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Author Topic: Lasagna  (Read 13534 times)
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« on: July 31, 2007, 08:41:54 PM »

By: Todd Reinhart

I.  The Sauce
First, by a jar of commercial spaghetti sauce of your choice that is at least 27 oz in size.  If you like your lasagna on the wet side you may want to get a larger size jar.  I prefer to start with a garden style chunky sauce but that is a personal preference.
Add the following to taste:
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh or dried basil
Dried oregano
Fresh crushed/ diced garlic or garlic salt
Salt (if not using garlic salt)
1-2 cans plum tomatoes
1 6oz can of tomato paste
Thinly sliced carrots
Crushed red pepper (if you like it spicy)
Sliced/diced green bell peppers
Sun dried tomatoes (makes for a naturally sweeter sauce)
Sliced/dried red and yellow bell peppers (makes for a naturally sweeter sauce)
Cooking directions:
In a large pot place crushed garlic and any optional fresh vegetables.  If using crushed red pepper add it at this point.  Add about 6 tablespoons of Olive Oil and Balsamic vinegar.  Simmer over medium heat until vegetables are soft and flavors have had a chance to infuse into the oil.  Add the remainder of the ingredients and about ½ cup water.  Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for about an hour.  The longer it simmers the better the sauce will be, so you can cook it for longer if you like (but you may need to add another ½ cup of water after 1 ½ hours).  Taste sporadically to adjust spices as it simmers.

II. The Pasta
The no-boil lasagna noodles can be used if you are pressed for time, but in general I prefer using the old-fashioned pasta that needs to be boiled.  There are some traditional steps to cooking lasagna that require boiling the noodles first.  If you want to use the no-boil lasagna noodles you follow the rest of the recipe but just put the dried noodles in the pan, and layer your filling and cheeses on top of that and bake the lasagna.
Before preparing your pasta you should take out your lasagna pan to gauge how many noodles you will need to cover the dish.  Remember that the noodles will grow by about 15-20% when boiled, and having your pasta longer than the pan is actually a good thing.  You should have at least three layers of noodles (the deeper your pan the more layers you can stack).  The bottom most layer will have a double layer of lasagna noodles, enough to cover the pan lengthwise and then again widthwise.  This gives the lasagna a solid shell in which to sit.  The next tow layers should alternate orienting the pasta by length and then width, but will have only a single layer of noodles (all noodles will either run along the length or width of the pan).  If you have more than three layers this practice should continue to be applied.  This is done mainly to give the lasagna a more solid consistency when cut and served.
Cooking Directions:
In a large pot of water, add a pinch of salt or sugar and a tablespoon of Olive Oil.  Bring the post to a rolling boil on high heat, reduce to medium heat, and add your lasagna noodles.  Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the noodles are not quite soft enough to serve.  They should be removed a little early because they will cook further when they are baked in the pan and you don’t want to have them too soft.
Remove from heat and drain the pasta into a colander.  Run it under warm water to remove any extra starch from the pasta.  Get several clean cloth towels and sandwich the pasta between the cloth towels.  This will make the pasta easier to work with once you place all of your ingredients in the pan for baking.  Place the noodles and towels aside and leave until you are ready for them.

III. The Filling
1 3lb container of Ricotta Cheese (whole, skim, or lowfat can be used. I prefer the whole variety)
3 large eggs
Dried oregano and garlic salt to taste
Parmesan cheese
Romano cheese (optional)
16 oz block of mozzarella cheese
Mix all except the mozzarella cheese in a large bowl.  Slice the mozzarella thinly and place it on a plate and cover with plastic wrap.  Put mixture and sliced mozzarella in fridge until you are ready to prepare the lasagna.

IV. The Cooking
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Take your lasagna pan and grease it with a small amount of Olive Oil.  Take the pasta and lay down the bottom double layer of noodles.  Place the first layer lengthwise in the pan, with the excess noodles draped over the short edges of the pan.  Place a second layer of noodles directly on top of the first.  This second layer should be perpendicular to the first, and the excess noodles should be draped over the long sides of the pan.  The pan should now look like a big noodley-y rectangular flower.  The pasta is being draped this way because after all the other layers and filling are added to the pan, the excess pasta will be folded back into the pan on top of the last layer of noodles.  This makes a sort of “pasta container” for the lasagna to bake in.
Layering the filling:
So, the bottom double layer of noodles is now placed in the pan and ready to go.  Take the filling and mozzarella cheese out of the fridge.  Remove your sauce from heat and get the ladle.  Place a  ¼” to ½” thick layer of the filling mixture on top of the noodles.  Place the sliced mozzarella cheese on top of the filling (be careful to meter out your mozzarella-if you have three layers of pasta you will need enough slices to put on each of those three layers).  Sprinkle Parmesan on top of the mozzarella, and ladle out a spoonful or two of sauce onto the cheeses.
The Next step is to put down the next layer of noodles on top of the layer you just completed.  All layers besides the bottom-most should only be single layers (the noodles all are laid down in one direction), and should alternate long to wide sides from one layer to the next.  Otherwise, repeat the above process for the filling for each new layer.  You can also add extra fillings at this stage if so desired.  Good filings to add include: pepperoni, sweet and/or spicy Italian sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, spinach, and other specialty Italian meats.  Just make sure the items are all sliced or prepared to be of uniform thickness so that they all cook evenly. 
After you place the last layer of pasta over the last layer of filling, take the pasta that is draped over the edges of the pan and fold it back over the last layer of pasta.  Then take the last of your mozzarella cheese and place it over the noodles (the cheese will act like a glue to keep the top of the lasagna together).  Ladle one or two spoonfuls of sauce over the top and cover loosely (try not to hit the cheese) with aluminum foil.
Cooking Directions:
Place the lasagna in the preheated oven.  Cook for between 45-60 minutes.  Remove aluminum foil and cook for another 15 minutes or so to brown the top.  Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
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