As various regions of certain area’s, and recipes differ from one another, (as Mommas, and Grandmas, who travailed them to perfection through the years have), there are oodles of ways to bake Lasagna.
For example, I, at the last minute, as you can see from the photo above, decided to make this one my own version of the latest craze in Pastamania, and that being “Pizzagna“. All I added were the pepperonis on top, of course, as they were something I had on hand, with no immediate plans of cooking another pizza this week.
This brings me back to the title of the article, Because, if you are like me, there is never everything that you need to follow a particular recipe on the shelves, or in the fridge. This is where we must adapt and overcome, (or waste time and energy rushing to the market) by substituting certain ingredients etc. I know!!! You’ve probably improvised enough in your kitchen by now to be able to shoot pool with an Al dente spaghetti noodle. But, for the sake of those who may just be learning, or don’t have the natural cooking instinct and ability as you, I’m just saying.
I believe it is “Guy Fereli” who is always saying; “If you’ve Got it use it” on his show. ( This of course doesn’t mean to use everything on your spice rack in every recipe you make). He is simply saying that in many cases an item that you have, and will otherwise have to throw out before you use it in a recipe that specifically calls for it, can be used as a substitute for an ingredient that you don’t have, and in some cases married with the item that is called for to enhance the recipes flavor. In my situation with this Lasagna/Pizzanga,for example, I didn’t have any fresh Italian parsley. In fact, I didn’t have any fresh parsley at all. What I did have, however, was a nice fresh bunch of cilantro I’d used less than half of in a Mexican meal two nights earlier.
And lets be reasonable, not everyone has the time, garden space, or green-house to grow their own fresh herbs. (Though, I drooled a little on my keyboard as I typed the savory thought ). Hey, if dried herbs and spices are all you have, Use them !!! It’s not like they are giving that stuff away these days either.
In a sense, an artist is someone who breaths life, and love into otherwise wilted, faded, or dreary objects, creating a vibrant colorful flower.
It’s no different with cooking, after all it is an art. The point I am making, of course is be the artist. When you cook something make it your own. Anyone can produce a purple flower, with green leaves, and yellow blooms, using a paint by number recipe.
Fresh produce from the market is pleasing to the palate. I agree, Even if but psychologically theroputic, and comforting at times yet, there are some instances where dried preparations of herbs can enhance the flavor more than fresh herbs.
Modern adaptations of Bolognese, and Marinara sauces, consisting largely of tomatoes are some of these dishes. If you have noticed, these type Italian sauces, simmered, cooled, and refrigerated over night take on a richer, more robust flavor. This can take place as fresh herbs infuse with the tomato sauce of course, but especially with some dried herbs, such as oregano, which becomes more flavorful dried than it was on the bush.I’m not saying to completely go off the reservation from following recipes others have tediously proportioned, prepared, and posted for us to use. I’m just saying for Chef d’oeuvre,.. to manifest, the chef in you must step away…from the cookie cutter, Rolodex, and use what you have on hand, and personally know tastes good to create the best dish you possibly can.
On this particular Lasagna, I chose to use an 8 x12 casserole dish, which is only 2 and a half inches deep. You may want to use a deeper dish, to allow for more layering, or convert the amounts accordingly. I was cooking for two, but as I had baked a nice sourdough bread earlier, and toasted a few slices in the pan previously used to saute the meat; believe me, it was more than enough. There is half a dish of the flavorsome pottage leftover in the ice box, in fact, infusing it’s assorted seasonings for an even better tasting meal for another day.
- 1/2 pound of sweet Italian sausage ( I bought a ground pork shoulder and made the sausage myself by adding ingredients, plus chopping some extra rib-eye steak fat with the pork, a few days earlier)
1/2 pound of ground beef
1/4 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 (16 ounce ) can crushed tomatoes
1 ( 8 ounce ) can tomato sauce
1 ( 6 ounce ) can tomato paste
1/4 cup water ( pasta water is good )
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried Basil leaves
3 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro, or parsley ( or what you have)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon (dried) oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
13 ounces of ricotta cheese ( or cottage cheese )
1 dash of dried nutmeg, or 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated !
1 handful shredded mozzarella cheese, or more…
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, (or just a light dusting if not fresh).
9 Lasagna noodles ( three layers)
- 1 half a large portebella mushroom chopped
Here’s the skinny
1. Brown, Italian sausage, ground beef, mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, and (garlic added last) in skillet. ( If you choose to leave the grease in for flavor then you can do this in the pot you’re going to cook your sauce in). (On the Entree’ pictured I chose to not mix the meat with the sauce, but rather to use as a single layer in the dish as it was a shallow dish, and I used less layers of pasta). (It’s really all up to you as the artist).
2. Add 1 can crushed tomatoes, 1 can tomato sauce, 1 can of tomato paste, and 1/4 cup of water. mix in by stirring
3. Stir these elements in one at a time: Sugar, Fennel Seeds, 1/2 the Cilantro, or Parsley, Oregano, Basil, Salt, Cracked, black pepper…or whatever you choose to taste.
4. For best taste…simmer for 2 hours, refrigerate overnight; Then simmer 30 minutes more before using: Otherwise, simmer for an hour and use right away, OR, IF you are in a BIG RUSH… Go Prego!!! It’s in there!!!
Depending on the method, or sauce you choose, preheat oven to 350 degrees ( f ) or 175 ( c ) 30 minutes before sauce is ready…
5. Now that the sauce is underway, in a large mixing bowl add: 13 to 16 ounces of Ricotta cheese, 1 egg, remainder of chopped parsley, or cilantro, good pinch of Mozzarella Cheese, pinch of Salt, and Stir with wooden or plastic implement.
6. 15 minutes before sauce is ready either start soaking your Lasagna noodles in hot tap water, or parboil them by placing in a pot of boiling water, and turning heat off. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, drain and have ready.
7. Now, just spread 1 cup of the ragu ( meat sauce ) in bottom of baking dish, and a layer of Lasagna noodles. Then spread a layer of cheese…repeat as many as you have depth, and noodles for…8. The finishing layer, though entirely up to you, will be the cheese mixture. Traditionally, it is the ragu, or meat sauce, but entirely up to the Grandma-ma…I mean, the artist of course.
9. Sprinkle a layer of Mozzarella, Cheese on top, enough to lightly cover the Riccota, and a light layer of Parmesan, ( a little nutmeg if you like, and some dried parsley flakes, and you are ready for the oven).
10. Cover dish with aluminum foil, or lid, and bake @ 350 ( f ) for 30 minutes, or 175 ( c ) for 30 minutes, then remove the foil ( lid ) and bake for 20 more minutes…checking for brownness, dependent on oven.
WOW just 10 steps…of course they can seem overwhelming when reading it as a step method… so just start off with this in mind:
I need a meat Sauce
A Cheese Filling Sauce
Or in the case of “Pizzagna”
Use your imagination.
Or, Rachel Ray’s spin on it…serve any baked pasta dish with a crispy bread, and Voila ..Pizzagna!!!
Or, actually, those are my words based on some of her, and others Pizzana, recipes.
Hmm I wonder why “Meow” is the same in all languages”?