Tag Archives: lasagna

Never Fail Lasagna

17 Apr

A friend recently asked me for advice on making lasagna. I told her as long as you use good ingredients, lasagna is easy.
For a basic lasagna, I suggest layering the ricotta cheese mixture with sliced portabella mushrooms and marinara sauce. Spinach is a nice addition and allows you to skip the salad.
My ricotta mixture is 2lbs. ricotta, one egg, and approximately 8 oz. of grated mozzarella. Stir together with plenty of fresh ground black pepper and freshly chopped parsley. Dried oregano can substitute for parsley. Never use dried parsley. It tastes like green paper.
I almost never put meat in lasagna, probably because my Mom never did. When I do use meat, I prefer sausage to boring ground beef. Other ways to vary the dish include special cheeses, olives, veggies, herbs, pestos, and sauces. Squash, sage, and bechamel (white) sauce is a popular variation. I did something similar with my Fall Pumpkin Lasagna. I want to try gorgonzola, roasted red peppers, olives, and greens layered with traditional ricotta.
A final note for the lazy: I love the no-bake noodles. Just be sure to have plenty of liquid in the dish.

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Fall Pumpkin Lasagna

3 Nov

The farmer’s market is full of fabulous  fall vegetables and fruit: pumpkins, kale, turnips, pears, and butternut squash. This being Georgia, we also have the last remaining tomatoes and peppers as well. To celebrate the fall, I decided to make fall pumpkin lasagna for some friends. I had a  sage and butternut squash lasagna once and it was wonderful. This receipe is loosely based on that.

pumpkins ready for chopping and roasting

My first step was to roast the pumpkins. Well, actually, my first step was to forget the ricotta cheese at the store, which changed my plan slightly. Back to pumpkin roasting- because pumpkins are very hard to cut,  this time I tried microwaving the whole pumpkins for 5-6 minutes. Be very careful in this step. Microwaving the pumpkins for more than 5 minutes might result in exploding and/or cracking pumpkins. The pumpkins will be very hot and the stem will fall off easily.

This quick zap softened the pumpkins enough that I didn’t cut my hand off in the process of cutting them half. Scoop out the seeds for roasting later.  I rubbed a little bit of olive oil on the inside and roasted them in a 400-450 degree oven until soft (30-40 minutes?). Meanwhile, chop onions and carmelize them in a saute pan. 

Roasted pumpkin cooling on the window sill at dusk.

As the pumpkins finish roasting, begin making a basic white sauce. Melt approximately 4 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan (I set aside the carmelized onions and reused the pan. This means more flavor and less dishes to wash.) Once the butter is melted, slowly sprinkle in approximately 4 tablespoons of white flour, stirring as you go.

cooking butter and flour to make a white sauce

Cook the combination flour/butter for a few minutes, then slowly whisk in milk. I used skim milk, because that is what I had on hand. Use whatever you have in the frig. Once combined, add whatever cheese you would like. I used soft goat cheese, parmesan, and mozzarella. Remember, the cheese will thicken the sauce so if it gets too thick, whisk in more milk. Add any herbs you would like. I used oregano. Sage would be perfect with this receipe.

goat cheese melting in the white sauce

While making the white sauce, slice the kale (or other quick-cooking leafy green) into ribbons and steam the greens. Once the pumpkins are roasted and cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Add the carmelized onions, salt, pepper, and chopped basil (or other favorite herb). In  a 9×13 inch pan, layer the pumpkin mixture, the cooked kale, and sliced portabella mushrooms, putting no-bake lasagna noodles on the bottom, top, and in between each layer of vegetables. Also put a thin layer of the white sauce on top of each vegetable layer. Make sure each of the noodles is fully covered, or they won’t bake. It wouldn’t hurt to put a trickle of water in the bottom of the pan, to prevent drying. Cover the lasagna in aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

The finished lasagna

a close-up of the layers of fall lasagna

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