I have a mental list of recipes that I’ve always wanted to try, but haven’t had the guts to. As easy as Ina makes it look, that double-layer chocolate cake really can’t be that simple. There are several factors that might shy me a way from a certain recipe: too many ingredients, need for particular (or expensive) cookware, patience. This is why I rarely blog about baking; because I don’t have any more space in my apartment to house five different cake pans and I don’t have the patience to follow a recipe word for word.
While I don’t see myself getting over my baking phobia any time soon, I will brave more savory recipes when I’m feeling adventurous. Some feared recipes that I’ve been able to cross off my list: frittata, risotto, braised short ribs. The funny thing is, every time I’ve finally attempted one of these dishes, I’m always surprised at how easy and not scary it is.
So this past Friday evening was the perfect occasion to give lasagna a go. I was having some friends over, so I wanted to serve something that I could prepare ahead of time and just heat up before they arrived (Ina’s number one rule when entertaining: never serve something that will keep you over the stove while guests are waiting hungrily). Lasagna has always been hallowed ground for me. Gaga makes lasagna every Christmas Eve, so I’ve always felt that lasagna was her territory, not to be toyed with. Luckily, this lasagna was for friends, so I didn’t have to live up to the decades-old expectations from family and could play with the recipe as needed.
While I tend to use recipes more for inspiration (see above, re: lack of patience), I do stick closely to a recipe when trying something for the first time. So who better to go to than the Food Goddess Herself: Ina. While there was no one part to the recipe that was particularly difficult, it was a bit time consuming between cooking the sauce, pasta, and actual cook time. But all good things come with a wait, right?
Right. So, so right. The lasagna was incredibly cheesy, with so many great flavors – tanginess from the goat cheese, butteriness from the mozzarella, and a fresh, herbiness from the basil. We all went back for seconds and thirds, and yet somehow managed not to feel heavy and weighed down at all. A great dish to feed a crowd or impress your friends, yet relatively simple. As we shoved our faces, cheese oozing down our chins, I couldn’t help but think (in the words of Ina): Now, how easy is that?
serves a crowd
For the sauce:
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb turkey sausage, casings removed
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
For the lasagna:
1/2 lb lasagna noodles
15 oz ricotta cheese
4 oz creamy goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
2. Add the sausage, breaking up with the back of a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until thickened, about 15-20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and let sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.
5. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, Parmesan, the egg, the rest of the parsley, and salt and pepper. Set aside.
6. Ladle a third of a the sauce into a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish, spreading over the bottom. Layer half the noodles, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta and one-third of the sauce. Repeat. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to lightly cover the top. Bake for 30 minutes in a 400-degree oven, until bubbling. (If serving later, refrigerate as needed, but allow to come to room temperature for about an hour before putting in the oven. This is what I did and it worked out great!)
|In the words of Ina, how bad can that be?|