Thursday, September 29, 2011

Meat Lasagna

Meat Lasagna
updated from archives

Every time I open the pantry, I'm accosted by two lingering boxes of lasagna noodles that have been sitting at eye level for the last two years. They are the final edible remnants from when I catered E's wedding over 2 years ago. I have not made lasagna since then--perhaps it's because I'm still a little traumatized by all the prepping and cooking that went on that week. But if I'm to be successful in clearing out the entire pantry, I had better start making some lasagna.

In other news, I'm still working through moderating all the unpublished comments and the hundreds of emails in my blog email. So if you've left a comment on this blog and are wondering where it is or if you've sent me an email and I have not replied, please bear with me. Thank you for your patience! I do love your emails and comments. If you make something from the blog, I wanna hear about it! Even if you didn't like it. Also let me know if recipes are unclear, I'm in the process of updating many older recipes.

Some notes: Lasagna can be time-consuming but the sauce can be made in advance to save some day the day of. If using boil noodles, only cook them about 75% of the way, undercook them by about 3 - 4 minutes. They will finish cooking in the oven.

Meat Lasagna
serves 6 - 8

Meat Sauce
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 pound of ground beef or 50-50 mix of ground beef and italian sausage, casings removed (I prefer this combo but it depends on what I have)
1 medium onion chopped fine
6 medium garlic cloves minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
28 ounce can tomato puree
28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt

15 ounce ricotta cheese, preferably whole-milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup coarsely chopped basil
1 pound shredded mozzerella cheese
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup)
12 no-boil noodles

Making the sauce
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the ground meat and cook, breaking up the pieces, until browned. Transfer the ground beef to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the fat back to the Dutch oven and turn the heat down to medium. Drain and discard the rest of the fat.

Add the chopped onions and cook until translucent while scraping up the brown bits. Add the black pepper and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return the meat back to the sauce, add the drained diced tomatoes, tomato puree, and salt. Simmer for 1 hour.

Assemble the lasagna
If using chilled, premade sauce, let it sit out at room temperature for 20 - 30 minutes prior to using but you do not need to do this if you do not intend on baking the lasagna right away.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Add the ricotta, cream, egg, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the chopped basil.

Mix the grated Parmesan and shredded mozzerella in a separate bowl and set aside.

Smear the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with 1/4 cup of tomato sauce (avoiding large chunks of meat). Place 3 noodles on the bottom of the dish. Drop 3 tablespoons of the ricotta mixture in one tablespoon dollops along each noodle. Roughly spread the cheese mixture out on each noodle with the back of the spoon. Evenly sprinkle 1 cup of the grated mozzerella and parmesan mixture on top of the ricotta mixture. Then cover each noodle with 1/2 cup of meat sauce. Apply another layer of noodle and repeat the ricotta, mozzerella, meat sauce, and finally noodle again twice more. In the last ricotta layer, use up the remaining ricotta mixture.

Place the final layer of lasagna noodles on and cover with the remaining meat sauce. Then spread the remaining mozzerella mixture evenly over the top.

A cross-section of the lasagna will look like this:

Remaining mozz/parm
Remaining meat sauce
Noodle layer 3
Meat Sauce
Noodle layer 2
Meat Sauce
Noodle layer 1
1/4 cup sauce without meat

However, for a more photogenic lasagna with separate cheese and meat sauce layers, you can do something like this. Up to you, fresh lasagna never slices neatly anyway.

Remaining mozz/parm
Remaining meat sauce
Noodle layer 3
2x Meat Sauce
Noodle layer 2
2x Mozz/Parm
2x Ricotta
Noodle layer 1
1/4 cup sauce without meat

Bake uncovered at 400 degrees on the middle rack for 30 minutes. Depending on the oven, the top may brown faster than anticipated, if this happens, loosely cover the lasagna with a piece of foil and continue baking. Let it sit for 10 minutes at room temperature prior to slicing and serving.

If planning ahead, the lasagna can be kept in the fridge for 2 days. If freezing, wrap the dish tightly with plastic wrap, then wrap tightly with foil, and finally wrap tightly once more with plastic wrap. Thaw in the fridge for 24 - 48 hours. Make sure the center of the lasagna is not frozen prior to baking. After defrosting, let the lasagna sit at room temperature for an hour prior to baking.

Gently remove the foil when unwrapping because it can be used during baking. Gently drape the foil over the lasagna and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then uncover and continue baking until the sauce is bubbly and cheese is spotty brown, approximately 25 - 35 more minutes.



Anonymous said...

I thought Lasagna is Garfield's comfy food ;p

Maybe I can try this and add beer to the meaty sauce instead of red wine.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

I add sauted spinach into the sauce and sub cottage cheese for the ricotta. :)

Have you tried Francesco Rinaldi? That's my favorite cheap sauce. I get it when Albertson's has their $1 sales. It tastes much fresher than Hunt's.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Your lasagna is perfect, Amy!!
I bet Joey Tribbiani would eat the whole thing in a matter of seconds. :)

Cate said...

I haven't had lasagna in ages ... might be time!

Anh said...

My fiancee loves lasagna. I'm a big fan, too, but can never eat too much... Yours look wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Lasagna is one of my favorite comfort foods too... gosh, it's been ages since I had my Mom's lasagna, now I think I've been hit by a craving (and not a little bit of homesickness.) Beautiful lasagna and you know, I once read a book on food photography and they get those perfect photos by adding things like glue to the dish. Blech! But I've found that simply slicing the dish while cold produces a pretty good looking, clean slice too.... assuming you don't want all that delicious gooey cheese oozing out. Yum!

Ari (Baking and Books)

Amy said...

Hehe that's true, he does love lasagna. Beer would probably work too, like your B-B-B. :D

Yeah lots of people add spinach to the ricotta, I'll have to try that next time. And thanks so much for the pasta sauce suggestion. Hunt's is pretty crummy. I don't think I'll be able to get it for $1 though since the more expensive grocery stores sell that brand here. :(

You're so sweet. :) And lol Joey would eat anything. *remembers the cheesecake episode*

It's been a while since my last lasagna too. :D

Aw thank you. I can only eat a piece but Steven can eat twice as much as me. :P lol

Yeah I heard about that, some of the tips are fascinating if not gross and weird. :P I still want to be able to eat my food after I take a picture of it. :P I'll try to cut it cold next time, that sounds like it will help.

Ruth Daniels said...

Your lasagna is picture perfect. Thanks so much for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights. One can never have too many versions of it.

Amy said...

Aw thanks so much for the kind words.

Fung said...

nice blog, i have bookmark it at :


Passionate Eater said...

Eek, Amy, I am so sorry that I missed your comment! I will send you an email right now! I love that you are revisiting your old posts. Keep on blogging to the extent you can. It is easy to let a blog die and lose steam (as I did), but it is great to keep it up a creative outlet if you can! You still have many fans Amy (me included)!

Anonymous said...

I was wandering whether you could try out my recipe and see if you liked it

Devi McDonald @ Diddles and Dumplings said...

Yum! I love lasagna!!


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