Lasagna!

So lasagna, who doesn’t like lasagna? Finally able to get to posting the holiday dishes.  This lasagna is so good and could be made days ahead of time.  I remember when I first started doing Christmas dinners, I was so stressed because of all the time spent in the kitchen.  This year, I was able to make so many things ahead of time and on the day of, I was able to take the time to sit around, enjoy some wine and take some pictures.  You might be able to tell the some of these pictures are not from the exact same day.  That’s because I made this lasagna around 3 times for 3 different dinners; I pretty much made it the exact same way so I’m just going to combine all the best pictures.  The worst part is that for the day I had good pictures for the steps, no one took an individual pictures of it, so I had to wait til the final day to get a picture of the lasagna.  So the steps and the final picture are probably 2 different lasagnas (shh no one needs to know…well I just told you so I guess everyone knows).

I made Italian sausage meatballs for this lasagna.  Its not completely necessary but man is it good!  If you choose not to make the meatballs, you can just put ground meat in your sauce if you feel you are missing some meat.  I will describe the meatballs here and then I might do a separate post just for the meatballs in the future if that makes things easier.  These holiday dishes will not have specific measurements.  Even as I try to measure everything for this blog, but for the holidays it was way too difficult to measure everything.  Maybe it will be a trend for the future too, emphasize doing everything by taste, I want you to make things to the way you like it, and not the way I like it.  Let me know what you think.  Freestyle all the way!

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I mixed about 1 lb of ground pork with 1 small chopped onion, fennel seeds, 1/4 chopped red bell pepper, garlic, 1 egg, panko bread crumbs, salt and pepper and parsley.   Formed them into meatballs.  It made around 13 meatballs.  I then baked them in the oven at 400oF for 45 minutes – 1 hour like that (no cover) with a bit of water on the bottom to prevent them from burning.  Obviously I had to try some of them.  You need around 7-9 of them for the lasagna so the rest you can eat however you want; with pasta would be amazing.  I made these ahead of time and just let them sit in the fridge before I needed to use them.  I’m not sure about the freezer, you probably can, but I haven’t done it before so cannot give you full details.

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I boiled some baby spinach in salted water and squeezed the water out.  You can use frozen; but remember to squeeze the water out after thawing.  I cut the spinach up with some scissors and added a tub of ricotta cheese.  This is 50% less fat ricotta, you can use the full fat ones.  Just mix the ricotta with the spinach and add salt and pepper to taste.  I also made this a day before; since its cheese I don’t think you should make this too far ahead of time; a few days should be fine.

For the sauce.  You can use your favorite tomato sauces.  I like to add a little mirepoix to my sauce.  And since it was for the holidays, I didn’t even have to chop anything, let the food processor do the work.  I used 3 celery stalks, about 8 small onions, probably 3 medium ones and 2 carrots.  Threw them in the food processor and let it do the work.  Let it cook down and soften then add about 2 750 ml jars/cans of your favorite tomato sauce.  This can be made weeks ahead of time and frozen if you want.  I made it 2 days ahead of time and just sat it in the fridge.  I let it get to room temperature before cooking though.

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So on the day of, you just have to put everything together.  Bring a pot of salted water to boil and drop in the lasagna sheets.  Follow the instructions on the box or use your own judgement if you’ve done this before (if you have done this before, you probably don’t need my help =P)

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So I start off by chopping the meatballs in slices and then I start to layer the lasagna.  Line the bottom of the baking dish with a little tomato sauce and then line the bottom with the first layer of pasta sheets (I need 3 to fill this dish, it might be different for you).  I then add some of chopped meatballs and cheese.

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I then top it with some tomato sauce.  Add another layer of pasta sheets.  For the second layer, I put the remaining meatball slices and added some pan seared zucchini slices and cheese.  The zucchini is not completely necessary, it was a last minute addition but it does add an extra layer of flavor to this.  The second time I did this, I put zucchini in the bottom and middle layers.  I simply seared some zucchini slices on a pan and seasoned with salt and pepper.  Top layer with tomato sauce once again.

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DSC09496Add pasta sheets on top of the previous layer.  Now for the third and final layer, I just spread the ricotta and spinach mixture all over the top.  I then cover the whole thing with the remaining tomato sauce, and top with cheese.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 400oF oven for 1 hou

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Enjoy!

Ingredients:

About 9 pasta/lasagna sheets

1 tub of 5o% less fat ricotta

Bunch of cooked spinach or frozen – make sure to dry rinse out the water

slices from 1 1/2 zucchinis (optional)

Shredded Cheese of your liking

Meatballs:

About 1 lb ground pork

1 egg

chopped parsley

1 small onion, chopped

1/4 red bell pepper chopped

Fennel seeds

Breadcrumbs – I used Panko Japanese breadcrumbs

Salt and Pepper

Tomato Sauce:

6-8 small onions, or 3-4 medium sized ones, finely chopped (recommend food processor, much faster)

2 carrots, finely chopped (recommended food processor)

3 stalks of celery, finely chopped (recommended food processor)

2 750 ml cans/jars of your favorite tomato sauce/purè

Directions:

1. Pre heat oven to 375oF

2. Line bottom of baking tray with a little tomato sauce

3. Layer with chopped meatballs, tomato sauce, and cheese (could add seared zucchini slice if you choose to use it).  Finish layer with 3 more lasagna sheets

4. Repeat the same for the second layer

5. Top with spinach ricotta mixture and pour the remaining tomato sauce to cover and top with shredded cheese

6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in oven for 45 minutes – 1 hour.

Meatballs:

1. Pre-heat oven to 375oF

2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Remember do not over work the meat, or the meatballs will become tough.  Just mix enough for all the ingredients to be mixed together

3. Form meat mixture into balls and place in a baking dish.

4. Pour a little water on the bottom to prevent from burning

5. bake in oven for 1 hour

You can make this days ahead of time and use some of the meatballs for other dishes like spaghetti and meatballs.  This recipe can make around 12 meatballs or so, you only need 7-9 of them for the lasagna.

Tomato sauce:

1. Throw onions, celery, and carrots in a food processor

2. Cook mirepoix in a large pan and season with salt and pepper – cook until vegetables are soft

3. Add tomato sauce/puré and let simmer – season with salt and pepper if needed

Spinach Ricotta mixure

1. Cook a bunch of spinach in some boiling salted water – if using frozen, let thaw and rinse out the water

2. Rinse out the water in the spinach and cut into small pieces with scissors

3. Add ricotta cheese and mix well.  Season with Salt and Pepper

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4 responses to “Lasagna!

  1. Looks very Italian Casey. I love cheesy things, lots of cheese.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Chef Randall
    savorthefood.wordpress.com

    • Thanks! Funny thing is I didn’t originally plan to have the zucchini in there, but on the day of I looked in the fridge and saw some and thought hmm, why not and decided to throw some in the lasagna, turned out great.

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