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catdaddy

Lasagna Wars

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I am participating in friendly lasagna wars on Dec 1. Wondering if anyone has and secret ingridients or techniques to offer. Making pasta and sausage are both on the table. Assume high proficiency on my part. I know it's a basic dish but two of my adversaries are Italian-American and make it a couple times a month.

 

Thanks.

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I'd mix italian sausage, both sweet and hot...and put it in uncooked. The grease will flavor the whole dish.

 

Healthy?  Perhaps not, but this is war.

 

I find the barilla "no boil" pasta makes a perfect lasagna and holds together better than the fat sloppy things that you pre boil. The cooking time on the box is always too short...I think 400 F x 30 minutes...Its done right at an hour. There has to be sauce of some sort on every layer to cook the pasta.  Finally it really needs to rest and set-up for 30 minutes or so after baking.

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I pulverize dried ceps and dried shrimps/scallops and add that during the long simmer to the meat sauce. Adds an incredible depth without any notes to either mushroom or seafood.

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Thai/Vietnamese fish sauce. A couple generous splashes gives meat sauce some umami.

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The finest lasagna I have made is Bugialli's lasagna al forno from The Fine Art of Italian Cooking:

 

LasagneAlForno404042017.png

 

 

Porcini, prosciutto, parmigiano add to the umami.

 

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The first lasagna I had that I truly liked was made with fresh pasta, and balsamella (bechamel) instead of the ricotta mixture I'd always had before. So that's how we make it. Very plain tomato sauce, spicy Italian sausage, mushrooms, very thick balsamella, and parmigiano in the layers, with mozzarella only on the top. We don't cook the pasta; since it's fresh, it cooks in the dish. Coincidentally, we're making it this weekend for an Italian cooking class -- the students have fun making it and it's a huge hit.

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If you don't want to make your own pasta, some stores carry the premade fresh lasagne sheets. They measure about 9 X 10 inches and make for nicer layers than the narrower dry ones and I think they taste better. 

 

Are you making a classic Bolognese style sauce? You could roast fresh tomatoes for the sauce. I like to steam-roast them, sometimes I use a sweet tomato, like a Campari. 

 

Marcella Hazan has a few lasagne recipes. 

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I do a 'cajun lasagna' that I'm starting to prefer over Italian versions...

 

Make ricotta/paneer by boiling (stirring constantly) a gallon whole milk and adding some citric acid at the end (a gallon will make enough for two of these recipes unless you make a bigger one).  Drain well (squeeze if needed) so you have a dry cheese (important).  Use about 12oz mixed with two eggs and seasoned liberally with S&P.

 

Chop an onion, a green pepper and a couple of stalks of celery (trinity).  Sweat these with some salt.  Let cool somewhat.

 

Chop up a large andouille sausage into 1/4 inch dice (actually, I just roughly cut it up and pulse it in a food chopper a few times).

 

Grate about 12oz mozzarella/provolone cheese.

 

Grease a rectangular pan and place 4 wonton wrappers on the the bottom.

 

Randomly dollop (roughly tablespoon sized dollops) each of the four mixtures side-by-side all over to make a layer.

 

Add four more wontons and do a second layer.  Then four more and a layer of the mozz/prov.

 

Cover with foil and bake 40min at 350.  Remove foil and go another 10-15 minutes until cheese is golden.  Let cool somewhat before serving.

 

The cheesiness and wontons makes for a lasagna that holds it shape and structural integrity.  Each forkful should hold together and includes the cheeses, spicy sausage and veg.

 

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, Duvel said:

I pulverize dried ceps and dried shrimps/scallops and add that during the long simmer to the meat sauce. Adds an incredible depth without any notes to either mushroom or seafood.

 

If you do this be very clear to people it has shellfish - I wouldn't expect lasagna to have secret shellfish and allergies can be really bad. :(

 

My mom talks about a lasagna she had once where the meat was all in tiny meatballs. Apparently it was quite good.

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Add about four ounces of goat cheese to your ricotta. Amazing difference in the taste/texture, at least to me.

 

H'mm. I have bolognese in the freezer. I think lasagna just went on the menu for one night next week.

 

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Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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Ok, this will sound completely mad but bear with me...

 

substitute some of the cheese or cream sauce with...

 

a tahini sauce made of tahini, lemon juice, and garlic powder.  

 

Seriously, it does some kind of weird alchemy with the tomato sauce and really works.  It's become a standard in all of my lasagnas. 

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Wow. I'm a tahina on everything kind of person, and I've never even considered that one. (But I'm about to!)

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Wow. Great responses. Thanks to everyone. Love the ideas of adding fish sauce/dried shrimp, raw sausage, chevre, and thick bechamel. Keep the ideas coming . I think a dress rehersal early next week will happen.

 

Mmmmm. Prosciutto, cepes, andouille...........

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If you're not wedded to the idea of a traditional lasagna, Cook's Illustrated did a tomatoless spinachy version several years ago. They're heretical enough to use cottage cheese spun in a food processor with an egg rather than ricotta, but somehow it works. They also use no-boil noodles, but soak them in hot tap water for a bit (and then let them rest on kitchen towels) so they're hydrated before going into the oven, and just need to heat. I've started using that technique for most of my lasagnas.

