secret lasagna recipe
It is sooooooooo good. And in all my years of blogging, I have kept this recipe secret. Because it IS so good, and some part of me buys into the idea of cooks keeping secrets. But since you may not be visiting my door step soon, I figure I better share this recipe---because it is important that you have a chance to enjoy it.
The irony is, of course, that this recipe was originally another chef's secret: Marcella Rosene. It is from her cookbook, Pasta & Co By Request. It is one of only two cookbooks I have had to repurchase because it was so love-torn and started falling apart: the tape is yellowing, the torn pages have taken information into captivity forever and all the spots and splatters throughout the pages while quaint, are taking over. And in cookbooks I love, I write notes and sketches and short-cuts and cross-offs and stars. I write dates and places, question marks and doodles, make comments and apply any color of highlighter. I am hard on my beloved books, and they are good to me.
And I nod toward Marcella because whether she knows it or not, she was beside me helping me learn to cook. Showing me that I can be successful in my kitchen and turn out wonderful meals, one after another. And this lasagna is one of my favorite 'borrows' from her. Or should I say lessons or received gifts? Because it is part of our food lore now, and I can account for the fact that when I have 2 or 3 or even just 1 of these lasagnas sitting in my freezer, I am more grounded than not.
And so today I should be so grounded my feet are like roots under the topsoil, because I recently made 4---count them---lasagnas to put in my freezer. It certainly took awhile to accomplish the task, but it was my goal this week to fill up my freezer with ready to bake meals for my family. Mother Guilt, most likely. Or 'Mother Love since I am taking a more grounded interpretation. Class started last week today, and I am taking---no pun intended---the Mother Load. I have more classes than usual and unfortunately, one of them is only offered two consecutive nights a week. Thus my absence from home two nights a week, therefore this lasagna.
From Marcella to me and from me to you (with notes and a handful of my own adjustments from over the years):
Sausage Lasagna (hers was beef, but my Italian husband nixed that and we have been thanking him ever since: we love the sausage)
Serves 8-10 (I double the recipe and put them in (4) 8x8 pans to freeze for later)
First, grab tools: micro planer (for nutmeg), garlic press, wine opener, can opener, whisk, rubber spatula, scissors (to cut fresh lasagna sheets to fit pans), measuring cups and spoons, wooden spoon/spatula, couple of bowls, large sauce pan, 2 saute pans, 1 small saucepan for milk/cream, lasagna baking dishes.
Then, make sauce: SAUCE 1 1/2 LBS mild Italian sausage (is 'mild Italian' an oxymoron?) olive oil, as needed 1 1/3 cup chopped onions 1 T dried oregano (or Italian herb blend) 3 cloves minced garlic 1 tsp coarse salt coupla' grinds coarse pepper large pinch red pepper flakes 1 1/4 cup white wine 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree (Paradiso rocks) 1 14 oz can fire roasted tomatoes (I use Muir Glen) 5 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
CHEESE 3 cups shredded mozzarella 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
BECHAMEL 1 1/2 cups milk 1 cup cream Pinch of: white pepper, thyme, nutmeg, basil 3 T butter 1/3 cup flour 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated 1/4 cup Romano cheese, grated
AND fresh lasagna noodles, uncooked (enough for 3 layers) 1/4 cup bread crumbs (I used bread crumbs from rosemary artisan bread last time and it was great!) 2 T Parmesan 1 tsp Italian herbs or parsley
MAKE Mix cheeses, set aside. Cook sausage, set aside. In same pan add olive oil (add oil to existing sausage fat until it looks like about 4 T); saute onions, garlic & sauce seasonings. When onions are translucent, add wine and simmer 10-15 minutes. Stir in 28 oz can of tomatoes, plus half the fire roasted can. Simmer 5 minutes, add spinach and sausage and stir thoroughly. Off heat. Make bechamel: heat milk, cream and 'pinches of' in small saucepan until just simmers. While that is warming, get a clean saute pan (medium low) and add butter, melt until foam subsides, add flour and whisk. Keep whisking for 2 minutes to cook, not burn flour. Slowly add hot cream mixture, whisking. Up heat to medium, whisking often, and cook another 5 minutes. It should be thicker than white sauce, similar to wallpaper paste. Add cheeses and whisk to smooth. Off heat. Mix bread crumbs, Parmesan and seasonings for topping. Preheat oven to 400.
ASSEMBLE In bottom of [9x13] baking dish, spread remaining 1/2 can fire roasted tomatoes. When adding bechamel, glob it in diagonal increments, it will spread on its own. Now think visual layers, bottom to top:
BOTTOM 1/2 can fire roasted tomatoes, spread layer of noodles 1/2 of the meat sauce approx 1 cup bechamel 1/2 of the mozzarella/feta cheese mixture layer of noodles 1/2 of the meat sauce approx 1 cup bechamel 1/2 of the mozzarella/feta cheese mixture layer of noodles (press lightly on whole lasagna to spread bechamel, then paste last bit of bechamel on top) thin layer of bechamel bread crumb mix TOP
BAKE or FREEZE Bake in 400 oven for 1 hour, if coming straight from freezer add 20 minutes. Put foil on top if getting to brown during baking; let rest 15 minutes before serving.