So, back in the day I used to cook a lot. Since I was in the kitchen often I did a lot of things from memory, and feel. This worked great back in the day. As I got older I found less time to spend in the kitchen. In my head I was still the great cook I used to be, but when the rubber hit the road. Well, lets just say I did not live up to my own expectations. Eventually, I started to take detailed notes. I would make the the same dish over, and over until I decided it was perfect. With my notes I am now able to recreate the dish a year later, and still have it taste as good as when I made it 4 times in the same month. This is a living recipe. By that I mean this; Every time I cook. I give it a very hard critique. I make notes, and work to improve it. Whenever I do this I come back, and update this recipe. This is my nature, and it is why I am good at things. These are typically very small tweaks.
My mom is where I get my very high standards for food. Mom is half Italian. Her father was the only sibling of his family born in the US. All of his brothers were born in north east Italy. This is the part of Italy where folks are known to have strong work ethic, and good organization skills. As they say, the further south you go folks are more about enjoying life…
This is not a recipe that was handed down to me. This is mostly because mom does not have a recipe, and also because I think everything I cook needs a little dash of chipotle pepper…. When I decided I needed to learn to make good lasagna. I called mom. I took notes, but there was alot of “well some times I do it this way, but others it is done like this.” This is the classic Italian way of cooking. It is done by feel, and taste.
Notes: Ghee is just another name for clarified butter. If you don’t have it use butter or olive oil. After you assemble the sauce you are going to taste it, and adjust it. Go easy on the salt. The cheese is going to bring alot of salt to the table… “Hey Mr. Böner, Why do you use canned tomatoes?” The tomatoes you buy off the shelf in the grocery store are bred to be handled. They often are not ripe, even if they are red. The tomatoes that are selected to go into cans are not going to handle being stored for long. This is why they are put in cans. I read something to this effect in a book once. It seemed reasonable, so I go with it….
This recipe is written as though this is not your first time in a kitchen. I will work to add more details to it as I make more lasagna. I use the kind of lasagna pasta that does not need to be pre-boiled.
Making the Sauce:
Red sauce: I will typically make this on a Tuesday or Wednesday if I am planning on eating lasagna Saturday or Sunday…
2 tbsp ghee and 10oz frozen onion, sauté to golden
32oz (2 packages) Isernio mild Italian sausage, add to pot and brown with onion.
This can also be done separately to save time.
4 big cloves garlic, minced
Cook, until cooked over med. heat.
Now add “Simple Truth” brand organic canned tomato products:
(2) cans 6oz paste
(2) cans 14.5oz diced, no salt added
(1) cans 15oz sauce
4g fresh rosemary needles
2-3 leaves fresh sage chopped fine
8g fresh basil chopped fine
1 tsp ground chipotle
1 tsp thyme
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 tsp smoked salt
7g fresh ground black pepper
Simmer for a couple hours.
Making The Cheese filling:
(Note: it is assumed that you are going to grate the cheese)
0.75# Boars Head Picante Provolone
0.75# Boars Head Whole Milk Mozzarella
4oz Parmesan Reggiano (get the real deal, imported from Italy)
1# ricotta (If your store sells 15oz tubs, that is fine too)
2 eggs (farm fresh if you have a source. Otherwise, get the $8/dozen hippy eggs)
Add 2-3 heaped table spoons of red sauce, and mix all this up into a paste with your hands. Squish it through your fingers, and make it homogeneous. (You washed your hands, right?)
To make good lasagna you must use good cheese. Use real parmesan reggiano cheese. Grate it your self. I like to used a microplane for this task. It makes short work of hard cheese. (click the picture, and purchase one to support this blog)
You will need to make five total layers of pasta. Visualize splitting the bowls of both sauce, and cheese filling into fifths.
Building the lasagna:
Layering: very light sauce on bottom, then pasta, then cheese, and then sauce. Then pasta, cheese, and sauce…. 5 layers…
Start with a light layer of sauce on the bottom:
Next add pasta:
Now add 1/5th the cheese filling mixture:
Now add 1/5th of the sauce:
Now do that 4 more times: pasta, then cheese, then sauce…
Finish the Lasagna by grating 2-3oz more of Parmesan Reggiano on top. Don’t be shy with the parm. It is really hard to over do it.
Finish with some fresh basil:
Option, cover with 0.25# shredded Whole Milk Mozzarella
Baking The Lasagna:
Set the oven at the Goss house at 385°F to bake at 375°F. (Goss is the last name of my roommate. Back when I had a sweetie we lived in “The Shelton House” (It was in the town of Shelton), and “The Purple Hose” (I can’t remember why we called it that…) Now I live in “The Goss House”. All ovens are a little different. Don’t rely on the digital thermostat. It is probably off. Buy an oven thermometer, and rely on it. (If you don’t have one, click on the photo below, and purchase one. It helps to support this blog. The thermometer in the photo is the actual one I use. I like it because of the big 3″ dial. 😉 Take your own notes, and figure out what set point you need on your oven to get the actual temperature you want.
Cover the lasagna with foil. Don’t let the foil touch the lasagna. If you do it will pull some of the cheese off the top when you remove it. If needed you can make spacers out of rolled foil, and put them around the edges of the pan.
The lasagna gets baked for 53 minutes. Bake it covered for 40min.
Then uncover, and bake for 13 minutes more. The lasagna is done baking when it bubbles around the edges, and the cheese on top is melted. Some browning is OK, but don’t over bake it.
Rest the lasagna for ten minutes before serving. This allows the cheese to congeal a bit, so the lasagna stays together when you serve it.