So here’s the deal. It is 8:00am and about 230 in my apartment right now. It is completely comfortable to sit and have a cup of coffee and maybe some toast, but it won’t be if I turn on my oven. Back in June when I asked for the lasagna blog, it had been one of the coldest Junes on record in Vancouver. Now we are nearing the end of one of the warmest, driest Julys. For that reason alone, I will not be turning on my oven, and I will not be baking a pasta until sometime in October, give or take a couple of weeks.
I wanted to do this blog simply because lasagna is one of my favourite winter meals. I love the melted cheese, the hearty pasta, the savoury bolognaise. I love that it makes good leftovers and an easy make-ahead dish. I love that I can cook two on Sunday, finish the leftovers on Tuesday and pull the extra one out of the freezer two weeks later when I know I won’t have time to cook. I considered making a more “summery” lasagna for this blog, but none were quite as appealing to me as the dense richness of a meaty tomato sauce smothered in cheese. Added to the fact that I still needed to bake the summer versions and they just didn’t cut it.
So here I am, sitting in my overly warm apartment, watching my poor black lab melt in the heat (he has already been for a swim this morning to cool off), and thinking that all I can do today is share my version of lasagna with you, hopefully to be enjoyed on a cool autumn evening with a glass of robust red wine and a big slab of garlicky bread. The truth is, I don’t have a recipe. My lasagna is years of adding new things, adapting to a pantry missing ingredients, and learning what it is that gives me that sense of satisfaction when I take the first bite. I have concluded that the key to a good lasagna is the richness of the bolognaise, the creaminess of the cheese layer and that it must not be too watery. The following is a close proximity to what I do, though I never measure, so the quantities are more of an estimate. I suggest that you play around to find what works for you.
- ¼ lb bacon, diced
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 lb hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 2 medium onions, diced
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 lb mushrooms, finely chopped
- 1 medium zucchini, grated
- 2 carrots, grated
- 1 stalk celery, grated
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 28oz can San Marzano tomatoes, pureed
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauce or sauté pan, cook bacon until almost crispy and fat has rendered off. Remove bacon from pan but leave fat. Add beef and sausage to pan and cook until browned. Add onions, and garlic to pan and cook until the begin to brown. Add tomato paste and chili powder to pan and cook until it begins to darken in colour. Add the remaining vegetables and oregano and return bacon to pan. Cook for about 5 minutes until mushrooms begin to release their water. Add wine to deglaze the pan and cook until mostly evaporated. Add tomatoes to pan with about a cup of water. Let simmer for about an hour, until meat is tender
- 1 litre tub of ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
- salt to taste
- fresh ground black pepper, generous amount
Combine everything in a bowl and set aside. You can substitute cottage cheese for the ricotta. To improve the texture, give it a whirl in the food processor.
You will also need lasagna noodles, some grated pecorino or parmagiano regiano and about a pound of grated mozzarella.
To assemble the lasagna, ladle a thin layer of bolognaise into the bottom of a lasagna pan. Add a layer of barely cooked noodles. Add a thick layer of bolognaise, sprinkle with pecorino. Add a layer of noodles. Spread ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles. Add another layer of noodles. Top with a final layer of bolognaise and finish with grated mozzarella and another sprinkling of pecorino.
Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour.
Remover foil and bake for another 20 minutes until cheese is browned and bubbly.
I hope you enjoy this sometime in October.