Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Chris Amirault

Lasagna -- eG Cook-Off 52

Recommended Posts

We were wondering what a good next cook-off would be when Restaurants and Institutions posted this list of the Top 10 Most Googled Recipes of 2009. We compared it to our eG Cook-Off Index and realized that we'd hit most of those main dishes save one. So:

Welcome to the latest eG Cook-Off 52, lasagna! We've had a few discussions on the dish (click here and here) but long ago. Given the poke from Restaurants and Institutions, it seemed an update was in order.

I've often made both the bolognese & bechamel version as well as the Italian-American red sauce & ricotta, mozzarella, and parmiggiano version, and I love 'em both. I'm also a convert to using as many fresh ingredients as possible, most especially the pasta itself. With kids in the house, it's a fun dish to assemble, and they wolf it down.

So is anyone up for some lasagna al forno?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

you betcha. I've a fantastic old recipe that I fixed for christmas dinner. I may tweak it a bit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love making homemade lasagna: when I'm feeling REALLY ambitious I even go full-Bugiali on it and do alternating layers of spinach and plain egg pasta, which looks fantastic. But the last couple times I've used those no-boil noodles Barilla sells, and they sure do cut down on the effort involved. Anyone else use these? Or have a preference for the thicker, "normal" dried lasagna?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only prize I've won in my adult life (at least since I won a book collecting prize in College) was in the traditional category at an annual Lasagne contest. To my wife's despair the trophy remains on display. So bring it on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Anyone else use these? Or have a preference for the thicker, "normal" dried lasagna?

I have a preference for the thicker pasta and a very high pasta to other stuff ratio. I like my lasagna to be pasta with some stuff, not casserole with a few layers of pasta in it. That said, I have used the "no boil" before and didn't hate it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've read varying opinions on some of the pasta discussions here at eG as to whether fresh pasta sheets need to be cooked before using in lasagne...

I must admit that the idea of boiling each sheet of pasta I roll out before trying to assemble the dish, and avoiding them sticking together, sounds quite frustrating and has dissuaded me from trying it so far.

Are there any tips for how to manage the par-cooking and bench-space issues for this? Or perhaps I will go for the no-cook method, which apparently leaves a bit of tooth in the pasta.

I think I would like to try this style of whisper-thin pasta sheets from the recipe on 101 Cookbooks blog.


Edited by stuartlikesstrudel (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Are there any tips for how to manage the par-cooking and bench-space issues for this? Or perhaps I will go for the no-cook method, which apparently leaves a bit of tooth in the pasta.

What I've done is get a pot of salted water boiling, drop three sheets of the fresh pasta in, and then lay them onto a clean kitchen towel to dry off briefly before laying them into the pan. Sauce, cheese, repeat. I have a rolling cart that provides counter space that I can move to the stove, which makes it easier (no dripping sheets to carry around).

Having said that, I've never tried the no-cook method, so I can't comment on whether it's worth the trouble.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll go you one better than the no boil noodles. Something I picked up from Kim Shook, and it works a dream. Try using egg roll wrappers instead of noodles. Seriously.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have a preference for the thicker pasta and a very high pasta to other stuff ratio. I like my lasagna to be pasta with some stuff, not casserole with a few layers of pasta in it. That said, I have used the "no boil" before and didn't hate it.

Interesting. I wouldn't say that I am the "opposite", but I generally make the recipe out of Bugiali's "The Fine Art of Italian Cooking." I think it is probably 50% pasta by weight, and has many layers of thin homemade pasta, rather than a few layers of the thick dried kind. I find the Barilla no-boil to be an OK substitute for the fresh in this recipe in a pinch (e.g. when you don't have time to go whole hog). I've never though of using egg-roll wrappers, but I guess it makes sense, thanks for the idea, Marlene, I may have to give that a shot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll go you one better than the no boil noodles. Something I picked up from Kim Shook, and it works a dream. Try using egg roll wrappers instead of noodles. Seriously.

So, you use the egg roll wrappers uncooked, or do you cook them first?

