Lasagna

  • Downhome Magazine
  • Posted: Nov 30, -0001 12:00 AM
Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Lasagna is as Italian as it gets, and here in North America is has to be one of the most popular comfort foods among the masses. With popularity, however, comes variety, and the Internet is overwhelmed with variations from all over on how one can create this dish consisting of pasta, sauce and cheese.

To me, there are many ways to make an excellent lasagna, but for me personally there are a few key things I want mine to consist of. I like a rich, flavourful and meaty tomato based sauce; I like a layer of ricotta cheese blended with spinach, garlic and Parmesan cheese; and of course there has to be lots of gooey mozzarella on top.

Some lasagna recipes can be very complex with three sauces and two different cheese blends. For this recipe I use just one sauce (a meat sauce...although you can use whichever favourite tomato based sauce you like), a simple ricotta cheese mixture featuring spinach and artichokes (think hot spinach artichoke dip), and I finish it off with grated mozzarella.

Lasagna

Tomato Based Sauce: Check out my recipes for my family's meat sauce, bolognese or simple marinara.

Ricotta Mixture:

Ingredients:
24 ounce tub whole milk ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 package of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 eggs, beaten
1 can artichokes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Fresh chopped parsley (and other Italian herbs of choice)
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp each of salt and pepper

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well until evenly distributed. Reserve for layering in the lasagna.

Lasagna:

Ingredients:
Ricotta filling
Tomato or meat sauce
Lasagna pasta, cooked
2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (or other hard Italian cheese), grated
Fresh chopped parsley

Directions:
If you don't have the tomato sauce made ahead of time, do that first as it is the most time consuming. The next step is to bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the lasagna pasta just to al dente, according to package direction (I find 1 standard size package is more than enough, but I usually cook it all and let my pup enjoy the leftover pasta). While the pasta is cooking prepare the ricotta mixture. It's pretty simple to bring together. One of the most important things to do is ensure the thawed spinach is squeezed of all its water as you don't want a watery filling.

Once the pasta is cooked and cooled enough to handle, begin assembling your pasta. Preheat the oven to 375 and get a large casserole pan (approximately 9x13 inches or similar are typical). Ladle in a little red sauce, about 1.5- 2 cups to cover the bottom of the pan and then add a layer of lasagna noodles. Next add a thick layer of red sauce (about 3 cups) and a 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, followed by a second layer of pasta. Next add the entire ricotta mixture and a third layer of pasta. Repeat with another thick layer of red sauce and the remaining Parmesan cheese. Lastly, add the forth layer of pasta followed by a thin layer of red sauce and the 2 cups of mozzarella cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes until the top is browned and bubbly. Serve with a nice green salad, garlic bread and a good red wine.