Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Classic Italian Lasagna

I've never realized that what we assume to be "real" lasagna in our little corner of the world is NOT "Italian".  In case you don't know what I'm referring to as Utah Lasagna - it's typically long, curly-edged noodles layered with ricotta cheese/egg mixture and red meat sauce smothered in cheese.  

Apparently, that is not real Italian lasagna.  A few friends have enlightened me that the real deal does NOT have ricotta cheese and/or eggs (or if you are in Utah, cottage cheese - because most of us try to watch our pennies).  What it does have is a homemade white sauce layered with a rich red sauce with browned veggies blended into it.

The flavors are wonderful together.  My favorite part though, is the absence of a watery lasagna that flows all over your plate.  Of course, you do need to let any cooked lasagna rest at least 15 minutes before you cut and plate, which helps it hold it's shape.

If you've never used a lasagna pan, it makes for easy layering and serving.

This recipe has ground turkey instead of ground beef.  I like to mix the two, so the beef flavor is still there.  You may also use either no-boil pasta or regular.  If you use regular, only boil it for half the recommended time.  

I LOVED this lasagna - I much prefer it over the ricotta/cottage cheese Americanized version.  

Classic Italian Lasagna


Red Sauce:
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs butter
4 cloves minced garlic (or 1 tsp minced dried)
1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
8 oz mushrooms, washed and chopped
1 15-oz can tomato sauce
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tsp Italian Seasoning (or mix of dried oregano & basil)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

White Sauce:
3 cups milk (not skim)
4 Tbs butter
5 Tbs flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

9 lasagna noodles (boiled for half the recommended time) - OR - 12 non-boil noodles (Barilla brand works well)
1 lb (+ or -) mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz parmesan cheese, shredded (or use 1-1/2 lbs 3 cheese blend in place of all the cheese)


Cook and drain meat, set aside to add to red sauce later.

Add olive oil and butter to a large, deep skillet.  Heat, then add chopped onion and mushrooms.  Cook until limp and translucent.  Add garlic last.  Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes.  Heat together at a low simmer for about 30 minutes to develop flavor.

Use an immersion blender (or remove to a standing blender) to puree as desired (you may also reserve part of the diced tomatoes to add later for a little more texture).  At this point, add Italian Seasoning and salt & pepper.  Stir in reserved ground beef/turkey.  Set red sauce aside.

Prepare white sauce by melting the butter, adding flour and seasonings, then whisking in the milk.  Stir constantly as you cook until thickened - being careful not to scorch.  Set aside.

Boil noodles as directed for half the cooking time recommended.  Remove most of the cooking water, leaving just enough to keep them from sticking to one another.  

Now, to layer:  Grease a large, oblong pan (or use a Lasagna pan, as shown - a great tool for more than Lasagna)  If using no-boil noodles, layer four per layer (overlapping slightly as shown).  If using boiled, use three noodles per layer.  

Layer the red sauce, then drizzle the white sauce over, then a generous layer of cheese.  Repeat layers two more times.  I like to reserve enough red sauce that it is the final topping.

Cover lasagna with foil, and bake @ 350° for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and let lasagna sit for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.  

To prepare ahead, bake as directed for at least 15 more minutes.  You can freeze unbaked lasagna for up to 3 months.  If you freeze before baking, bake from frozen for 1-1/2 hours, covered.  Then remove cover and bake for another 45 minutes to one hour until hot and bubbly.  

Recipe source:  adapted from melskitchencafe.com

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