Friday, June 27, 2008


I have rediscovered lasagna. The last time I made it, I lived in Cleveland and made my own pasta for it. I vowed never to do that much work again. I'm so kidding. I loved it, but I hadn't made it since.

One of my coworkers is out on maternity leave. Another coworker wanted to do something nice for her and asked if I would make a dinner to take over. The new mommy requested lasagna and key lime pie. I was up for the task! I also made Tyler Florence's roasted broccoli.

Now, there was no way I was making my own pasta this time, although we know it can be done. However, I still wanted kick-butt taste. Enter The Best Make Ahead Recipe or you can use Cover & Bake. Both are by Cook's Illustrated. I didn't follow the recipe exactly, but close enough to count. Let's do it.

Sauce first. Here's the first departure: start with the trinity. CI just has onion. Since there is a heavy Italian influence in New Orleans, I felt I had the blessing to use celery, bell pepper and onion in my sauce. Sweat these in a little olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Once the trinity gets a head start, add the garlic and lots of it. I made two batches of lasagna. In the one for me, I also added cremini mushrooms sliced thin.

After the veggies soften, add your meat. Y'all know I don't do read meat or pork, so it's all about the turkey. I used Jennie-O sweet and hot sausage for this. Just take it out of the casing and add it to the pot. As it browns, break up large clumps. This is where my Oxo wooden turner rocks.

Don't allow the meat to caramelize, just get the pink off of it.

Here's the secret ingredient - heavy cream. Let it work out in the pot for a few minutes.

A tomato sauce has to have tomato right? Never fear. I won't break the tradition.

Allow this to simmer so the flavors can meld. Let's move on to the cheese filling. I just get really excited about fresh herbage. I guess I should tell you what's in it: ricotta, Parm, egg, salt and pepper. I guess I should stir it.

Is that better?

Let's assemble, shall we? Throw down a layer of sauce. If you skip this step, you will have cemented noodles. This is not a good thing.

Next, place three noodles on top of the sauce. A word about the noodles -- Barilla No-Boil Lasagna Noodles, please. No substitutions. You'll need 12 of them. I hate that this foil pan is wider than a traditional 9x13, but what can you do?

Reach for your cheese mixture. Spread it nice in thick. Please don't skimp like I did on this layer.

Top with shredded mozzarella.

Next? Start all over with the sauce. You should have three layers. After you've built your third layer, place the last three noodles on top of the sauce. Top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the last of your mozzarella and hit it with Parmesan cheese.

Cut a piece of foil to fit the pan. Spray it with non-stick cooking spray. Cover the pan (oiled side down) and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 25 minutes. The sauce should be bubbly and the cheese nice and browned. Here's the bait and switch. I took the lasagna in the previous pics over my coworker's house unbaked. Here's the one I baked for me.

It's so unfair that you can't taste this. You just have to believe me when I say it was awesome.

Tools of the trade:


Anonymous said...

I'm confused about this blog - no recipes??

NuJoi said...

For publicly available recipes, I provide the link to the recipe or cite its source. (In my real life, I deal with copyright issues daily.) No such luck on family recipes; Daddy's dream is to open a restaurant. (I can't give away the secrets before it opens.)