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MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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For me it's the CI lasagne bolonese. No spinach, no ricotta, no mushrooms (alas), no mozzarella--just a good bolognese sauce, no boil noodles, bechamel and parmesan. Classic, a little boring, but always wonderful.

 

Nancy in Pátzcuaro

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Formerly "Nancy in CO"

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16 hours ago, kayb said:

 

H'mm. I have bolognese in the freezer. I think lasagna just went on the menu for one night next week.

 

 

Me too! DH has been requesting lasagna - this will be my weekend project.

 

I really like a spinach-ricotta layer, with a bit of nutmeg grated in. I think it lightens up an otherwise heavy lasagna. So I can eat more of it.

 

And not to hijack this thread - I've never used no-boil noodles. How much more watery does the sauce have to be to cook the no-boil noodles? Any tips to using them or just chuck 'em in?

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1 hour ago, Beebs said:

And not to hijack this thread - I've never used no-boil noodles. How much more watery does the sauce have to be to cook the no-boil noodles? Any tips to using them or just chuck 'em in?

In my experience, if you half-fill the lasagna pan with hot tap water, add the noodles one by one, and let them soak about 5 minutes, you don't need to worry about it. When the 5 minutes are up, take the noodles out and place them on a clean kitchen towel in a single layer. Dump the water out of the pan, towel it dry, and you're good to go.

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MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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7 hours ago, catdaddy said:

Wow. Great responses. Thanks to everyone. Love the ideas of adding fish sauce/dried shrimp, raw sausage, chevre, and thick bechamel. Keep the ideas coming . I think a dress rehersal early next week will happen.

 

Mmmmm. Prosciutto, cepes, andouille...........

 

One thing to keep in mind is that traditional lasagna has plenty of umami-rich ingredients as is -- tomatoes, Parmigiano, cured meat, and mushrooms. I'm always wary of bumping up umami too much (as with fish sauce, dried shrimp, etc.); I've found that it can result in an unpleasant sensation. It's similar to too much salt, but more of a mouth feel than a taste.

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On 9/11/2017 at 1:25 PM, JoNorvelleWalker said:

The finest lasagna I have made is Bugialli's lasagna al forno from The Fine Art of Italian Cooking:

 

LasagneAlForno404042017.png

 

 

Porcini, prosciutto, parmigiano add to the umami.

 

I will second this - I’ve made it many times, it’s my gold standard lasagna. He’s got a variant in there where you alternate layers of plain and spinach pasta, which looks really great if you have time for it. It is a far cry from the traditional Italian-American dish. I don’t know if for your contest that’s a plus or a minus.


Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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6 hours ago, Nancy in Pátzcuaro said:

For me it's the CI lasagne bolonese. No spinach, no ricotta, no mushrooms (alas), no mozzarella--just a good bolognese sauce, no boil noodles, bechamel and parmesan. Classic, a little boring, but always wonderful.

 

Nancy in Pátzcuaro

Is that the one with pepperoni chopped up in the bolonese?

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9 hours ago, MelissaH said:

If you're not wedded to the idea of a traditional lasagna, Cook's Illustrated did a tomatoless spinachy version several years ago. They're heretical enough to use cottage cheese spun in a food processor with an egg rather than ricotta, but somehow it works. They also use no-boil noodles, but soak them in hot tap water for a bit (and then let them rest on kitchen towels) so they're hydrated before going into the oven, and just need to heat. I've started using that technique for most of my lasagnas.

Have you made the tomatoless spinachy version?  If so any pointers?

 

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4 minutes ago, catdaddy said:

Have you made the tomatoless spinachy version?  If so any pointers?

 

This is my favorite lasagna. I usually do the variation with mushrooms, basically following it mostly verbatim (except that I usually build the lasagna in a glass pan, and skip the part about broiling at the end. Despite CI's warning about using only Italian fontina, I've decided that I don't really care for it, so we either use fontinella or mozzarella. Shallots can be scarce in these parts at this time of year, so I'll often sub plain old yellow onion of the kind that is grown in my area. And we don't usually have whole milk on hand; 2% works just fine).

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MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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11 minutes ago, Chris Hennes said:

I will second this - I’ve made it many times, it’s my gold standard lasagna. He’s got a variant in there where you alternate layers of plain and spinach pasta, which looks really great if you have time for it. It is a far cry from the traditional Italian-American dish. I don’t know if for your contest that’s a plus or a minus.

Most likely a plus because others will be making traditional ones. Love the idea of alternating green and yellow pasta layers.

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My mom doesn't use special no boil noodles, she just adds about 1/2 cup water to her sauce so it is a tad bit wet (not soupy) and then bakes covered and only uncovers to brown the cheese right at the end. Works fine.

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On ‎10‎/‎11‎/‎2017 at 8:11 AM, quiet1 said:

 

If you do this be very clear to people it has shellfish - I wouldn't expect lasagna to have secret shellfish and allergies can be really bad. :(

 

Thanks, but that would defy the purpose. I usually serve scallop carpaccio with caramelized nuts and a sprinkling of wheat to catch all the allergics, then weed out the rest with my lasagna ...

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