Saturday, May 24, 2008

Retro Lasagna

Unreconstructed, 1960's variety Lasagna!!

There are a number of dinner recipes that work very well with listening to Cocktails With Chris, and in fact that just plain work well with cocktails & friends over for dinner.

I made lasagna for the first time in maybe twenty years tonight, and it rocked.  Lasagna is something I used to make for my friends Back In the Day.  What I'd forgotten about it is that you can get it all tucked into the oven to bake and have plenty of time for a drink with your pals who have shown up for dinner or your mate before sitting down to something that (let's face it) everyone really, really likes.  

Here's what you need to make what I made tonight:

A box of good dried lasagna--Italian imported is best, but if you're counting carbs, Dreamfield's is pretty darned good, too.

2 big cans of decent crushed tomatoes.  I like Muir Glen fire-roasted, organic.

2 medium sized onions, diced

7 cloves fresh garlic, chopped or run through a press

a few tablespoons of olive oil

a shake of crushed red pepper

a shake of fennel seeds

2/3-3/4 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage (or links)

about a cup of fresh sliced mushrooms (any variety)

One fifteen ounce container of ricotta

One egg

A pinch or about ten gratings of fresh nutmeg

One one pound ball of fresh mozzarella

either dried or fresh basil, to taste

a good handful of fresh parsley, chopped

a splash of leftover dry red wine

Sautee the onions in enough olive oil to keep them from sticking (2 tablespoons or a little more).  When they begin to soften, throw in the sausage and the mushrooms.  Add the garlic.  If you're using bulk sausage, break it up with the spatula and saute.   If you had to buy links, add them sliced, and cook them that way.   Add crushed red pepper and fennel seeds. When the sausage and 'shrooms are mostly cooked, deglaze the pan with the red wine, dump in the tomatoes and cook for about ten minutes on medium/medium low heat.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  You may need a pinch of sugar (no more) if the sauce tastes acidy.  Throw in the handful of parsley.  Season with basil to taste.

Meanwhile, cook 12-14 pieces of dried lasagna in boiling water, using the largest pot you own.  When it just begins to soften, drain and rinse with cool water.   Grate or cut the mozarella cheese into tiny pieces.  Beat the ricotta in a bowl with one egg and a few gratings of fresh nutmeg, or a pinch of the pre-grated.  

Start to make the lasagna by ladling a bit of the sauce into the bottom of a long, shallow casserole dish.  Top with three lasagne noodles and begin to layer sauce, ricotta mixture, and mozarella with the noodles until you use up the lasagna noodles.  Top with a layer of sauce and a healthy scattering of mozarella and basil.  Bake at 350 for about a half an hour.


The glory of this dish is that you can get it done before anyone shows up for dinner, and enjoy having a drink or just some good conversation with your company while it bakes.  If you're an organized person, you can even have all the pots and knives and such that you used to prepare this meal cleaned before you put the lasagna in the oven.

This meal is good with a green salad and some good Italian bread, after just about any cocktail except the Tiki silliness ones (which have their other uses).

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