Sunday, February 17, 2013
Lasagne Per Due
I used to get up and grab the paper early on Sunday mornings and read it during my morning coffee and E! television fix (Fashion Police and The Soup, anyone?). Now, it's lucky if I even bring it in before dark. It's really sad and a former shell of itself. And, the thing that has people most up in arms is the obituaries.
Many books, some funny, some serious, have been written about Southerners and their funeral rites. From the visitation, the funeral itself, the procession to the graveyard (which gets harder and harder to spot with more and more cars having daytime running lights), and the graveside service--each of these has its own rituals, most of which involve food.
With the newspaper only printing 3 days a week, it's become increasingly difficult to keep up with who has left this mortal coil and know when to drop off the casserole, cake, or pie. The new regime in charge of the paper insists that people can get this information online or can call into a recording of the day's obituaries. All the little old ladies that I know sniff at the very idea of this and lament that this is just another sign of the apocalypse...zombie or non-zombie.
All of this was sort of a convoluted way of saying that I've actually been reading the Wednesday edition, or at least part of it...the part that deals with food. It usually features a post from Plain Chicken's blog, which is a veritable encyclopedia of tailgating food, casseroles, and other comfort foods. I love this blog, have made several things from it, and her food photography is amazing. There are things that you would only find in the South, like Cheez-Its Chicken Fingers, but nobody eats that every day...and not that there is a damn thing wrong with Cheez-Its...one of nature's most addictive snack foods.
Anyway, I saw a recipe in one of the Wednesday papers for Lasagne for Two, from Cook's Country magazine. (To me, Cook's Country is Cook's Illustrated's younger, more approachable cousin.)
Lasagne is a great dish to take to said funeral events, but it's a hard dish to make for one or two, without having leftovers running out of your ears...unless you make it in a LOAF PAN!
Lasagne Per Due (for two)
(adapted from the Cook's Country recipe)
For the Sauce
1 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces mild Italian sausage, removed from casings (I adore Publix brand, but use your favorite)
1 14.5-oz can of Italian-style diced tomatoes, drained, reserve 1/4 cup of juice
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
Salt & Pepper
Filling, Noodles & Cheese
4 oz. ricotta (whole milk or part-skim)
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs grated Parmesan, divided
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 no-boil lasagne noodles
1 cup (4 oz) shredded whole-milk mozzarella
Cooking Spray, aluminum foil
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the sausage and cook breaking up the meat into smaller bits until no longer pink, about 6-8 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, reserved juice, and tomato sauces and cook until slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste; you should have about 3 cups of sauce.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, basil, egg, about 1/8 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp of pepper. Spray the bottom and sides of 8 1/2-inch loaf pan with a little cooking spray (like Pam). Cover the bottom of the pan with about 1/2 cup of sauce. Top the sauce with 1 noodle and spread evenly with about 1/3 cup of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of mozzarella and cover with 1/2 more of sauce.
Repeat twice, beginning with noodle and ending with sauce. Top with remaining noodles, remaining 1 cup of sauce, remaining mozzarella, and the remaining 2 Tbs Parmesan.
The original recipe called for a mix of lean ground beef and ground pork, but I decided that I wanted to use the Italian sausage. Also, there was no fresh basil at my supermarket, so I used frozen. I know, that sounded kind of weird, but I found these wonderful little trays of Dorot frozen basil, garlic, and cilantro at Trader Joe's, and they are the best things, especially in winter when I have no fresh basil growing.
I also reserved all of the juice from the tomatoes, and I think you could throw it all in if you reduce the sauce just a tad. The no-boil noodles tend to absorb more liquid, which is why you use the foil for most of the cooking to keep in the moisture, so I don't think it would hurt to have a little more liquid.
This was the first time that I had used the no-boil noodles, and I used Barilla (my go-to brand of pasta). They were a little softer than a regular noodle, with not as much "bite." I like a chewier lasagne noodle, actually a more firm, less saucy lasagne is also more to my liking. I hate it when you order lasagne in a restaurant and they drown it in marinara sauce.
This lasagne held up well for the next couple of days for lunch and dinner leftovers. It really did make a generous amount, even though it was in a loaf pan. I've made lasagne rolls before, which take less time than an actual lasagne, but still more work, because you have to cook and cool the noodles. This loaf pan version was quick and easy, and I will definitely make it again.
And is it "lasagna or lasagne"? I've always spelled it with an "e," which is evidently not the normal North American version, where it is more commonly spelled with an "a." Technically, lasagna is the singular in Italian, with lasagne being the plural. However, that doesn't seem to matter to English-speakers, according to Grammarist, where we treat it as a mass noun. (Look, English lessons AND recipes...what more could you want from a blog?)