My family loves lasagna. It has pet names- La Sanzh, Lazagnee, La Sagna. My mother couldn't make it, we always bought it from the local pizza place. Those yummy squares in a red hot round tin with a white paper top were as welcome as Christmas. It was one of the first dishes I learned to make from my Stepfather, who was half Italian. When we had our own lasagna system down it became all about perfecting it- which for me was Mrs. Vesuvio's meaty cheesy style. Perfect lasagna is an elusive thing, because a small change makes a big difference. I think I've hit perfection twice. Once with a vegetarian version I made for my cousin and his SO (and boy was I happy) and once with a super-stuffed one that I didn't pay particular attention to making. There really isn't such a thing as a bad lasagna. It feeds a crowd, it ages well in the fridge if there's only a couple people to feed, and leftovers just keep getting better.
Like most Italian food, it starts with the sauce. I make a hearty tomato sauce for lasagna but if you have a favorite jarred sauce, go for it. Just make sure you have enough. The two things you don't want to skimp on are the sauce and the cheeses, so make sure you have plenty. About 10 years ago I stopped parboiling the lasagna noodles (I always hated that part). To make the magic happen I dilute the sauce a bit just before assembly and refrigerate the whole dish overnight. Keep in mind how things work- water soaks in, and when hot evaporates upwards. Put a good layer of sauce in the bottom of the dish and set your first layer of noodles in. This is where I put the wettest layer, too, on those bottom noodles. So whether that's meats in sauce or a couple of packages of defrosted frozen chopped spinach and shredded carrots on top, it goes here, with sauce over the veggies if that's what you're using. Then another noodle layer, and the ricotta-egg-parsley-garlic layer on them with a slight sprinkling of mozzarella. Some people top their cheese layer with sauce, but I like it sandwiched between noodles. And on that layer of noodles goes the topping off, the grand saucing where you fill the pan and check that the sides are sauced. Then the crowning layer of mozzarella. Cover with foil, and refrigerate overnight. The next day all you have to do is pop it into a cold oven set to 350', bake for a half-hour, take the foil off and bake another half-hour to 40 minutes, When everything's bubbly it's done. And it's heaven.
Last week I hit a special at Price Chopper- 2# of whole milk ricotta with 1# of whole milk mozzarella for 6 bucks. With the 28 oz. tins of crushed tomatoes I got on sale for 88 cents each, leftover lasagna noodles that need using (they do go stale once opened) and the chopped spinach that were 2 for a dollar, it's a whole lasagna for under ten dollars. I'll have company over the weekend so I'll make it today and bake it tomorrow, and send some home with my guest on Sunday (probably most of it, he's a big guy). And if I'm sick of it by Tuesday, it freezes perfectly. Defrost it like meat, overnight in the fridge, and pop it back in the oven.
It's afternoon already! I've gotta go start the sauce, which will be nice to have cooking while the cold rain helps prime the trees for Peeper Season. The crabapple across the way is already yellow and gold but there's little else turning colors yet. Another couple of weeks and a little luck and the trees will be breath-taking.
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