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Give the Gift of Lasagna

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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:

Chicken (really?)
Broccoli
Spinach
Peppers
Sausage
Béchamel (traditional, but not my style)
Mushrooms (yuck)
Zuchini
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.




21 Comments

yayyy I LOVE THIS SAUCE! if you dont keep an eye on me while we're cookin it, i could eat the WHOLE POT! now i will be dreaming of that sauce all day... thanks dan, how am i supposed to get any work done?!? i just want to live under that little ledge of pasta on the last picture. all curled up and nestled into its meaty, tomato goodness!!! is that weird? :)

Did you run out of cheese or did you intentionally get slighter towards and on the top? I know this sauce is good, so maybe you were purposeful to not overpower it with gooey cheesy goodness, which I can't seem to stop myself from doing.

Well Amy, we actually used way too much at the bottom so we had to pull it back for the top. it would have been better to swap the bottom and top layers to get the burnt/melty cheese on top. but at the same time, the caramelized sauce and pasta peices are pretty tasty too...

Hey Dan, it's funny because this sauce is almost the same as mine except for one minor change and it's my great grandmother's secret........... Instead of sugar she uses a bit of molasses. It's oh so good!! Now I think I want lasagna for dinner tonight! Thanks!!

Kristin! thanks for your great grandmothers secret! I am going to publish it all over the world now! MUAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAH

That's funny my grandparents are named Mario and Giada too!

Looks like you have a great recipe there, the following is a trick I've learned:
Since you have to cook the sauce for a few hours you know that it is necessary to stir the sauce especially scraping the bottom of the pan as it tends to stick and burn there adding an ugly flavor if left unattended, a few years back I was making a sauce much like the one described and inadvertantely had to run out for some appointment or another and decided to put the sauce (once it came to a boil) into the oven cover and all (275 degrees) well it cooked beautifully in fact since the heat was not concentrated in one spot on the bottom of the pot but from all sides it didn't need stirring at all and it simmered gently and came out perfectly with no fuss. One day I was at a pizza place that had one of those wood burning rustic looking ovens and was talking to the proprietor, Carmine, who was straight from Italy and he mentioned that a hundred years ago our grandmothers cooked everything in the oven like his. Which made me realize that my new idea was not new at all but a "back to the future" kinda thing. I like this method because it frees me up, instead of being tied to the stove.

Thanks gennarino thats a good tip. i've seen alton put stuff like that (sauces/stews/etc) in the oven before for even heat distribution so no stirring needed i guess! makes sense... but then again, if there's no sauce stirring required, then there's no excuse for me to take off the lid every half hour or so, stir it around, and steal a few spoonfuls (cupfuls?) hehe maybe NOT such a good idea ;)

I found a great way to evenly apply the ricotta to lasagna. I used an accent decorator. We got ours from Pampered Chef. I'm sure a cookie press would work just as well. See the post on my Blog.
http://www.chefbenwa.com/blog/?p=273

I can't wait to try your meat sauce recipe

Chef Benwa

This is simply awesome! Very clever illustrations and comments, excellent photos, easy to follow recipes. You did a great job.

I am a food professional and when I make lasagna, I don't cook the pasta. Simply layer it uncooked, add a tiny more liquid that the recipe calls for for the pasta to absorb and you saved one long cooking step. It really simplifies the recipe. Try it!

Check out Tried and True Recipes from a Caterer’s Kitchen—Secrets of Making Great Foods

On Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.

Very nice looking. But how much Quervo did you add?

yeah, mandy really likes her meat sauce, just look at her go at it, all over her chin and mouth.

got to love a girl who can't get enough meatsacue.

haha I'm a regular reader and just Stumbled over here. :)

Great recipe! Thanks

Looks amazing! I am a great Lasagne cooker! At least I like to think so, but this looks incredible. Funny thing is I made mine just using my own ideas because I never seen a recipe, just seen my Dad make it, and I never cook the pasta first just layer it raw. Always comes out ok anyway! Thanks for taking the time to do this!

Jonathan.

Yummy! I always thought it was too much trouble to make sauce from scratch, but you make it look really easy! A lot of the commercial sauces are just not good, so THANKS!!
I think you've revolutionized my life.
Now to check out the rest of your blog!

Adding an egg to your ricotta mixture would have prevented some of the watery mess at the end... also allowing it to set up, once out of the oven - just like you do with great roasts/meats/chicken.... let it rest for 10 minutes - helps the ricotta set up...also using, and yes, you read this right, using uncooked lasagna strips or even the one's you don't have to cook beforehand allow the pasta to soak up extra water in the fluids of the lasagna....neat trick when you are in a hurry, since semi-cooked lasagna can get so slippery and tears easily. - Also the hard lasagna noodles allow for the spreading of the ricotta to be on every ounce and bite in the lasagna....

lovely blog, quite glad I stumbled on over, recommended your blog......fun pics and keep cooking!

When your lasagna is ready to cook, you say to cover it with plastic-wrap "...so the foil doesn't leak into the tomatoes"! How do you account for the fact that the foil will be leaking into the tomatoes because the tomatoes are resting in it? Besides, I didn't know tinfoil could leak into anything.

Just thought I'd let you know, it's spelled lasagne, not lasagna. Looks like a good way of making it though

WOW! This lasagna looks amazing. I've been looking for a good lasagna recipe and it looks like it found it. That's a good idea to make an extra one to freeze. I'll have to do that when I make it.

"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."

YES. Everything should be timed this way. Thank you for taking the time to create this post. It's full of great info I'd never come across before. I look forward to trying it out!

That looks delicious! Thanks so much for the recipie, I'm going to give it as one of my surprise presents for dad on his birthday. There's no way he'd be expecting a yummy lasagne!

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