Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What's for Dinner - Lasagna

It was nearly an all-day project. Yet, despite knowing it would tie me up for the last half of the day, I pulled out my Kitchenaid mixer and started making a batch of pasta dough for my first ever made-all-by-myself-totally-from-scratch lasagna.

For the pasta, I stuck with the same recipe I used for my ravioli, but stretched it out even thinner, to level 7 on the pasta roller. My goal was to make a multilayered lasagna with paper-thin sheets of pasta: a lasagna soft as butter that you could melt through with a fork. Mom generously gave me her awesome lasagna recipe to work with, and as usual I played with it a little, getting something different but delicious. I hope she doesn't mind!

2 big cans of tomato sauce
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 small can diced tomatoes
1.5 lbs ground beef
1 1/2 tbsp basil
4 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
4 medium cloves garlic
1 large onion, diced
1lb mozzarrella cheese grated
15 oz 4% fat cottage cheese
15 oz ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

For the meat sauce, I started with about 1.5lbs of lean ground beef, which I browned in a pan with 2 chopped garlic cloves, the diced onion, and dashes of pepper and salt. I drained off the fat and put in a huge pot, adding the cans of tomato sauce (and diced tomatoes) on top and setting the heat on low. The basil and oregano I used came straight from my garden - I used about a dozen chopped basil leaves and half a dozen sprigs of fresh oregano (I tore the leaves off). This step went rather slowly because I kept stopping to sniff my herbs. I added sugar, thyme, and two more garlic cloves and let everything simmer for an hour or so to get delicious.

I grated the mozzarella and set half aside for the topping. The rest went in with the ricotta, cottage cheese, and parmesan, mixed up with a generous crunch of black pepper, and then the cheese layer was ready for...


Spread a glop of sauce onto the bottom of the baking dish, then a layer of noodles. With my fresh noodles, I needed two noodles per layer because they were very wide, but if you're using boxed noodles you'll probably need three or four, depending on how wide your dish is. You'll want a little bit of overlap so it all holds together. More sauce. More noodles. Some cheese mixture - drop blobs onto the noodles with a spoon and then spread gently with your hands, or you'll tear the noodles. More noodles. Sauce. Noodles. Sauce. Noodles. Cheese. You see how this goes. I ran out of noodles early and had to pause assembly while I made up another batch, and even with the extra noodles I didn't reach the very top of the baking dish! The very last layer was heavy tomato sauce covered with the shredded mozzarella.

*Note - fresh pasta sucks up a lot of liquid, so use more sauce than you think you should. I used what I thought was way too much, and it ended up being nowhere near enough. Use a lot.

Into the oven, 350F for 40 minutes. I covered it in foil, then pulled the foil off at the end and switched on the broiler to brown the cheese on top, because browned cheese is happy cheese. Then - and this is important - I let it sit on the stove for half an hour. If you cut into it too early, it will fall apart on the plate, but if you can be patient and wait a little, you'll get a nice block of lasagna instead of lasagna soup.

This is what I had for dinner, after all that work.

It was wonderful. The fresh herbs made a difference, and I'm glad I added some diced tomatoes (not in Mom's original recipe). In fact, I'm doubling the diced tomatoes next time I make this. I'm also going to try making the layers even thinner, and I'll make a ton of pasta to be sure I have enough! Also, more sauce. Because otherwise, what will the garlic bread soak up?

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:31 PM

    Oh my, that looks so delicious!!!