Lasagna, Lasagna, Lasagna!
Today I realize it’s been about 3 weeks since my last post. Again, I apologize. Life, as you all know, can get real busy and things get ignored. Better said, this blog got ignored (by me).
I teased and tempted everyone with a mouth-watering pic and then didn’t follow up. Again, my apologies because I know some of my friends have been waiting patiently to see the photos and read about the recipe.
The lasagna, as you can tell, was delicious and it vanished by the end of my party. I also made some wonderfully moist chocolate cupcakes from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe (March & April 2005) that I’ll write up in a separate post.
As a recap, back in March I was seriously frustrated with the ridiculous price of marinara (pasta) sauce at the supermarket and asked other food bloggers if they had any favorite recipes. Alysha from The Savory Notebook shared her version, which has even been featured in Cooking Light magazine.
At the same time I remembered I had wanted to try a ricotta cheese recipe published by Sam of Becks & Posh and figured the two cooking projects would come together brilliantly as lasagna.
First, I’d like to state that making ricotta cheese was one of the easiest foods I’ve ever attempted to make by myself. I was astonished at how quick I produced a huge blob of the freshest ricotta I’d ever tasted. I highly recommend making your own ricotta cheese if you want to make lasagna.
Making the marinara sauce was a lot more complicated, but it was very satisfying. I would probably cut down the amount of crushed red pepper flakes next time as I personally found it a tad too spicy, but I think that’s an individual decision. The red wine is an essential part of this recipe as it flushes out the other flavors in the sauce.
For a lasagna recipe, I decided to go with a vegetable version in The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book. Although I sometimes find it cumbersome, this cookbook has some great ‘staple’ recipes that make it a great reference in the kitchen. Since I didn’t know if there would be any vegetarians at the meal, I decided to play it safe and go meatless. I was a bit worried that the lack of meat would equal a lack of flavor, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it both flavorful and full of texture. I think pre-baking the zucchini slices really rounds out the flavor and the parsley intensifies the spinach-ricotta mixture.
I also tweaked aspects of the recipe to my own preferences. I added more garlic than the recipe called for, just a tad less crushed red pepper and much more mozzarella. After cooking this twice (I cooked it once more as a thank you for friend who got me incredible seats to a Rangers game), I've figured out that the amount of zucchini the recipe calls for is not enough (maybe add one more to make it 3) either.
Vegetable Lasagna (Adapted from The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book)
Prep: 1 hour Bake: 40 minutes
3 ½ cups marinara sauce
12 lasagna noodles (10 ounces)
2 medium zucchini (8 ounces each), cut into ¼ inch slices
2 tablespoons olive oil
¾ tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2/3 cup milk, warmed
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons plus ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta cheese [my homemade version was not part-skim]
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1. In large saucepot, cook lasagna noodles as label directs. Drain and rinse with cold running water. Return noodles to saucepot with enough cold water to cover.
2. Preheat oven to 450ºF. In large bowl, toss zucchini with 1 tablespoon oil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper. Arrange zucchini slices on large cookie sheet and bake, turning once, until tender, about 12 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in nonstick 12-ince skillet, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper; cook until garlic is golden. Stir in flour until blended. With wire whisk, gradually whisk in warm milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce has thickened and boils, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in spinach, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and ¼ teaspoon salt.
4. In medium bowl, stir ricotta, parsley, remaining ¼ cup Parmesan, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon black pepper until combined.
5. Turn oven control to 350ºF. Drain lasagna noodles on clean kitchen towels.
6. in 13” by 9” baking dish, spread about 1 cup marinara sauce. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles over sauce, overlapping to fit. Spread ricotta mixture on top of noodles. Arrange 4 more noodles over ricotta and top with all of zucchini, overlapping slices to fit. Spread with 1 cup sauce and sprinkle with half of mozzarella; top with all of spinach mixture. Arrange remaining 4 noodles on top and spread with remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
7. Cover lasagna with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until cheese is lightly golden, about 10 minute longer. Let stand 15 minutes for easier serving. Makes 10 main-dish servings.
Each serving: About 219 calories, 13g protein, 14g carbohydrate, 13g total fat (5g saturated), 27 mg cholesterol, 687mg sodium.
Another picture to keep your mouth watering...