HOW TO MAKE AN AWESOME MEATSAUCE
I am sure right about now you are saying to yourself... "But Dannnnnn didn't you just recently make manicotti which has practically the same ingredients as lasagna? And didn't you also already show us how to make sauce in that very same blog entry? What can I possibly gain from reading today's post?!?" This may in fact be true, but looking back I noticed that the pictures and instructions I gave you last time for my sauce, well they just were not that good. And it wasn't even my perfectly ideal sauce variation anyway. I make about 5 or so different tomato sauce varieties, this one is similar to the manicotti sauce. And although lasagna does share many of the same ingredients as manicotti, it is different and special and it deserves its own post! I also wanted to take this opportunity to tell you that lasagna makes a great gift. It is easy to make a few at a time and then give one away. It tastes GREAT right from the freezer, it is fairly cheap, and people will always be grateful!
This is how I like lasagna. People tend to put a bunch of unnessicary things into lasagna. I am all for a veggie/pasta bake, but use ziti please. Not to go on a snobbish rant, but here are some things I have encountered in lasagna that I would have been happier without:
Béchamel (traditional, but not my style)
An Absence of Ricotta
Now, if you are reading this thinking "Dan how COULD you! I served you lasagna last year with ALL of those things in it!" Don't worry! I liked the food. If I SAID I liked it, then I loved it! And I was especially happy that you invited me over. All I am saying now, is that had you called that dish baked ziti, instead of lasagna, things would have been different.
Anyways, now that I no longer have any friends, on with the post! Starting with the sauce of course. Now pay attention! This isn't a recipe you can make following a list of ingredients and a few steps, so I will not be adding them at the end. This is a recipe that can only be conveyed through the use of a few beautiful pictures with long carefully written captions. Which I happen to have right here! This is based off my mother and grandmother's recipes, and tweaked over the years after making it a bunch and getting tips from my OTHER Italian grandparents, Mario and Giada.
Mandi getting everything in place. She gets very excited just before we make this sauce. It's like fuel to her.
Brown the beef in a separate frying pan with a bunch of salt and pepper. This is one of the ways I differentiate from my mom's recipe. She cooks the meat right in the pot with the onions and garlic. I do them separate for the following three reasons: 1) I like the meat to get a nice brown color on it which you can't get when you cook it all together. 2) I use WAY more meat than her and since ground beef tends to vary in fat content, by cooking it this way I can really regulate exactly how much fat I want to use. 3) I like to cook the tomato paste in with the onions during the "miripoix stage". If the beef was also cooking in there it would be a big mess.
There is the brown I was speaking of.
Try and get really good tomatoes. I can't find san marzano in Bermuda, but I have tasted all my options, and these are the best.
Look at all that olive oil! Also in here - salt, pepper, crushed red pepper.
Get the tomato paste in there to fry up as well.
You CAN crush the tomatoes with your hands to have a more rustic texture, but for this sauce I like it smooth. Add a handful of basil to each blender batch. I think 3 or 4 fills my pot. Have the first batch ready before you throw the garlic in the pot because I ony like to fry the garlic for about a minute.
GARLIC! We are in motion. Stir and fry for one minute.
BEEF. Mmmmm 1 more minute.
What? You didn't know Mandi can shoot electricity from her fingertips?
We need a bigger pot.
Save the rest of the blender load, because you will easily eat this much while it is cooking and will want to pour more in. Just say you need to taste for flavor and add a pinch of something after you taste it if people are looking at you funny.
I usually use white wine, but this was on the counter. Thanks Don!
The rind from the parm is a good thing to add as well. Just remember its in there! Simmer this for about 2 hours, I only left it for about 1:15 this time cause I didn't have the time/patience. But it was still delicious.
Mandi doesn't care if people look at her funny. With sauce this good, you don't want a bunch of other crap in the lasagna!
You don't need to grate your own mozzarella, but it only takes a minute, and don't you want this to taste as good as it possibly can?
Each layer gets ricotta, mozzarella, and parm. This layer was a bit larger than the others, Mandi and I get carried away some times.
The pasta needs to still have some bite to it. Remember its gonna be in the oven for a while!
Plastic wrap so the foil doesn't bleed into the tomatoes. Leave a note to remove the plastic before cooking!!!
Just made it? About 20 minutes at 400 and a quick broil. From the fridge. 30 to 40 minutes with foil on at 350, uncover for 15 minutes, broil if necessary. Freezer: 2 to 3 hours at 350. When you are REALLY hungry but it's frozen, set your oven for infinity and go watch all 3 "Lord of the Rings" movies. It will be done when trees start talking.
YUM!! NOW don't you think this deserved its own post?
Hope you guys liked it! And had a minute to relax and enjoy.
For more information on tomato sauce, and a slightly more detailed recipe, you can check out my "stubble" post on it.