Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lasagna Is Love

I’ve made it for men I’ve adored, my niece and nephew for family dinners, writing conferences with famous writers, some of whom I knew and one I had no clue about.  It’s a timer-consumer, labor intensive, and a mess, but there is nothing like the smell of homemade Italian food, an herb or two, and maybe some sausage. It’s easier if you go in steps and clean as you go, otherwise, it’s a two-day project: The day you make it, and the day you put your life back together.

The noodles:  1 package of lasagna noodles (the old-fashioned kind)  or
1 package of pre-cooked.  The precooked ones really cut  down on prep, and I can’t tell the difference. 

Old-fashioned ones
Heat a big kettle of water  to boiling.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cook the noodles until they are just tender and still a little underdone.  (They will finish cooking in the oven.)
Drain them and use them within about half an hour.  Line the bottom of an 8 x 10 (or close)  inch lasagna pan with three noodles. 

Or use The Pre-cooked Variety
Put 3 dry noodles on the bottom of the pan.  I know this seems weird and you can
see some gaps.  (The spaces fill up when the noodles are in the oven.)

Spinach layer:  Put a skim of olive oil in a large skillet.  Heat it up, until it create little
waves.  Add ½ chopped onion and fry that until the onion is soft.  Add 2 mashed up
garlic cloves.  Add 1 bag of baby spinach and cook it down.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a good grinding of sea salt.  Press the spinach  mixture on top of first layer of  lasagna noodles and cover with another layer of noodles.

Sausage and mushroom layer:  Brown ½ lb. hot or sweet Italian sausage, drain the fat, and add a box of sliced white mushroom,  ½ chopped onion, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, 1 mashed garlic clove and salt and pepper.  Cook until the veggies are limp and the sausage is a little bit brown.  Add that mixture to the layered lasagna noodles and add a top layer of noodles..

Tomato sauce:  Here are two different methods.

Method 1:  Buy a bottle of  spaghetti sauce.  Use part of that for the tomato sauce on top of the lasagna.  Works fine.

Method 2: Buy one can ( 15 oz.)  of tomato sauce and one can of crushed tomatoes.  Add ½ chopped onion and 1 cloves of garlic.  Sweat those veggies down in a skim of olive oil.
Add canned tomatoes, 1 tablespoon oregano, and 1 tablespoons of basil, fresh or dried, and salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the sauce down and use that for the top layer.  This version has more flavor, but it is one more pot to clean up.  That matters at this point.  There’s a possibility that you have thoroughly destroyed your kitchen.

The Last Step:  Get a ball of fresh mozzarella, grate that.  Sprinkle the cheese over the tomato sauce.  Bake the lasagna for about an hour at 350 degrees.  That long slow bake develops the most luscious flavors.  Serve with a green salad.

I mean that, all your veggies can be green:  iceberg lettuce, sliced celery, chopped up cucumbers and sliced green onions, a little bit of vinegar and good olive oil, salt and pepper, some flat-leafed parsley, fresh.  This is so good.  Hope somebody has it for dinner tonight. 

1 comment:

  1. Yum....and inspiration for sure
    AND maybe next your hot pot recipe???