Meaty Lasagne


This Italian-American version is always a hit at potlucks and parties.
TIME About 45 minutes with prepared sauce
MAKES 6 to 8 servings
Salt
1 pound dried lasagne noodles
4 cups Meaty Tomato Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated (about 4 cups)
1½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper


Method
1 Put at least 5 quarts of water in a stockpot, bring it to a boil, and salt it. (If your pot isn’t that big, cook the noodles in 2 batches.) When the water comes to a boil, add the noodles one at a time and cook, stirring frequently and gently, to the point where they just become pliable but are still quite underdone, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the noodles carefully in a colander, then lay them flat on paper towels or clean dish towels. (Repeat with the second batch of noodles if necessary.) Heat the oven to 400°F.

2 Taste the sauce and make sure it has enough salt and pepper. Smear the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with the oil and one quarter of the meat sauce, then put in a layer of noodles, touching but not overlapping, trimming them as necessary. Dot about half of the ricotta over the noodles, then smear with another quarter of the meat sauce. Top with one-third of the mozzarella, one-third of the Parmesan, and a grinding of black pepper.

3 Repeat for one more layer; for the third layer, smear meat sauce directly on the noodles and end with the Parmesan. (At this point, you may refrigerate the dish for a day, well wrapped in aluminum foil or plastic wrap or freeze it for a month; defrost in the refrigerator for a day before cooking.)

4 Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the lasagne is bubbly and hot in the center. Remove the dish from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving. (Or let cool completely, cover well, and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to a month.)

Variations
  • Vegetarian Lasagne Use the basic Tomato Sauce or any of the meatless variations in Tomato Sauce Variations.

Tips
  • Be careful when you drain the lasagne noodles: Because they’re big and unwieldy, they have a tendency to trap water, which can splash and burn you.
  • You can make the meat sauce up to a couple days ahead and keep it in the refrigerator before you make the lasagne. But you can also make it right before you start layering, in which case give yourself about an extra half hour and set the pot of water for the noodles to boil when the sauce is half done.
  • Good ricotta is rich and creamy, not watery. Look for ricotta without food starch, xanthan gum, or guar gum. It’s also soft and almost spreadable, but if you have trouble spreading it on the noodles, put it in a bowl and stir in ½ cup or so of the sauce to thin it out.

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