Hearty Lasagna

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Took a page out of Giada's recipe, after all, how much more authentic can I get with an Italian lasagna ... Bechamel sauce, ricotta and all ... rich and hearty, exactly the way I like it ;)

Original recipe had 3 layers, I added an extra meat layer... for two reasons, that I wanted it more meaty and more importantly, or aesthetically, it didn't reach the top of the pan yet!

Bechamel sauce:
8 tbsp or 1 stick butter
4 tbsp flour (yes, I use a bit less, as it thickens)
6 cups milk, boiling
1 tsp ground or grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground black pepper
For added depth, I added 1/4 finely grated onion (this is just me!)

Meat sauce:
1 lb minced pork, turkey or chicken (or for a vegetarian option, load up on zucchini, carrots and eggplant)
1/2 lb minced mushrooms, baby bella
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
6 cloves garlic
8 cups pasta sauce (or tomato paste and broth and wine)
2 tbsp dried basil
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp paprika
Salt and pepper

Other layers:
4 cups ricotta cheese
6 large eggs
2 packs frozen chopped spinach
6-8 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup parmesan

Here's a visual aid for how to layer the pans ...

Now that we've got the assembly down pat, let's get started ...

1. Prepare pasta pot. Add 2 tbsp of oil and a sprinkling of salt to the water.
While waiting for water to boil, make the meat sauce.

2. Make meat sauce:
a. Heat olive oil in the pan, then add garlic and onions, sweating them till fragrant.
b. Add the meat, and when cooked, the mushrooms.
c. Push the meat and shrooms to the sides and make an opening in the middle of the pan to sweat out the tomato paste (is using), Gordon mentioned this is to take the sour tangy tomato taste out of the paste. Heck.. I buy it! Then mix it in and pour in the red wine and broth. If using pasta sauce, just slowly pour in and mix well into the meat.
d. Let it come to a boil and reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes for depth.

3. The water should be boiling by now, drop in lasagna sheets, a few at a time. As they are done, place on a plate, spray with olive oil so they don't stick to each other. They should be slightly under al dente.

4. Now is about a good time to turn on the oven to 350F.

5. Make bechamel sauce:
a. Melt butter in a saucepan, then add flour, whisking till smooth.
b. Gradually add the hot milk, whisking to prevent it getting lumpy until thick and smooth.
c. Season with nutmeg and pepper, and set aside. Stir now and then to keep smooth.

6. In a medium bowl, break eggs and fork whisk them, add the ricotta to this mixture and combine. Season this with a bit of pepper as well.

7. When lasagna sheets are all done, start assembling. For a pyrex pan, 3 pasta layers will be enough to reach the top, but since I like to do it in a metal pan, 4 layers is a minimum.

There could be some leftovers of meat sauce, which can go into your next pasta dish, or bechamel sauce,  to which you can add cheddar cheese and make it a mac and cheese.

So there ... a bit time consuming, lots of pans and bowls, but so worth the effort.

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