Lasagna

Lasagna

The first time I saw lasagna prepared, it was at my friend Scarlett’s house in the mid-1990s. As she pulled all those noodles from the boiling water and placed them neatly on waxed paper, I was both impressed and intimidated, realizing I needed an easier way.

As it turns out, dry noodles layered with the sauce in the lasagna pan is incredibly easy. I use canned crushed tomatoes for their predictable moisture content. It not only guarantees that the noodles will cook to al dente, but that the dish will set up to the desired level of firmness.

  • LASAGNA
  • Servings: 8-10
  • Time: 1hr 30mins
  • Difficulty: Moderate
WHAT YOU NEED WHAT TO DO WHY
  • 4 cups (16 ounces) freshly shredded mozzarella
Prepare; cover and set aside. Freshly shredded has a smooth melting texture.
  • 8 ounces Italian sausage (bulk)
  • 8 ounces 93:7 ground beef (grass fed)
For the meat sauce, preheat an empty 5-quart tri-ply stockpot over medium heat until water droplets flicked from fingertips dance across the base (2-4 minutes). Add meat, breaking into marble-sized pieces with a potato masher, and then occasionally turning with a bamboo spatula until browned (15-20 minutes). Tri-ply is nonreactive, and will not release undesirable flavors during deglazing. The Maillard (my YARD) reaction (browning) adds rich flavor. Bamboo is gentle on cookware.
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) diced white or yellow onion
Add to meat. Sweat, occasionally tossing, until tender (4-5 minutes).

Tip: With onion on its side, cut off and discard stem/root. Cut in half from pole to pole; discard dry/tough layers. Place cut sides down; slice parallel to the equator to ¼ inch, holding pieces together as you work. Cut across slices to dice.

Holding slices together reduces exposure to eye-irritants.
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Italian herb mix
  • (basil, parsley, oregano)
Add to the pot; sauté just until fragrant (1-2 minutes).

Tip: After separating a garlic clove from the head, cut off the root end. Place the broad side of a chef’s knife on top; strike hard with your fist or palm to crush. Release skin and discard. Rock blade over garlic to mince.

Garlic burns easily and so it is added after the onion.
Garlic presses waste garlic flesh, and a knife is easier to clean.
  • 72 ounces canned, unsalted, crushed tomatoes
Stir into the stockpot to deglaze the pot. Cover and bring to the boil over medium-high heat; remove from heat. Meanwhile, place oven rack just below center; start preheating to 350°F “Convection” (verify with an oven thermometer). Deglazing releases tasty bits from the pot. Ovens often run hot or cold or preheat slowly.
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ½ cup)
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ ounce (⅓ cup) finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Meanwhile, prepare the ricotta mixture. In a 3-quart bowl whisk egg until loose and frothy. Mix in remaining ingredients with a bamboo spoon. Set aside.

Tip: Snip parsley leaves with a sharp kitchen/garden shears for clean cuts.

Breaking up egg is easier before adding the other ingredients. Knives tend to bruise herbs unattractively.
  • 14 ounces dry lasagna noodles
In a 4-quart capacity 9×13-inch square edged baking dish or stainless steel roasting pan layer the following:

3 cups meat sauce
5 noodles (break off parts that are too long)
1 ½ cups ricotta mixture
3 cups meat sauce
1 cup mozzarella
5 noodles
1 ½ cups ricotta mixture
3 cups meat sauce
1 cup mozzarella
5 noodles
3 cups meat sauce

Glass and stainless steel are both nonreactive with acidic foods, such as tomatoes, whereas aluminum creates gray discoloration. Uncooked noodles are easy to handle and absorb excess liquids.
  With the bottom of a spatula, evenly press the surface to submerge noodles and eliminate air pockets. Evenly distribute remaining 2 cups of mozzarella. Exposed noodles harden under oven heat.
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herb mix
  • (basil, parsley, oregano)
Scatter evenly over mozzarella. Place dish/pan set over a sheet pan to catch drips; bake until a skewer inserted in the middle penetrates all layers with a hint of resistance (38-40 minutes). Rest 20 minutes before serving. Resting allows noodles to finish absorbing excess liquids, firming the dish.

Additional Testing Notes: Lasagna noodles typically come in a 16 ounce package with 18 noodles. If using an 11×14-inch pan, 6 noodles can be used for each noodle layer.

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