I have to admit that I've never made lasagna, so my questions may seem naive. Is cooking and draining the pasta hard to time, or is there some other issue with it? It seems to me that of all the steps in making lasagna, the pasta would be the easiest. Am I missing something?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One challenge with lasagna is keeping the pasta al dente: you pre-boil it, assemble the dish then bake it. If you make a big, deep dish of the stuff it might take half an hour or more to heat through. Meanwhile the pasta is getting softer and softer.

Marcella Hazan decries the use of dried pasta at all for lasagna (though she accepts the dried in general), and instructs that you dunk it in cold water after boiling and bake for no more than... was it 15 minutes ?

Recipes seem to differ on whether to mix the bechamel and ragu, or to layer them. For example: Marcella - combine, layer with grated parmesan; in "The Delights of Good Italian Cooking", published in English in Italy by Bonechi, editor Paolo Piazzesi chooses a recipe that layers ragu, bechamel and parmesan.

The latter source also suggests variations: a lighter version (tomato sauce, diced mozzarella, a basil leaf); Campania (rounds of sausage, crumbled ricotta, sliced hard-boiled egg); Liguria (pesto, bechamel).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My lasagna is of the variety of my Brooklyn grandmother -- loaded with lots of meat. The last time I made it was this past Christmas. It included homemade meatballs and sausage, both of which were browned, then cooked in a stockpot of tomato sauce for hours, sliced, then layered into the lasagna along with homemade noodles, tomato sauce, and a ricotta mixture loaded with shredded, fresh mozzarella, parmigiano reggiano, egg, parsley, etc. Takes forever to make, as evidenced by the fact that Christmas dinner was served at 11:50 p.m. that night. :unsure:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have only had the "Italian/American" style of lasagna except for one time. I thought the bechamel thing was some invention of the Irish chef that had made it :rolleyes:

My husband is a trip when he makes lasagna...he uses the recipe off the Ronzoni box... He covers all the counters with tinfoil so he can lay the cooked noodles out so they dont stick together. It comes out good enough that my grandmother approved it, but I just can't watch.

I usually par-cook enough pasta per layer and pull them out with tongs and a spyder, then drop the next layer's worth into the pot.

Definately the 3 cheese kind over here, I mix the Ricotta with a few eggs and season with garlic powder, parsley,and Romano cheese. Start with sauce on the bottom then layer noodles, Ricotta, Mozzarella, and sauce till done...lots of cheese on top and bake.

If baking right away no foil on top...if making ahead of time cover with foil till bubbly then remove to brown a little

You can add thin slices of veg to the layers or if you wanted to hide veggies you can julienn them into the sauce

Baked ziti is the same same except mix it all in your biggest bowl and dump into sauced baking dish...top with extra cheese

tracey


Edited by rooftop1000 (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My lasagna is of the variety of my Brooklyn grandmother...

It sounds like the Italians see you as Neapolitan.

Right on. Well, one quarter Neapolitan and one one quarter Sicilian.

Edited to add that my other Brooklyn grandmother, the one actually born in Naples and who rarely made lasagna, always prepared her giant pot of pasta sauce with the addition of braciole and meaty bones.


Edited by abooja (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The lasagna recipe I've gotten the most raves for is a take on something from Cook's Illustrated: it's a no-tomato, bechamel and spinach lasagna. I usually do a variation with added mushrooms. I'm not thrilled with the flavor of the cottage cheese they use, so I generally go for ricotta instead.

For the pasta, I use no-bake noodles---but I give them a bath in hot tap water for about five minutes, then pull them out onto kitchen towels to drip-dry. The texture seems to be less leathery that way, and you don't need to walk that fine line between too-much-liquid-soggy-lasagna and not-enough-liquid-yucky-noodles. That, to me, was a big revelation.

MelissaH

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

JAZ, in addition to just timing, wrangling the (very hot!) lasagna noodles is a real pain in the butt in practice. What seems so simple...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Count me in as someone who believes absolutely in blanching fresh pasta for lasagne al forno. I think it makes a big difference.

