Feasting on Lasagna…

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on July 26, 2010

When I think of the ultimate comfort food, homemade lasagna is definitely one of my top ten picks. Most people think that it is difficult to make, but it is actually so easy that I want to cry when I hear that people are buying that horrible frozen stuff. Nowadays, with gourmet grocery stores at every corner, you can find freshly made pasta, so there’s no need to pull out the pasta machine. But, if the fresh pasta is not available, the no boil pasta sheets are a great alternative. 

Every time I opened my pasta cupboard, there stood a lonely box of Barilla no boil lasagna sheets staring right back at me…almost asking (ok, maybe not asking) for me to turn it into a lovely lasagna dinner.

With all of the other wonderful dishes we have been whipping up lately, I realized it had been a while since we had lasagna…so why not…it doesn’t need a lot of oven time to cook, it just needs to heat through, so it is a great, quick summer meal. The sauce needs to be on the dry side, so it holds the lasagna together making it easier to cut, so I am recommending you use the same sauce that I make for the moussaka recipe. For your convenience, I reposted it below. 

I did do one thing differently, though, and that was how I made my béchamel cream. This time I used a finely ground semolina instead of regular flour, and the results were absolutely remarkable. There is a huge difference in the texture of the cream, and I must say, I enjoyed it much more than when I used the flour.  If you are going to use semolina, make sure to get the finely milled one…because they do come in other textures which are used for other things.    

***An original recipe from www.goodfoodgourmet.com 

Homemade Lasagna (serves 8-10 people)

1 box no cook lasagna sheets (about 16 pieces)

8oz ricotta cheese

16oz shredded whole milk mozzarella

2 Tablespoons fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 egg

S&P

Meat Sauce

2Tablespoons olive oil

1# ground beef (we use bison)

1 medium yellow onions, finely diced

3 large garlic cloves, crushed

1-6oz can of tomato paste

½ cup water or beef broth

1 Tablespoons dried oregano

1 large bay leaf

S&P to taste (start with ¼ teaspoons of each, and add more as needed)

Fluffy Bechamel Sauce

2T butter

2T fine semolina

2 cups whole milk, warm

1 large egg

1 cup grated cheese (you can use kefalotiri, parmesan, romano, asiago or graviera)

Salt and white pepper to taste

Pinch nutmeg  

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Open the box of lasagna sheets, lay them out in a large dish and cover them with hot water.

In a small bowl add the ricotta, 4 oz of shredded mozzarella, parsley, chives, egg and S&P and mix well…then refrigerate until needed.

To make the meat sauce, heat the olive oil in a small pot then add the chopped onions and garlic and sauté until caramelized. Next add the ground beef (or bison) and cook well for about 10 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and cook for an additional 5 minutes to bring out the tomato flavor. Next add the water (or broth) and all of the spices. Add a little salt and pepper and let the liquid cook out on a slow simmer. Lastly, check for S&P again and adjust at this time before removing from the heat.

Now you can assemble your lasagna…Spray a large oven proof ceramic or stainless steel roasting pan with pan release (or coat well with olive oil). Add a very thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom and then add a single layer of lasagna noodles, which should have softened by now. On top of the pasta add a layer of the ricotta filling, top this with a layer of meat sauce, and top that with 4 oz of the shredded mozzarella cheese. Add another layer of pasta sheets, then ricotta, then meat sauce, then cheese and cover with another layer of pasta. You should have 2 layers of ricotta/meat/cheese filling and 3 layers of pasta. The topmost layer will be covered with béchamel cream and more cheese. 

Lastly, when the lasagna has been put together, start on your béchamel sauce, because that will come together quickly. In a medium sized bowl, crack the egg and set aside. Heat the milk in the microwave and set aside. Add the butter to a medium sized pot and melt, then add the semolina and stir for a few minutes. Add half of the warm milk to the egg and whip as you are adding the milk. Add the rest of the milk to the semolina and begin to whisk until it starts to thicken. Slowly add the mixture of milk and egg to the semolina mixture and whip until thick. Lastly add the cheese, nutmeg and taste for S&P. Once thick, pour on top of the lasagna and top with the last 4 oz of mozzarella cheese. Bake for approximately 20-30 minutes until the cheese melts and the lasagna is heated through.  Serve warm…

NOTE: If you would prefer to use the béchamel sauce between the layers instead of making the ricotta filling, that is perfectly acceptable and absolutely delicious. You would need to triple the recipe in order to do this, so keep that in mind. For a vegetarian alternative, omit the meat sauce and add grilled vegetables with either the ricotta or bechamel filling. 

www.goodfoodgourmet.com

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