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Lasagna

Anybody have a kick-ass recipe for meat and cheese lasagna?
I've already got the ricotta, mozz and some ground beef. Now I need some suggestions on how to put it all together in the most yummy of ways.

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  1. Just out of curiosity, where do you live? My thermometer is hovering around 70 degrees F, and the humidity is up there, as well. Lasagne sounds unthinkable just now. In cooler months, I like to make lasagne with homemade, very thingly-rolled pasta. I make a tomato/beef mixture with lots of herbs. I skip the mozzarella and make a bechamel with lots of good Parm in it. I also let it cool for an hour before attempting to cut.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pikawicca

      I prefer the bechamel, too, and love thin home made noodles. Thanks for the great hint on letting it sit for an hour--I've found it runny when it comes out of the oven.

      1. re: pikawicca

        I'm with you on the bechamel. After making Hazan's green lasagne with homemade spinach noodles, bolognese sauce, bechamel and Parm, I'll never go back to the cheese-laden one.

      2. Ditto on besciamela. Depends where you're from in Italy. It is really hot here too, but lasagna goes down well everywhere.

        Alternative: Roasted veg lasagna topped with a very little and lighter besciamela.

        1 Reply
        1. re: itryalot

          there is an awesome lasagna recipe from tyler florence can't find it on the foodnetwork.com my husband loves it and thought it was the best!

        2. My husband made lasagna with shaved meatballs instead of ground beef. It was AMAZING!

          http://devouringdc.blogspot.com/2010/...

          2 Replies
            1. re: devouringdc

              We used to use slices sweet Italian sauce (the links were the base for our red sauce) and sliced meatballs (homemade). But now we crumble them instead. I would never use just straight ground beef, not enough flavor. I happen to have the meatball recipe here:

              http://melbostoast.blogspot.com/2009/...

              The sauce I'll have to look up at home though.

            2. This is the midwestern American lasagna I grew up with. Not authentic but comfort food.

              Meat sauce:
              I lb ground beef browned and drained.
              I onion diced add to beef and saute till soft.
              3 cloves of minced garlic in the pot.
              A good tsp of dried oregano and basil, I bay leaf.
              1 can tomato paste.
              I large can of whole or crushed tomatoes plus the water used to rinse can.
              Simmer this while the rest is getting prepped.

              I always have used the boil type noodle so boil them, but leave a little al dente.
              This is the only time other than pasta salad I rinse pasta... with cold water to stop the cooking.

              Ricotta mixture:
              1 carton ricotta, 1 egg, 1/4 tsp nutmeg, parsley if you have it - or spinach, 1/2 cup grated parmesan. Mix well.

              Sauce on bottom, then noodle, then sauce, next mozz, noodle, ricotta, noodle sauce mozz etc. I usually have 2 or three layers of ricotta. Top is a noodle a little sauce and a lot of mozz. Bake 350 for 30 min covered uncover and bake till cheese starts to brown.

              More to type than I thought. I know this isn't Italian, but it is good esp when made by Mom!

              1. My one tip--and I know it sounds crazy--is to substitute cottage cheese for the ricotta. I've always thought ricotta was overrated, and cottage cheese provides a nice texture to go along with a certain visual appeal.

                9 Replies
                1. re: Perilagu Khan

                  Leave out that NASTY Ricotta Cheese. And the Cottage Cheese. It going to make your Lasagna Look Like a Yeast Infection gone very very wrong. Just use fresh Mozzarella, Whole Milk Mozzarella and good Parm Reggi. And 100% Meat Sauce. Layers Noodles then Meat and Cheese in 9x13 Pan and go to the top. Boil Noodles first and chuck in oven to warm/heat. Get some brown on it! Delicious.

                  Oh yea, Grease your pan first too!