I also don't think it's much of a pain to do. The way I do it is to have a big pot of simmering salted water on the stove, and a big bowl of cold water right next to it. As I finish rolling out each sheet of pasta, I chuck it in the simmering water, stir it around a bit so it doesn't stick to itself, wait until it starts to firm up, then take it out with tongs and plop it into the bowl of cold water. After that, you can just take out the sheet of pasta and flatten it out on some tea towels to dry out a bit. It doesn't matter all that much if the pasta sheets tear a bit, since it's going to be layered anyway. I layer the dish with the lasagne as they come out of the water. So it's: make one gigantic broad noodle; blanch; chill; blot; cut; layer; top with ragu, etc.; make another gigantic noodle; etc.

Personally, I don't care for the dried, semolina pasta sheets of lasagne for lasagne al forno. Almost invariably one of two things goes wrong: either the noodles aren't tender enough, and it's difficult to cut with a fork without the filling oozing out all over the place; or if the noodles are tender enough to cut with a fork, they're water-logged and insipid. The lasagne in lasagne al forno aren't supposed to be al dente. One should be able to cut all the way down through all the layers with the side of a fork without squirting the fillings all over the plate.

One note of pedantry: One noodle is a lasagna (much like one noodle is a spaghetto). More than one noodle is lasagne (note the "e" ending). The dish, "wide noodles baked in the oven" is lasagne al forno. A dish described as "lasagna" or "lasagna al forno" would consist of a single noodle. The al forno part is almost always used with reference to the baked dish, because there are plenty of non-baked lasagne dishes that use these broad noodles much like any other noodle (I like fresh lasagne with butter and asparagus, and it's also good tossed with ragu).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, if I'm going to make pasta for lasagne al forno (with ragu and bechamel), should I make a pasta with egg or without? And how thick or thin should the noodles be rolled?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So, if I'm going to make pasta for lasagne al forno (with ragu and bechamel), should I make a pasta with egg or without? And how thick or thin should the noodles be rolled?

Yes, with egg and AP flour.

The thickness depends somewhat on the effect you would like to achieve. If I were going to make lasagne al forno with spinach, asparagus and a light bechamel, I'd probably like to have many layers of very thin pasta. For ragu, parmigiano and a more robust bechamel, I'd go thicker. This is similar to the differences in thickness I'd have were I going to make tagliatelle with those two different treatments. And actually, making the lasagne right around the same thickness you would use for tagliatelle with the same ingredients is a pretty good rule of thumb. Overall, IMO, you always want the pasta to be thinner than the pre-made sheets of "fresh" lasagne you can get in grocery stores.

It goes a little something like this...

gallery_8505_416_20202.jpg


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For the pasta, I use no-bake noodles---but I give them a bath in hot tap water for about five minutes, then pull them out onto kitchen towels to drip-dry. The texture seems to be less leathery that way, and you don't need to walk that fine line between too-much-liquid-soggy-lasagna and not-enough-liquid-yucky-noodles. That, to me, was a big revelation.

MelissaH

My MIL bathes them right in the sugo, albeit, not for 5 minutes. But it works. When she is using No bake noodles, she usually makes the sugo a little looser.

I prefer fresh pasta though. And I prefer them thin, even when making classic lasagne because I like many layers. And I don't want it to be heavy in the sense that I would rather eat a big piece of thin sheeted lasagne than a small piece of thick! heehee


Edited by ambra (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll go you one better than the no boil noodles. Something I picked up from Kim Shook, and it works a dream. Try using egg roll wrappers instead of noodles. Seriously.

So, you use the egg roll wrappers uncooked, or do you cook them first?

I have to admit that I've never made lasagna, so my questions may seem naive. Is cooking and draining the pasta hard to time, or is there some other issue with it? It seems to me that of all the steps in making lasagna, the pasta would be the easiest. Am I missing something?

I've only done it once, and I used them uncooked. Otherwise I buy fresh pasta sheets, which I do not boil first. I made my own pasta once for lasagna and decided it wasn't worth the effort. The taste of the pasta gets lost with the sauce and cheese, so I just buy it now. But then, I don't really like making pasta anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My 12-year-old daughter, Lulu, got me a $50 gift certificate to Whole Foods for Xmas with a note saying that she'd spend the day shopping and cooking with me -- a great present. She chose lasagna, so we recently did the deed using fresh pasta, a three-meat sauce, parmigiano reggiano, and fresh ricotta.

