January 15, 2011

Baked Lasagna

I love this dish because you can personalize it in so many ways. Feel free to substitute the meat and cheeses to your own liking. I've tried so many versions, from just veggies to ground beef, and it always turns out great.

Baked Lasagna
(makes a 13x9 pan)
12 uncooked lasagna noodles

Meat Sauce:
8 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
 or use  (tomato sauce recipe)
6 fresh basil leaves, torn
1.5 lb. Italian turkey sausage
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil

1 lb. part-skim ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup grated romano cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

White (Bechamel) Sauce:
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons Wondra flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning

1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded smoked provolone
  or 1/4 lb. ball of fresh mozzarella/sliced thin

Now, roll up your sleeves, and let's get started.  First, you'll want to make your meat sauce. Brown the diced onion and garlic together until soft.
Remove the turkey sausage from the casings, then add to the onion mix and brown well.
To this, add your favorite sauce, about 8 cups, then throw in the basil. Loosely cover and bring to a simmer.

Heat up a big pot of salted water for the noodles and bring to a rolling boil. While you're waiting for the water to boil, prepare the ricotta filling. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, parsley, grated romano and parmesan cheese, then season with salt and pepper. Give it a stir until light and fluffy.
I feel the secret to this great lasagna dish, is the addition of a white, or bechamel sauce.

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan.

To make any sauce smooth and silky, I always use Wondra flour. Never a lump to be found!

To the melted butter, add the Wondra, then the milk and Italian seasonings.

Cook until bubbling about a minute, stirring constantly, until nice and thick...almost like a gravy. Pour into a glass measuring container with a spout.
 Many people I know don't like to cook their lasagna noodles, and there are so many different kinds on the market. I tend to enjoy the good, old-fashioned type, except that I cook them for no more than three minutes.
After 3 minutes, drain them in a colander, rinse well with cold water, then lay them out on a waxed paper. Now you can create a bit of an assembly line to make things go faster. The tedious part is over!
Lightly cover the bottom of a 13x9 pan with tomato sauce. Now layer 4 noodles.
Using a teaspoon, dollop the ricotta mixture over the top.
Drizzle with the white sauce....
...then sprinkle with cheese (save about 1/4 cup for the very top layer). If you want, use fresh mozzarella instead. Slice thin and place over the ricotta and noodles.
Cover with a layer of meat sauce.
Let's do it again, one more time...

A layer of  four noodles..

..then dollops of ricotta,

...drizzle with bechamel,

...sprinkle with cheese (or fresh sliced mozzarella),

...spoon meat sauce over the top!

Finish top with the remaining 4 noodles, add a little more sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Give it a dash more of Italian seasonings, maybe a little more parsley, and a sprinkling of grated parmesan.
Cover with aluminum foil, and place in the fridge for 2 hours, or even overnight if you want to prepare this a day ahead. When ready to bake, keep covered and place the pan on a cookie sheet (just in case of spills). Bake in a preheated 375 oven for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for 15 minutes more, until bubbly.

Allow to cool for 15-20 minutes before slicing.
Goes really well with Barefoot wineries Merlot!

1 comment:

Buttercup said...

This looks yummy and the directions are great.