                  1. re: HungryinBmore

                    Gotta respond to that one! Ricotta is not nasty -- it's delicious, IMO. But here's a little trick I use for the ricotta -- I mix it with grated pecorino, finely chopped parsley and eggs. Essentially what you are creating here is gnudi -- ravioli filling without the pasta covering it. And as far as the meat part goes, I make meatballs and simmer them in the tomato sauce. When it's time to assemble, I slice or crush them along with the sweet sausage that has been similarly cooked in the sauce. Usually, I will alternate layers --- one meat, one cheese. I make homemade pasta when I have time, and when I don't I either buy fresh sheets on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx or I use the regular old boxed kind. I never "grease" the pan, but rather ladle some sauce on the bottom of the pan before I start my first layer. It never sticks.

                    1. re: roxlet

                      I agree--good fresh ricotta is excellent. I had only been using bechamel for a while but then went back to the ricotta. Both are good and I go back and forth now. I love the idea of using meatballs instead of ground meat. I'll have to try that one. I'm thinking I can just put raw meatballs into the sauce, simmer until cooked and then let them fall apart naturally (is that what you were talking about?). I make home made noodles but also will use Barilla no boil when I'm in a hurry. Sometimes you just don't have all day to get dinner on the table.

                      1. re: chowser

                        +2 for good fresh ricotta! Way better than overprocessed cottage cheese that is too watery for my lasagne.

                        1. re: chowser

                          No, I do not put raw meatballs in the sauce, I always saute them first. I make my meatballs with ground beef, eggs, Romano, parsley, garlic and bread crumbs. I don't care for overly "seasoned" meat in lasagna with lots of herbs like oregano, etc. If you don't want to be bothered with that, you could always bake them on a rack. Barilla no boil is fine too when you are in a rush. The only problem I have with that is that it is impossible to cut them to size.

                          1. re: roxlet

                            A few years ago, someone here on CH suggested just putting the raw meatballs in the sauce as it simmered so I gave it a try. It was good but the meatballs fell apart. I think it might be perfect for this, though. I break the Barilla noodles to fit and overlap if necessary. You can't tell once it's been baked.

                        2. re: roxlet

                          add jfood to the ricotta bandwagon. it is a must have in his lasagnes

                          1. re: roxlet

                            I agree. I have been told that my ricotta is what "makes" the Lasagna. I add 2 eggs, S & P, Parsley, a little Parm... and a few grates of nutmeg. It really holds together during baking, creating a nice soft, cheesy layer of goodness. Looks beautiful when sliced, not "gloppy".

                            1. re: sedimental

                              I think ricotta or béchamel are the only choices. Cottage cheese and the other imposters are pure blasphemy

                      2. It's an old thread that got bumped, but here is the recipe jfood uses even though the calendar says April.

                        Jfood Lasagne - Makes One 9*13 and One 8*8 with four layers of pasta per dish

                        1 pound mozzarella shredded
                        3 pounds whole milk ricotta
                        3 large eggs
                        One Recipe Jfood Meat Filling
                        One Recipe Jfood Pasta
                        One recipe Jfood Marinara Sauce
                        Grated Parmesan Cheese
                        Salt and freshly ground pepper

                        Pasta Sheets –
                        1. Allow the dough to rest outside the refrigerator of 15 minutes
                        2. Divide the dough into eight wedges like a pie
                        3. Keep the unprocessed dough covered with a towel while rolling
                        4. Roll each piece of dough paying attention not to have them too long. If required because the dough does not stay together after the initial roll fold and keep going.
                        5. Reduce thickness until the next to last setting.
                        a. Jfood likes to keep the width around 4” and the length 10”
                        6. Place rolled dough on waxed paper until all are processed.
                        7. Once processed place 4 pieces of dough in salted water and cook for about 1 minute, remove and place back onto the waxed paper.

