4.19.2008

Recipe: Birthday Lasagna

For my husband's birthday we had his favorite dish. He always begs me to make lasagna, even when it is not a special occasion. The part about baking the lasagna with plastic wrap freaks out most people, it even scared me the first time I did it. I had the assurance of a seasoned Italian cook that nothing bad would happen. Now, I have been baking lasagna like this for 20 years and it always comes out perfect!
This is a large recipe, perfect for a large family dinner or special occasion; but there is no need to wait for a family dinner, bake, cool and cut into portions and freeze. It freezes beautifully for up to 3 months and tastes even better when re-heated.


SAUCE:


½ cup diced sweet onion
2- 28 oz cans stewed tomatoes- Muir Glen Fire Roasted is best
1 tblsp minced garlic
½ lb Cremini or Portobello mushrooms – sliced
1 lb ground beef (or lamb)
½ lb lean ground pork or mild sausage
3 tblsp tomato paste
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp light soy sauce
2 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper- optional
2 tblsp honey
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil
Butter


Over medium- high heat, sauté onion in 1 tblsp olive oil and 2 tblsp of butter until clear, add mushrooms and sauté about 5 minutes. Add ground beef (or lamb), pork and minced garlic. Cook until meat is done. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, spices and honey. Let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
Taste and add salt & pepper to your liking. Turn heat to the lowest setting and let simmer while you prepare noodles & cheese. Note; you may increase beef (or lamb) to 1 ½ lbs and omit pork.

CHEESE:
1 lb Manchego cheese- shredded
½ lb fresh mozzarella-sliced
1 cup low fat ricotta


NOODLES:
Boil 1 pkg of high quality lasagna noodles for only half the cooking time recommended on pkg.
They should be very al dente, or only half cooked. Drain and set aside briefly.

ASSEMBLE:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a large lasagna/casserole (15 x 9) with olive oil. Assemble a layer of lasagna noodles in bottom of casserole. Ladle approx 1/3 of your sauce onto noodles, spreading evenly.
Spoon ricotta cheese over sauce, layer with noodles and press gently to even out. Ladle half of your remaining sauce on the noodles and sprinkle ½ of the shredded Manchego cheese on that layer. Assemble your last layer of noodles and sauce, sprinkle remaining Manchego cheese, and lay the sliced fresh mozzarella on top of all. Press down slightly to even out.
Cover pan with plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Wrap foil tightly to cover all plastic wrap. I know it doesn’t seem logical to bake with plastic wrap, but I learned this trick from a true Italian cook and it works! Bake for 45 minutes. When you remove the lasagna from the oven, remove foil/plastic right away, you will see the plastic wrap is intact and sticking to the foil. If you like a browned top, broil for 2 minutes to bubble and brown the cheese.
Let lasagna sit for 10 minutes before cutting. Serves 10-12 people.
The leftovers warmed up are even tastier than the day it is made. You can also make this a few hours ahead and refrigerate until baking. If you do that, increase baking time to at least 1 hour.

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Cincinnati, OH, United States
A dedicated foodie, with a passion for the best food. Favorite food crushes include; Cheese, Wine, Breads, Seafood, anything made with eggs, ...there's actually no point in a list, there isn't much out there I don't have a crush on. Transplanted from the Northeast at age 18, a whole new frontier of food was opened up to me. I have fished for Salmon, hunted for mushrooms, cracked open fresh oysters from the sea and devoured them on the spot. Figs, pears, peaches, so many indigenous jewels! I dedicate this BLOG to the endless variety this region provides. My hope is to live here for a very long time & continue to discover and experience it's unique bounty! Alas, my life has now taken me to Cincinnati, OH where the food culture is like none I have ever experienced.

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