Mincing onions for the sauce:

4385892751_11fa1d3129.jpg

Sautéing the homemade pancetta and onion:

4385892933_9866454552.jpg

Grinding the pork, beef, and veal:

4386656424_3304e388f0.jpg

Tomatoes, meat, herbs, spices, pepper, bottle of chianti...:

4385893317_1a6f11965d.jpg

Ricotta draining:

4385893491_b679246722.jpg

Getting ready for the pasta dough:

4385893717_712feaab58.jpg

Sister Bebe: "But where's the bowl?!?"

4385894181_e43827a64c.jpg

Rolling, rolling, rolling, keep that dough a-rolling:

4385894351_c3e5774193.jpg

I didn't get a shot of the final dish, so here's a shot of the leftovers:

4385866353_8e8bde7cf5.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, this is probably going to get me kicked out of the Society, but here goes: May I call it lasagne if I use thinly sliced zucchini or eggplant? I press as much liquid out of the slices as possible, and grill them lightly before assembling the dish. (I use a bolognese sauce and spinach and ricotta.) Nah, I guess if the noodles are the lasagne, as slkinsey says, then my dish would have to be called Faux Lasagne (or maybe "Zuchini Sottilmente Affettato al forno").

It's not the same as with noodles, of course, but I'm trying to stay away from starchy foods right now. It's pretty good!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Similar Content

    • By David Ross
      Welcome back to our popular eGullet Cook-Off Series. Our last Cook-Off, Hash, took us into a heated discussion of the meat of the matter--should it be chopped, hashed, sliced, diced, or chunked.
      Click here, for our Hash discussion, and the answers to all of your questions about this beloved diner staple. The complete eG Cook-Off Index can be found here. Today we’re launching eGullet Cook-Off 59: Cured, Brined, Smoked and Salted Fish.
      Drying fish is a method of preservation that dates back to Ancient times, but more recently, (let’s say a mere 500 years ago or so), salt mining became a major industry in Europe and salt was a fast and economical way of preserving fish. Curing agents like nitrates were introduced in the 19th century, furthering the safety and taste of preserved fish.
      Where I live in the Pacific Northwest, Native Americans have been preserving fish and seafood for millennia. While we are best known for our ruby-red, oily-rich, smoked salmon, other species of fish found in the Pacific and in our streams are delicious when cured and smoked including Halibut, Sablefish and Idaho Rainbow Trout. And don’t think that you can’t smoke shellfish, alder-smoked Dungeness Crab is a wondrous Pacific Northwest delicacy that evokes memories of crab roasting over a driftwood fire on the beach.
      Another method of preserving fish is to bath the beauties in a brine—a combination of water, sugar, salt and spices that adds flavor and moisture to fish before it is dried or smoked. And speaking of smoked fish, you can do it in a small pan on top of the stove, in a cast iron drum, a barbecue pit, an old woodshed or a fancy digital smoker. The methods and flavors produced by smoking fish are endless.
      Old-fashioned ways of preserving fish, (while adequate at the time), aren't always the best method today. Today's technology provides us with the tools to create cured fish that is moist, succulent, tender and with a hint of smoke. The Modernist movement has certainly played a role in bringing this age-old craft into the 21st century, so for the avant-garde in the crowd, show us your creative wizardry for preserving fish the "modern" way.
      Cured, Brined, Smoked or Salted, the art of preserving fish opens us up to limitless possibilities that transcend the boundaries of cuisine and culture. So let’s sew-up the holes in our fishnets, scrub the barnacles off the rowboat and set out to sea in search of some delectable fish to cure, brine, smoke and salt.
    • By David Ross
      Welcome back to a time-honored, cherished eG tradition, the eG Cook-Off Series. Today were venturing into a new world for Cook-Off's. Member Kerry Beal came forward with a Cook-Off idea we just couldn't pass up--Pork Belly--and inspired a new idea for future Cook-Off's. Knowing we're a community of great culinary minds, we'll be inviting the Members to send us ideas for potential future Cook-Off's, (more information to come later). Take it away Kerry and let's raid the larder and start cookin.
    • By David Ross
      Fall is but a whisper of the recent past--at least it is where I live in the upper reaches of Eastern, Washington. We had our first fluff of snow a week ago and a reasonable November storm is predicted for this weekend with temperatures holding at a chilly 18 degrees at night.
      Along with the rumblings of cold winter weather and Holiday feasts, we turn our culinary musings to time-treasured, comfortable dishes. And so I invite you to join me in another kitchen adventure--the inimitable eG Cook-Off Series. In 2013, we've tackled the tricky cooking of Squid, Calamari and Octopus and we made delicious dishes out of the humble Summer Squash.
      (Click here http://forums.egulle...cook-off-index/ for the complete eG Cook-Off Index).
      But today we're shunning all manner of counting calories, salt or fat content--for what is rich in flavor is good for the soul my dear friends. Please join me in crafting, nuturing and savoring a dish of Confit.
    • By David Ross
      Hello friends and welcome back to a time-honored tradition--the popular eG Cook-Off Series. We're in the heat of summer right now and our gardens are literally blooming with all manner of peak of the season ripe fruits and succulent vegetables. And there's no better time of year to honor a vegetable that is often maligned as not being as colorful or trendy as the chi-chi breakfast radish or the multi-hued rainbow chard.