                        Ricotta

                        1. Place the eggs in a large bowl and whisk until fluffy
                        2. Add the Ricotta and incorporate fully

                        Assembly

                        1. Place some Marinara Sauce in the bottom of each Pyrex dish
                        2. Cover Marinara Sauce with Pasta sheets. Do not worry if they overlap a little. Just cut sheet to shape
                        3. Place dollops of Ricotta on top of pasta sheet
                        4. Place some Marinara sauce on each of the Ricotta dollops and the spread to cover about1/4”.
                        5. Spread a little of the Meat Filling over the Ricotta
                        6. Sprinkle shredded Mozzarella over Meat Filling
                        7. Sprinkle Parmesan over Mozzarella
                        8. Continue for four layers of pasta
                        9. Finish with Marinara, some Parmesan, salt and fresh ground pepper
                        10. Bake at 350 for 1 – 1.5 hours
                        11. Allow to rest before slicing.

                        Jfood Marinara Sauce

                        1/4 cup fine-quality olive oil
                        2 ounces fatback diced
                        2 (28 ounce) cans imported San Marzano Italian plum tomatoes
                        3 tablespoons minced onion
                        2 minced garlic cloves
                        1 Tablespoon dried oregano
                        1 teaspoon dried thyme
                        Salt and pepper (to taste)

                        1. Place tomatoes in a large bowl and using a small paring knife remove the hard core from the stem end, and return to the juice. Using your hands, carefully crush the tomatoes. Set aside.
                        2. Put oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
                        3. Add fatback to the pan. Sauté for about 5 minutes or until all fat has been rendered. Remove and discard fatback.
                        4. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes or until translucent and just beginning to brown.
                        5. Stir in garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or until just softened.
                        6. Add the tomatoes and the juice.
                        7. Add the oregano, thyme salt and pepper
                        8. Raise heat, and bring to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook for about 1.5 hours

                        Jfood Pasta

                        2.5 cups flour
                        1 cup semolina flour
                        6 Large eggs
                        A few drops of water

                        o Place the first three ingredients into food processor and process until almost combined
                        o Dump onto your board and knead until thoroughly blended
                        o Shape the dough into a box shape and place in a bowl with a little flour on the bottom and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes
                        o Remove from fridge and cut into 8 sections as needed
                        o Allow the dough to come to room temperature for 30 minutes
                        o Process through the largest slot of the pasta machine. If it separates, fold in half and continue to process. Continue until the pasta is processed through the next to thinnest thickness.

                        Jfood Meat Filling

                        1 pound beef
                        ½ pound pork
                        ½ pound veal
                        1 medium onion finely diced
                        2 cloves garlic finely minced or pressed through garlic press
                        1 Tablespoon oregano
                        1 teaspoon thyme
                        1 Tablespoon dried basil
                        ½ cup red sauce

                        1. Heat sauté pan and add extra virgin olive oil
                        2. When heated add onions and sauté until translucent and begins to brown around the edges
                        3. Add the meat mixture break apart
                        4. Season with salt and pepper
                        5. When cooked though and has just lost its pink color add garlic and the dried seasoning. Stir for 3 minutes
                        6. Add red sauce and cook over med-high heat until red sauce is absorbed by meat.
                        7. Remove from heat
                        8. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: jfood

                          jfood has a lot of time on his hands! ;)

                          1. re: dcdavis

                            Yes, I got worn out just reading through that, realizing how many hours it would take. I spent one day last week making Marcella's Bolognese and the next day making homemade pasta and serving guests. Made me realize I could either cook delicious food OR go on hikes, not both.

                            I do wish jfood would invite me to dinner -- too bad I don't have any friends who put this kind of effort in to making a meal.

                            1. re: walker

                              Ah but, walker, jfood (and I) make triple plus batches of Bolognese so it just takes thawing.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I actually made 2 pots of the triple recipe and later on had to make the quick sauce w/out meat for a veg. guest. Between guests and giving some away, I only had one pint to freeze. Don't know if I'll like it as well from frozen state.

                                It's all that other work, making the fresh pasta (esp. when you incorporate spinach, too) and the bechamel (jfood does a ricotta mixture).

