Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Not Your Mama's Lasagna

Oh Lasagna, you are my casserole exception. Ok, there's ONE more exception - King Ranch Chicken Casserole - which we will get to later. But only these two! I love variety, so to get me to eat the same thing all week - it better be freaking good, and this lasagna has it all: cheesiness, meltiness, meatiness, spiciness. It's. Soo. Good. Now I know I am a fan of easy gourmet, and on Gour-Maybe, I try to keep the focus on simple ways to achieve amazing results, but this IS easy. If you set aside about 3 hours, you should be good, nothing skill-wise is required more than stirring and chopping and layering and you are done cooking for the week, so kick your feet up and watch Downton Abbey or The Bachelor (or in my case, both) - whatever floats your boat.   I serve mine with a classic homemade Caesar salad. One note - the seasoning that I have put in the recipe is a guideline and a starting place. Please adjust all of this to fit your palate - more spicy, less spicy. Do you LOVE sage? Add more! I won't take it personally. I made this Sunday, and I'm about to go dig in. So if you are in need of a great recipe for a week or a crowd, try this! Read all the details after the jump.

Not Your Mama's Lasagna (Serves 10-12)
You will need:
Meat Sauce
  • 1 lb Italian sausage
  • 1 lb ground beef (90/10 or 80/20 if you are feeling naughty)
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 6 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 C minced onion
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes 
  • 2 cans (6 oz) tomato paste
  • 1/2 box (13 oz) tomato puree/sauce.strained tomatoes* I use Pomi
  • 1/2 C Chicken Stock
  • 1 T fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary - chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh sage - chopped
  • 1 T fresh basil - chopped
  • 1 T fresh oregano - chopped 
  • 2 T flat leaf parsley - chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 juniper berries - whole
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne 
  • 1 T kosher salt
  • 2 tsp fresh black pepper
  • 1 tsp cracked red pepper 
Cheese layers
  • 1.5 lbs fresh mozzarella - grated
  • 1 C Parmesan - grated
  • 1 lb Ricotta 
  • 1 egg, + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 T flat leaf parsley - chopped
  • 1 T basil - chopped
  • 18-20 lasagna noodles - cooked al dente (I make a few extras in case they tear)
Grab a large cast iron or enamel stock pot. Render bacon fat on medium heat for about 5 minutes - until the bacon is translucent and beginning to brown. Add sausage and beef and continue to cook until the meat begins to brown. Add onions and garlic and cook for about 5-7 minutes more, so they are translucent and meat is almost 100% brown. Reduce heat to medium low. Add tomatoes (paste, strained, diced) and stir to incorporate. Add herbs, beginning with dried. Stir for about 2 minutes. Add cayenne and paprika. Add salt and pepper and stir another minute or so. Add fresh herbs and stir once more to combine. Simmer, covered for about 1-1.5 hours (the longer the better!) Add chicken stock about 30 minutes in. Add more stock or water if the sauce seems too thick.
When the sauce is done, prepare the cheeses. I like to grate while the sauce is cooking. Grate parmesan and mozzarella and set aside. Then, mix the ricotta in a medium bowl with the salt, pepper, basil, parsley and eggs.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Salt and prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions **remove them as they become al dente, you don't want soggy noodles**. Drain and set aside.

Now it's time to assemble the lasagna! You will need a 9 x 13 Pyrex or other baking pan. Start with a layer of the meat sauce on the bottom so the noodles don't stick (about 2 cups), then noodles (I do 4 horizontally and 2 vertically to cover edge to edge. Then a layer of ricotta, then mozzarella, then meat sauce, then parm. Got the hang of it? Noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, meat sauce, parm! Repeat until you have used up all your ingredients, finishing with the noodles, and sprinkling the top with any remaining mozz and parm for a cheesy crust. Cover by tenting aluminum foil well above the pan, so it doesn't stick to the cheese. Bake for 25 minutes. Increase oven temp to 400 degrees, remove foil, and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and all the cheese has melted. Let rest for 15-20 minutes - resist the urge to cut in or it will be too hot and the slices won't set up right. Enjoy!

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