the meat, making the sauce, layer, layer, layer. I remember making lasagna almost a year ago thinking I could whip it up in 30 minutes or less. I got somewhat impatient and made a HUGE MESS in my kitchen. Needless to say, I was frustrated and even ended up beating my stove with a metal spoon. Yeah, the oven ended up with three small dings on the left hand corner. I know, I know… what did the oven do to me?! Nothing. Not my finest moment in the kitchen, but I learned the meaning and purpose of “Mise en place“. It’s French for “everything in it’s place”. The best thing ANY home cook, whether beginner, intermediate or professional, could do for themselves is to have everything set up before beginning the process of a multi-step recipe. First thing’s first. Read the recipe entirely. Sometimes looking over the ingredients and the steps will kind of give you an idea of what to begin with first, such as, pulling out all needed ingredients and materials, chopping veggies, measuring ingredients, and maybe even looking for steps that could require more time or ingredients that never made it to the ingredient list. Remember, the people writing these recipes make mistakes. We’re human.

So now that we’ve talked about how to make sure everything should be in it’s place, let’s talk about the recipe itself. This recipe comes from Tyler Florence from his show, “Tyler’s Ultimate” on Food Network. So this is his Ultimate Lasagna. I kept most of the ingredients the same, but made some adjustments depending on what I had on hand and my taste preference. You will see that this recipe calls for cinnamon. Cinnamon?! ::gasps:: … Yes, I know we’re not making French toast. I was skeptical myself but it really works in this dish. It adds another layer of flavor and plays well off the sauce, and let me tell you what, after the first bite and a few chews in, it is quite possible that your eyes may close and you may start imagining that you are in Lasagna Heaven. It was really that good. The only way this lasagna could have been better is if I would have made the pasta myself. That’s another post way in the future. So, without further a due, lets make some LASAGNA!

LASAGNA RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes whole wheat lasagna noodles, such as Healthy Harvest (regular noodles is fine too)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground mild sausage
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, whole ( I LOVE lots of garlic, use less if desired)
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, or 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley, or 1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano leaves, or 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup red wine (I used a cabernet which is less bitter and adds a hint of sweetness)
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 quarts ricotta cheese, (2 containers)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (you can use less or more)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Grated Parmesan and mozzarella, for topping

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Tyler said to cook the noodles prior but I didn’t. I left them uncooked and let the moisture from the sauce do that step for me. You can cook them if you aren’t sure but it’s not necessary.

If cooking the noodles, follow this next step. If not, move on to the next.

1. Cook the lasagna noodles in plenty of boiling salted water until pliable and barely tender, about 10 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Drain the noodles thoroughly and coat with olive oil to keep them moist and easy to work with.

2. In a food processor, combine the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, basil, parsley, an oregano. Process until pureed. Scrape out with a spatula into a bowl and set aside.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta and the parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Taste here. Adjust seasoning or add more/less of either of the cheeses. Once reached desired taste, add the egg and mix until well combined.

4. Over medium high heat, coat a large skillet with olive oil, add beef and sausage and brown until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the puree to the pan with the ground meat and stir to combine. Add the flour to the meat. Next, pour in the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Stir in the tomatoes and add the heavy cream and the cinnamon.

5. To assemble the lasagna: . If uncooked noodles are being used, ladle in some meat sauce at the bottom to help cook these noodles at the bottom. If using cooked noodles, coat the bottom of a deep 13 by 9-inch pan with olive oil. Arrange 4 uncooked or cooked noodles lengthwise in a slightly overlapping layer on the sauce or oiled pan. Then, line each end of the pan with a lasagna noodle. This forms a collar that holds in the corners. Dollop 1/2 of the ricotta mixture over the pasta, spread to the edges with a spatula. Spread 1/2 of the meat mixture over the ricotta. Sprinkle 1/2 of the mozzarella on top of the ricotta. Top with a ladle full of sauce, spread evenly. Repeat with the next layer of noodles, ricotta, sauce, and cheeses. Top last layer with noodles, sauce, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan. Tap the pan to force out air bubbles. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven. Let lasagna rest for 30 minutes so the noodles will settle and cut easily.

 

 

Some tips from the Little Red Bird:

  • Mise en place! Have the puree done, the ricotta ready, the can of crushed tomatoes open, the cinnamon and flour measured out and nearby, the parmesan and mozzarella shredded if not already done so and your pans greased. This will truly make putting your lasagna together effortlessly. 
  • While making your mirepoix puree (that’s your celery, onion, carrot combo), go ahead and make some extra to keep on hand. I used an ice cube tray for easy storage and popped it into my freezer. This puree can go in any other red sauce dish, soups, stews, meatloaves or any other place that you want to add some extra flavor. The possibilities are endless here. 
  •  Double the recipe. Trust me. This lasagna will have your family begging for it again. And you will have plenty of leftovers but having an extra tray sitting in your freezer for a busy week coming up or even for the same week, is a lifesaver. This can remain in your freezer for a month or so but I’m almost positive it will be used rather quickly.
  •  If you have decided to be a rebel by not cooking your noodles, please follow these instructions. Make sure that you have some sauce at the bottom of the pan in order to cook the bottom noodles. Make sure that after each layer of noodles, it is soaking wet in sauce. This will ensure a fully cooked noodle. Don’t forget the edges. Now, I ended up running out of sauce while I was finishing up the top layer. Don’t worry, get a jar of red sauce and cover any spots you have have missed. Ssshhh.. no one will ever know. It’ll be our secret. 😉
  • The sauce is so simplistic that you could stop there and serve it with spaghetti, angel hair or elbow macaroni. It’s up to you but I think it’s worth the effort to go for the gold… the lasagna.
  • Please, please, please, let the lasagna rest for 30 minutes so that it can solidify. Once it’s had time to rest, you can use your knife to cut the most gorgeous piece of lasagna and it will stay in one piece!

I hope that after reading this post, you will be inspired to get into your kitchen, roll up your sleeves and show those lasagna noodles who’s boss.

Buen Provecho!

If you made this recipe, please leave a comment and tell the whole wide web what you thought!

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