                                I adore this fresh pasta lasagna but it certainly takes a lot of hours to make it.

                                1. re: walker

                                  It definitely does but the good sounds it elicts make it worth it - occasionally:)

                                  1. re: walker

                                    as c oliver mentioned jfood makes huge vats of the sauces. The marinara he makes enough for 6 qt sized jars, the bolognese is a triple batch. The result of this one recipe is 12 servings, so if you freeze 8 you have a family meal and 8 follow on late night dinners so 9 dinners for a few hours of work. Well worth the effort.

                                    Jfood is going to make the Hazan lasagne next chance he gets. right now he is working on his organic veggie garden. Fence posts went in today for 10 4*8' raised gardens. Can't wait. A local chef wants to come over on a sunday to play in the kitchen. So time spent is time earned.

                            2. re: jfood

                              Have you ever tried NOT pre-cooking the pasta, j? Works just fine if you layer the lasagna as you go; the dough doesn't get a chance to dry out.

                              1. re: pikawicca

                                last time jfood made it he did not pre-cook the pasta and he did not like the extra floury flavor it gave off. Jfood was also able to move quick enough that drying out was not a factor, but he will keep in mind as he does next batch (he lost 15 portions in the last 5-day black out in his freezer). Thanks P

                                www.ctbites.com

                                1. re: jfood

                                  The only time (so far) that I've made my own lasagne noodles was Hazan's spinach lasagne. I didn't fine it difficult to deal with the cooked pasta. Maybe just beginner's luck.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    Not for home made but if I'm using Barilla no-boil pasta noodles, I find it helps to soak them in hot water while I assemble the rest of the ingredients. I run the noodles between my fingers to pull out extra water. It's no where near as good as home made but makes for a good quick dinner.

                                  2. re: pikawicca

                                    I never boil lasagne noodles anymore. If you use enough sauce, you don't need to. And make it a day ahead, it does nothing but get better.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        Both. Usually use fresh, but will use no boil in a pinch.

                                        1. re: Phurstluv

                                          when you say make a day ahead, do you bake or just assemble the day before? looking for lasagna tips!

                                2. this is my go-to Lasagna recipe. It is SO good. Just double the sauce and I skip the carrots and I sub parsley for spinach in the filling. It has sausage, ground beef, ricotta, and tomato sauce:

                                  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Snorkelvik

                                    S

                                    Although the recipe looks great jfood would ask:

                                    1 - how much of a kick does the red pepper give it?
                                    2 - have you ever frozen or is this an eat when made variety. jfood has found that the part skim ricotta does not freeze-reheat well.

                                    Thoughts?

                                    www.ctbites.com

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      Great questions! I generally wake up early & make this the same day I serve it, so I've never frozen it. Leftovers reheat just fine - partially covered in a 350 oven for 15 minutes or so.

                                      My in-laws dislike spicy, so I skip the red pepper, and usually use sweet sausage.

                                      1. re: Snorkelvik

                                        Thanks S, a little red pepper may be a way to use sweet fennel sausage and still get a little heat.

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          I use a little red pepper but add it early on so it has time to cook in the oil. It adds some heat but controllable since we live in a mixed household of heat lovers. The heat would be nice with sweet fennel sausages.

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            jfood I am thinking about trying your recipe for Christmas. Can it be prepped the day before cooking it? ie in the pan, everything, then just bake the next day? or what about freezing? I'm a pretty good cook but lacking a lasagna recipe, and the family wants Italian for Christmas dinner!

                                            1. re: Angel Food

                                              my concern would be the pasta would absorb the sauce as it sits overnight. I would bake it with foil on top and reheat the second day. BTW - if using a pyrex and go from fridge to oven you have to either (a) bring to room temperature or place the lasagne in the oven atthe same time as you turn on the heat. Else you might crack the pyrex.

                                    2. Lasagna has been nominated for dish of the month. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/869782

                                      Vote for it if you would like to see it featured in October.