Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Is Lasagna the Food of the Gods?

a favorite comfort food and company dish

I ate a lot of Italian food as a kid, but I did not even know about lasagna until I hit college. At that point, a man I was dating took me to his favorite pizza joint and whispered, "Try their lasagna!" I loved it, and I've been a fan ever since. However, I'm a bit fussy. I like only good lasagna, one that has the proper proportions of meat, sauce, cheese, and pasta. I don't like any single ingredient to dominate, although I do think that having a good red sauce may be the most important single item.

I make lasagna only in the winter, and since it trashes the kitchen (a large pot for the noodles, a large pot for the red sauce, a pan to brown the meat, and several other bowls and utensils), I don't make it often. But I make a LOT of it, because it's as simple to make a lot as it is a little. You need many different ingredients, so just get large sizes and make several pans of it; lasagna freezes beautifully.

I think I make really good lasagna, so I'm sharing my tips:

  • Use the noodles that you boil before baking. I know, it takes longer and is messier than using the no-boil noodles, but I think the results are far better. 
  • Make a red sauce that very juicy.I start with a standard tomato sauce of some sort and then throw in a large can of stewed tomatoes that I chop up, This adds little pieces of tomato, which taste good, and keeps the sauce liquid enough so that it soaks into the pasta during baking. 
  • Add a bit of meat to the red sauce. I usually add some ground turkey and a bit of Italian sausage, either pork-based or chicken-based.
  • Add a package of frozen chopped spinach to the ricotta-egg-cheese mixture. It adds color, interest, and taste. 
  • Use genuine ricotta and mozzarella cheese. Although I use part skim mozzarella, I use full-fat ricotta. 
  • Don't over-bake. You want the top brown and the cheese melted, but you don't want the noodles dried out. If you freeze some, leave ample time for reheating from a frozen state; this food is dense. 

Although lasagna is a complete and balanced meal in itself, it is truly wonderful when served with a fresh green salad and fragrant garlic bread.

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