Saturday, October 11, 2008

Barefoot in the kitchen, part III: Lovely lasagna

So, once you have a bunch of spaghetti sauce, what do you do with it? In my world, you make lasagna. Perhaps one of the most perfect foods as it includes my favorite ingredient: cheese. And then there's the fact that you can make it in advance, freeze or refrigerate it, and it only tastes yummier when you finally take it out and cook it. And it can easily be vegetarian or meatatarian. I'm a big fan of preparing food beforehand and then getting to relax and socialize while an amazing meal bakes to perfection in the oven.

And then there's the sappy quotient: It's a food my now-hubby taught me how to make once upon a time, a long time ago. Fourteen years ago, he was a much more adventurous chef than I. I could rule the kitchen when it came to making, and had a few "other" dishes, but lasagna was one of those things I considered "too complicated." No longer.

Today's inspiration for lasagna? Perhaps it's an unconscious nod to hubby's and my first date 14 years ago, to the Pacific Lutheran University Homecoming. Today? We're playing hooky from our 10-year homecoming festivities (there isn't much actually going on for the reunion specifically, so I don't feel bad) and going up to Seattle to see Weezer perform live. The kids are jealous. They sing Weezer songs day and night, and so I made them pork and beans for breakfast. Only Baby Girl was excited, but by lunch they'd woken up enough to appreciate the humor.

Back to the food ... so, really, there was beef that needed to be cooked in the refrigerator, and I finally harvested my six tomato plants the other day and had sauce coming out of my ears. This version was a little different than the last couple batches ... no bacon in this round, and no added nutrition in the form of blended up chard and carrots.

This week's base sauce ... consists of about nine different kinds of tomatoes (from my six plants, plus the tomatoes that came in my weekly Terra Organics produce order), a green peppers, onions, a jalepeno, some red wine and olive oil, a bit of salt, a ton of garlic, all cooked for about two hours until it got a more sauce-like consistency. It was fun watching my rainbow of yellow, green, orange and many different reds tomatoes cook down into a deep red sauce. I didn't use fresh herbs this time around because it was dark out, and I just wanted to cook the darn tomatoes.

Plus I figured making some food in advance for this week might be a good idea. Especially food that has my Basement Brother and Hubby drooling for more. The kids still look at it suspiciously (they don't like their food touching food -- so lasagna still elicits skepticism), but we'll try again ...

Anyhow, enough chit-chat, here's my recipe for this week's lasagna ...

TC's Easy Lasagna (2 batches)
based off of Ronzoni's Healthy Harvest Easy Lasagna recipe

2 lb. ground beef
2 tbsp. Yaya (or Johnny's) seasoning
1 tsp. oregano
3-4 cups of homemade tomato sauce (or 1 26 oz. jar of spaghetti sauce)
1 (28 oz.) can of stewed, peeled whole tomatoes
2 (15 oz.) cans of tomato sauce
1 large container (32 oz.) of ricotta cheese (or small curd cottage cheese)
4 cups (16 oz.) o shredded mozzarella (or other favorite cheese)
4 eggs
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
18 pieces (generally one package) of lasagna noodles, uncooked

In a large cast-iron pot, brown the meat. Sprinkle seasoning on it while it cooks. Drain the grease. Add spaghetti sauce, whole tomatoes, tomato sauce and oregano (or any spices you like), simmer for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, one-half of the mozzarella cheese, eggs, salt and pepper. Pour about 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of each of two 13x9-inch baking dishes. Arrange 3 UNCOOKED pasta pieces lengthwise over the sauce in each dish; cover with 1 cup of sauce. Spread one-fourth of the cheese filling over the sauce in the first dish, then spread one-fourt of the cheese filling over the sauce in the second dish. Repeat layers of lasagna, sauce and cheese filling. Then top with a layer of lasagna and remaining sauce; sprinking remaining mozzarella cheese over the top of the pans of lasagna. Cover with foil.

Now's your choice ... you can refrigerate, freeze, or stick one or both in the oven for 45 minutes (with foil on) in a preheated 350 degree oven, then remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Let satnd 10 minutes before cutting. Each pan makes about 12 servings.

NOTE: If you freeze it, remember to give it time to thaw, and you might need to cook it a little extra. Luckily with lasanga, you can generally over cook and it should be fine.


1 comment:

noreen said...

I love the story. Congrats on the 14 years together! And, that lasagna sounds delicious. Granted I could just be craving something that's genuinely good. I just ate a doughnut. Oh, no!
I hope you enjoyed the concert and the good, good food!