      In addition to not always being recognized for it's looks, every August and September it becomes the butt of jokes at State Fair competitions across the country. If you can get past the embarassment of seeing the poor devils dressed up and carved into silly, cartoon-like farm figures or pumped-up with organic steroids, you'll find a delicious, low-calorie vegetable packed with potassium and vitamin A. Yes friends, your dreams have come true for today we kick-off eG Cook-Off #62, "Summer Squash."
      (Click here http://forums.egulle...cook-off-index/ for the complete eG Cook-Off Index).

      According to the University of Illinois Extension Office, summer squash, (also known in some circles as Italian marrow), are tender, warm-season vegetables that can be grown anytime during the warm, frost-free season. Summer squash differs from fall and winter squash, (like pumpkins, acorn and butternut squash), because it is harvested before the outer rind hardens. Some of the most popular summer squash are the Green and Yellow Zucchini, Scallop, Patty Pan, Globe, Butter Blossom and Yellow Crookneck.

      My personal favorite summer squash is the versatile zucchini. Slow-cooked with sliced onion and ham hock, zucchini is perfectly comfortable nestled on a plate next to juicy, fried pork chops and creamy macaroni and cheese. But the chi-chi haute crowd isn't forgotten when it comes to zucchini, or, as the sniffy French call it, the "courgette." Tiny, spring courgette blossoms stuffed with herbs and ricotta cheese then dipped in tempura batter and gently fried are a delicacy found on Michelin-Star menus across the globe.

      Won't you please join me in crafting some delicious masterpieces that showcase the culinary possibilities of delicious summer squash.
    • By David Ross
      Welcome back to our reknowned eGullet Cook-Off Series. Our last Cook-Off, Bolognese Sauce, led to a spirited discussion over the intricacies of the beloved Italian meat sauce. Click here for the complete eG Cook-Off Index. Today we’re launching eGullet Cook-Off 58: Hash, the classic American diner dish.
      Yet what appears as a humble, one-name dish is anything but ordinary. The difficulty in defining “Hash” is exactly why we’ve chosen it for a Cook-Off—simple definitions don’t apply when one considers that Hash is a dish that transcends regional and international boundaries. The ingredients one chooses to put into their version of Hash are limitless--we aren’t just talking cold meat and leftover potatoes folks.
      I for one, always thought Hash came out of a can from our friends at Hormel Foods, (as in "Mary Kitchen" Corned Beef Hash). It looks like Alpo when you scoop it out of the can, but it sure fries up nice and crispy. After a few weeks of research in the kitchen, I’ve experienced a new appreciation for Hash.
      So start putting together the fixins for your Hash and let’s start cooking. Hash, it’s what’s for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×