Saturday, February 4, 2012


Mmmmm....lasagna!  Italian has always been my favorite; I love pasta!  And lasagna just always seems to hit the spot!  I've made a few different recipes in the past, but my most recent cooking adventures came from the pasta cookbook Chris got for me last Valentine's Day.  I have tweaked this recipe just slightly because the first time I made it (and followed the recipe exactly), it turned out a little "watery."  There seemed to be water pooling up around the sides and on the top.  Everything tasted good, but the excess water messed with the texture lasagna is supposed to have.  So here is the recipe with my slight modifications:

lasagna noodles (you will not need an entire 1 lb box)
28 oz whole tomatoes in puree
6 ox tomato paste
extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 Tbs chopped fresh basil (or 1 Tbs if dried)
1 tsp minced fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp if dried)
1 1/2 lb Italian sausages, casings removed ***Note: It is much easier to remove those little slimy, clingy casings if the meat has been frozen and thawed***
2 c whole milk ricotta cheese
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 egg
1/2 lb freshly shredded mozzarella cheese ***Note: I strongly encourage grating the cheese yourself, preferably the same day you plan to make the lasagna.  Of course you can use bags of grated cheese, but the flavor is definitely not the same.  You don't have to buy fancy, expensive cheese; if you grate it yourself you'll get plenty of yummy flavor with the plain old store brand.***
1/2 c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese ***Note: Again, this is so much better if you don't use canned Parmesan.  In fact, it really doesn't taste the same at all.  So if you can swing it, buy a wedge of Parmigiano and grate it yourself; you'll be glad you did!  My grocery store carries imported cheeses, and you can buy a wedge of Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for a whopping $27.  Um, that is not in the budget.  So I buy a Wisconsin Parmigiano cheese, which costs $5 for a wedge and beats the pants of the canned stuff any day. This stuff really doesn't go bad as long as you put the unused portion in a Ziploc bag; you'll get lots of use out of it! ***

Parboil you lasagna noodles by bringing a large pot of water to a boil.  Add a bit of salt and cook 7 strips of lasagna at a time for about 6 minutes.  When time is up, remove from the boiling water promptly and put the noodles in a large bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.  Shake off excess water and place on waxed paper.  Repeat once.  (You'll need about 14 strips for a 9x13)

In a blender, combine the tomatoes in the juice and the tomato paste and pulse for about 5 seconds.  In a saucepan over medium heat, warm 4 Tbs olive oil.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until softened.  Add the tomato mixture, basil, oregano, and 3/4 tsp salt.  Simmer gently, uncovered, until thickened, about 30 minutes.

Brown sausage over medium heat.  (I use the same pot I cooked my pasta in to save on clean-up.)  Drain fat and remove to a plate covered in a paper towel to soak up any excess fat.

Preheat oven to 400.  Combine ricotta, nutmeg, and egg, stirring to mix well.  To assemble lasagna, put a little sauce in the bottom of the 9x13.  Arrange a layer of noodles so they touch but don't overlap.  Spread 1/3 of each of the ricotta, sauce, meat, mozzarella, and Parmesan.  (The ricotta is easiest to spread if you put it directly on the noodles.)  Repeat twice.  Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes; remove foil and bake an additional 5-10 minutes.

Last night we served with garlic bread and salad. Yum!

Tomato sauce
Everything ready for assembly
It turned out really well!

 After dinner last night we took Rachel to the mall so she could run around at the "playground" and Chris and I had a chocolate shake for dessert.  It was fun for Rachel and relaxing for Chris and me.  And craziest thing...we were walking through JCPenney and ran into Alex, Chris' youngest brother.  It took me a second to figure out what was going on because that was just the last person I expected to see!  But he was in Norman for a Speech and Debate tournament and the kids wanted to come up to the mall for the evening.  What a happy coincidence for us!

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