Comfort Food – Lasagna

Every once in a while, I do something quite genius.  And this summer,  I had a genius moment.  I decided to cook lasagna, the same recipe I’ve used for years from Emeril Lagasse, which calls for ⅓ lb. ground beef, ⅓ lb. ground pork, and ⅓ lb. ground veal.  The store I shopped at only sold ground veal in 1 lb. packages.  So, in my moment of genius, I decided to buy a pound of each and make, here it is, 3 batches of sauce:  one to use then, two to freeze for later.  Right?!

This Friday, when I had occasion to make a lovely, homemade meal for a special someone, I decided that since I already had the sauce made, I’d just throw together the cheese filling and boom baby, a home-cooked meal in half the time.   And guess what… it worked!

This lasagna is time consuming, but truly delicious.  Heavy on the garlic, heavy on the cheese, heavy on the meat, heavy on the comfort.

I’d like to recommend that you throw 3 pots on the stove one afternoon and make 3 recipes of the sauce, then you can feel genius later, too.  When you cook up your sauce (or thaw out the one you made before), the kitchen will smell divine.

sauce

Then you can begin to prepare your cheese mixture.  I recommend using a food processor for all the grating.  It’s a huge time saver.  And note:  this time I used extra sharp provolone and it was ah-maze-ing.

cheese

Next comes the assembly.  Another note:  when you live in a 1920s house with no counter space, your assembly station looks like this.  Tiny but darling, right?

kitchen

All assembled and ready for the oven…

assembled

In 45 minutes to an hour, you get this.  And as a bonus, we used our Christmas dishes!

finished lasagna

Emeril’s Lasagna

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz. grated Provolone cheese
  • 8 oz. grated Mozzarella cheese
  • 8 oz. grated Romano cheese
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp. chiffonade of fresh basil
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 recipe tomato sauce – recipe to follow
  • ½ lb. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 package dried lasagna noodles
  • 1 egg

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, Provolone, Mozzarella, Romano, egg, milk, basil, and garlic.  Mix well. Season with salt and pepper.  To assemble, spread 2 ½ cups of the meat sauce on the bottom of a deep dish lasagna pan.  Sprinkle ¼ of the grated cheese over the sauce.  Cover the cheese with ¼ of the dried noodles.  Spread ¼ of the cheese filling evenly over the noodles.  Repeat the above process with the remaining ingredients, toping the lasagna with the remaining sauce.  Place in oven and bake until bubbly and golden, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.  Slice and serve.

Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ⅓ lb. ground beef
  • ⅓ lb. ground veal
  • ⅓ lb. ground pork
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ cup finely chopped carrot
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 (28 oz) cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2  bay leaves
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. dried basil
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Instructions

In a large saucepan, over medium heat, add the oil.  In a mixing bowl, combine the meat.  Season with salt and pepper and mix well.  When the oil is hot, add the meat and brown for 4 to 6 minutes.  Add onions, celery, and carrots.

Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft.  Add the garlic and tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes.  Whisk the tomato paste with the stock and add to the tomatoes.  Add the thyme, bay leaves, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes.  Mix well.  Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 2 hours.  Stir occasionally and add more liquid if needed.  During the last 30 minutes of cooking, season again with salt and pepper, and stir in the cheese.  Remove from heat and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Yield:  about 1 ½ to 2 quarts

 

 

 

 

Eggplant Parmigiana ~ Dana

Jen’s husband, Shea, makes a killer eggplant parm. Sadly, this is not that recipe. But in my quest to find a good one, I hit up my fantasy best friend, Martha Stewart. I’m not sure out of which issue of Martha Stewart Living I tore this, but it’s absolutely delicious. I posted pictures of it on Facebook a few months ago and several of you asked for the recipe, so far be it from me to deny the people what they want.

There’s a bit of prep involved in breading and frying the eggplant. In fact, I won’t make it during the week when my husband isn’t at home to wrangle the girls while I cook. But if you’ve got some time on a Sunday afternoon, it’ll be worth it for Sunday night dinner!

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Eggplant Parmigiana

Grease sometimes gives this dish a bad rap. The trick is to fry the breaded eggplant quickly over high heat, so it doesn’t absorb too much oil. Then drain on paper towels to remove any excess. Thanks, Martha!

For Breading and Frying

2 cups fine plain fresh breadcrumbs
½ cup finely grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 large eggplants, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more if needed

For Assembling

Marinara Sauce (recipe to follow)
3 cups coarsely grated mozzarella cheese (12 ounces)
¾ cup finely grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (1½ ounces)

1. Bread and fry the eggplant: Combine breadcrumbs, Romano cheese, ½ tsp. salt, and some pepper. Put flour, eggs, and breadcrumb mixture in 3 separate dishes. Dredge eggplant in flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg, letting excess drip off. Dredge in breadcrumbs to coat. Let stand for 30 minutes.

2. Heat oil in large, straight-sided skillet over medium-high heat. (Oil is ready when a breadcrumb sizzles when dropped in.) Working in batches, fry eggplant until golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. (If oil gets too dirty, discard, and heat an additional ¼ cup.)

3. Assemble the dish: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread ½ cup marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange a layer of eggplant on top, overlapping slightly. Top with 1 cup sauce. Sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella and ¼ cup Romano. Repeat twice to form layers with eggplant, sauce, then cheeses. Cover with foil. Bake until bubbling, about 30 minutes. Uncover, and bake until cheese melts, about 5 minutes more.

Marinara Sauce

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cans (28 ounces each) peeled whole tomatoes, pureed in a food processor
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano

Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, red pepper flakes, 1 tsp salt, and some pepper. Simmer, covered, until thick, about 25 minutes. Stir in herbs.

My notes:

1. If you don’t want to make your own marinara, you can totally use your favorite jarred sauce. You need about 3 ½ cups.  But I will say that this one is delicious and makes your house smell really, really good while it’s bubbling away.

2. You can also use store-bought breadcrumbs and dried herbs, if you don’t have fresh readily available. Use 2 Tbsp dried basil and 1 tsp dried oregano and add to the sauce along with the tomatoes to give them a chance to reconstitute.

3. Seriously, if you have a one and a three-year-old, don’t do this alone!! Breading those eggplant slices leaves your fingers so goopy and gross. And then what if your one-year-old sticks an Easter jellybean up her nose? I’m just looking out for you.