First official cooking post, we'll smell up the kitchen tonight with ingredients I picked up yesterday from Graziano's. Let's make a lasagna.
Prep: 30 minutes
Bake: 45 - 60 minutes at 375 degrees
Difficulty: Simple but slow, my brat helped cook this beast and said it's easy peasy lemon squeezy
Appetite: Serves 12, less than that if you're like me and eat like a hog
Leftovers: Excellent, refrigerates nicely and feeds us lunch for several days
Cleanup: Utter Disaster, scads of greasy pans everywhere and somebody launched a marinara bomb on my backsplash:
Time Tip: Lasagna takes 90 minutes to assemble and bake, so consider splitting it up into two days. Cook the ingredients and layer them the first day, stash in the fridge, then bake the second day.
Tools: 9"x13" baking dish (glass or aluminum), boiling pot for noodles, saute pan for meat and veggies, knife, cutting board, cheese grater, one small child and a Hello Kitty step stool.
- 1/2 lb. Italian sausage
- 1 jar marinara sauce
- 1 lb. lasagna noodles
- 1 - 2 lbs. cheese - Up to you on type and amount. Fresh-ball soft mozzarella, regular mozzarella, aged provolone and wet ricotta died in the making of this meal. And I usually tip heavy into the colon-clogging zone, mucho cheese please.
- Italian seasoning and garlic
- A spoonful of olive oil and cooking spray
Modifiers: You can easily tweak the ingredients to fit your taste. I've made these changes on past bakes:
- Substitute hamburger for sausage or crossbreed the two
- Add onions, mushrooms and zucchini
- Shave an orange block of cheddar into the pan, just to get rid of it
If your meat is frosty, plop it into a bowl of room-temp water to thaw. I never defrost in the microwave, that dries it out. Dry meat's weak.
I'm a cheap-ass, but not when it comes to cheese. Do it right and don't skimp, nobody likes limp lasagna.
Try and purchase it in balls, blocks or wedges. Bags of pre-shredded cheese are coated in anti-caking cellulose, which muffles taste and texture, so flee from those.
Here's a cheesy rundown of what I use and why:
Fresh mozzarella is a wet ball of lard. Not much taste, but it keeps the noodles moist during the oven firing:
Aged provolone offers a lot of flavor, it's what you think of in the phrase who cut the cheese. Soils the kitchen with a sharp moldy scent as you grate it down. Respect this potent curd, don't overdo it or your dish will taste like a greasy fart. Six or eight ounces is plenty.
Ricotta hints of sweet cream and adds texture between the noodle layers. Beg your butcher for a fresh wedge, it cooks down better than a typical plasti' tub of mass-branded ricotta.
Plain old mozzarella rounds out the quattro formaggio club. Tuck this between layers and on top to bring a stringed gooey mess to each bite.
Then chop by knife:
Aim the blue flame at your saute pan:
Pour a shot of olive oil:
Bust up the meat block with a metal spoon. You want each bite of food to contain little bits of all the ingredients, rather than large blobs of meat. This step's important, take an extra couple minutes to crumble it down.
I found a red onion lurking in the fridge, dice and drop into the pan as the meat simmers. No need to add any salt or spices yet, the Italian sausage takes care of that.
Turn the burner on a large pot of water, we're about ready to boil macaroni. As that's heating, dump a jar of marinara sauce over the cooked sausage and onions. I usually go with a plain red sauce and jazz it with iSeasoning and garlic. Be sure to add precisely 2 dashes and 1 pinch of each. If you have the time, a scratch-built sauce is best.
Mix the flavor and heat until it burps your counter with lava splatter:
Make sure the water's hard boiling, noodles like it hot. This dish eats three layers of three noodles each, so I count out 11 (a couple extras in case they break):
Sling 'em into the vat, the tops will stick outta the water for a minute:
As the noodles begin to soften, carefully nudge them in with a fork so everything's below the waterline. I don't add salt or oil to the water, but some people do.
Five minutes are up, turn off the burner and rinse pasta with cool water:
Toss them back in the pot and fill with cold water. This will keep them from sticking together or breaking.
Now's the fun part, pull in child labor to slap this puppy together.
Spray the pan:
Ready your noodles, sauce and cheese:
Don't forget the Hello Kitty step stool:
Pave 3 noodles across the bottom of the pan:
Spoon saucy meat mounds over the noodles. You want the sauce (and not the cheese) coating the noodles, this allows the marinara to bake in and flavor the pasta orange:
Smooth it out. Uncovered noodles dry out during the bake, so sauce-coat the ends and corners well. Pigtails talks non-stop:
Set aside a stout pile of shredded mozzarella, you want to save off extra for the top. Add ricotta, provolone, fresh and shredded mozzarella atop the sauce:
I snatched a photo of the ricotta going on, but not of the other cheeses. Pretend you see all four cheeses on each layer:
First layer complete, repeat: 3 noodles across, sauce bath, cheese on top.
Again until you amass three layers. Cap it with an extra puff of mozzarella and Italian seasoning on top:
Preheat the oven to 375.
You want to bake the lasagna just until done, but no more. It'll dry out if you blast it too long.
Cover with foil so the cheese doesn't brown:
I usually pull it from the oven and check it at the 40 or 45 minute mark. Remove the foil and let it cook another 10 minutes to melt the cheese. Keep an eye on it, heat until the center of the lasagna is bubbling, but don't tarry or the top will brown.
Comes out looking like this:
Plate it, pair with greens, dig in!