02 May 2013
Comfort food, Italian style. Everyone I know loves lasagne, and I used to make it quite often. So when I perused my Recipes index page to decide what to post next, I was shocked to discover that lasagne wasn't on the list. Then I learned I'd not even put my recipe where I've been putting them for the last five years, so that means I haven't made lasagne in at least five years. That's just crazy!
So why now? Well, I had this lovely bottle of sangiovese that was just crying out for lasagne! Not that it's a wine only for red sauce. It also pairs well with fish in a rich sauce, grilled meats and vegetables, all sorts of things. But I was craving lasagne, so nothing else would do. Know what I mean? Anyway ...
Castello di Amorosa Sangiovese 2009 Napa Valley* is a medium-bodied red wine with a nice balance of fruit and oak. Its dryness and excellent acidity make it very food-friendly and a perfect match for the tomatoey meat sauce. Poured a glass, swirled, smelled, tasted, liked it. Reminded me of tart cherries. Waited 10 or 15 minutes to let it "breathe" a bit, tasted again, liked it even more. Juicy. Then I tried it with the lasagne. Too often with such dishes, I've just gone with a lighter-bodied red I happened to have on hand. Never again!
But back to the lasagne. I think it's always better when assembled the day before it's baked and served. Since it's not going into the oven right away, I like to completely cool the meat sauce before assembling the dish. If you want to really make it ahead, cover the unbaked lasagne with plastic wrap and then with aluminum foil to freeze for up to a month. Then thaw it completely before baking uncovered.
Lasagne with Meat Sauce
The Meat Sauce
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound extra lean ground beef
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup drinkable dry red wine or water
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
The Cheese Filling
1 15-ounce container ricotta
3 ounces shredded Parmesan
1 large egg
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup milk
Enough lasagne for 4 layers, cooked according to package directions
12 ounces mozzarella, shredded
1 In large skillet, heat oil and cook chopped onion for about 5 minutes, or until very soft. Stir in minced garlic and cook for about half a minute. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat, until it is well browned. With extra lean ground beef, there will be no excess fat to drain off. Stir in the tomato paste, cooking for a few minutes to "toast" it. Stir in remaining sauce ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Simmer, loosely covered, for about 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Taste and adjust seasoning. Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then cover and refrigerate for at least one, or up to several, hours.
2 In large pot, bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water. I leave the noodles in a bowl of cold water as I'm assembling the dish.
3 In 1-quart bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, egg, parsley, nutmeg and milk. The milk is just to give the filling a spreadable consistency so you have even layers of filling instead of big blobs.
4 Lightly oil a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish. Spread 1/4 cup or so of sauce over the bottom of the dish. Lay on a layer of lasagne, the number of noodles will vary with different brands. With my favorite brand, Bionaturae organic whole wheat lasagne, 4 noodles laid widthwise cover the pan. Spread with 1/3 of the cheese filling, 1/4 of the shredded mozzarella, then with 1/4 of the sauce. Repeat twice for three layers. Add a fourth layer of lasagne. Cover the top layer with the remaining 1/4 of sauce and mozzarella. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until an hour before serving time.
(It goes: just a little sauce, lasagne, filling, mozzarella, sauce, lasagne, filling, mozzarella, sauce, lasagne, filling, mozzarella, sauce, lasagne, sauce, mozzarella.)
5 Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until crusty and bubbly. Let stand for 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
* Disclaimer: The wine was sent to me free of charge for sample purposes. All opinions are my own.
Note: You'll want a nice crusty, chewy artisan bread to with the lasagna!