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Making Lasagna


Marlene
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hi, similar to curlywurlyfi,

i never put ricotta in lasagna.

i use a good meat sauce (must use red wine) to make it

and make a bechamel with gorgonzola and a little p.reggiano

and fresh spinach lasagne pasta (fresh made at home thanks to my pasta machine) - i don't know i can't get dried spinach lasagne pasta in a box in the states (i do buy it from a store down fresh on houston street near macdougal street.

Edited by intraining (log)
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I made a spinach lasagne from Cook's Illustrated. It called for cottage cheese pureed with 1 egg--it tasted better than ricotta and didn't get dried up in the cooking. It's the only lasagne I've ever made and it was great but way too much work.

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I too remember the 70's when ricotta was hard to find. I used dry curd cottage cheese, mixed up with 1 beaten whole egg and 1/2 cup parmesan. After I finally was able to use ricotta, I've never looked back. Spinach pasta, after steaming the spinach, wringing it out using a twisted dish towel, pureed in the food processor, and using the good 'ol Atlas manual pasta machine was fairly easy to do.

Come a long way since Hunt's Skillet Lasagna Dinners, with their little freeze dried cheese packets that you had to mix with warm water, and then put dollops of it on top of the meat and noodle mixture cooking in the electric fry pan. But I did think they were pretty cool with spinach and regular noodles combined in the package. Height of gourmet eating in the early college years!

doc

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I too remember the 70's when ricotta was hard to find.

We must have been blessed, because in the ordinary local supermarket - not even a very good one - on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Polly-O ricotta was easily available for as far back as I can remember (i.e., at least the early 70s if not earlier). I'm guessing you grew up in the Mississippi delta? Or do you just live there now?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Can I get a sense of the room on a bechamel/balsamella issue? I admit that I haven't made lasagna in a long time, and the recipe was probably off the back of a box of Mueller's lasagna (the source, I suspect, of the cottage cheese substitution). As I was reading through this thread, I mentioned it to my assistant, who asked what a balsmella was. I explained that it was more or less the same as a bechamel, which of course meant that I had to explain that, too.

The formula I gave her was what I thought was the standard: 1 part flour, 1 part fat (in this case, butter), 8 parts milk (whole, please). So, 2T/2T/1 cup, right? When I got home, I checked Mario (Simple Italian Cooking, and he has something rather different: almost 1:1 fat to flour (precisely, 5T butter and 4T flour), and 3 cups of milk. This is a ratio of (roughly) 1:1:12. The recipe somehow yields 2 cups of balsamella, which seems impossible given that the sauce simmers for all of 30 seconds.

So, a couple of questions: isn't this going to yield a sauce too thin for lasagna purposes? And how does (again, roughly) 3-1/2 cups of ingredients reduce to 2 cups of sauce? Finally, what ratio is everyone using for lasagna?

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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So, a couple of questions: isn't this going to yield a sauce too thin for lasagna purposes? And how does (again, roughly) 3-1/2 cups of ingredients reduce to 2 cups of sauce? Finally, what ratio is everyone using for lasagna?

can give you my tuppence worth on thinness of sauce - if you're using uncooked pasta, a lot of that moisture is soaked up by the sheets as they cook.

as for the rest, I'm afraid you're on your own! because my answer to (2) is 'beats me', and my answer to (3) is 'so it looks right'. FWIW, I prefer shallower + wider lasagnes - more crackly topping per portion.

Fi Kirkpatrick

tofu fi fie pho fum

"Your avatar shoes look like Marge Simpson's hair." - therese

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Hmmm... interesting question. I never measure when I make mine. I just melt some butter, toss in enough flour to make a thick but not clumpy roux (my sense is that this means a bit less flour than fat by volume), cook the roux for a while, and then slowly start whisking in milk. The trick is to make sure the bechamel comes back up to the simmer after each addition of milk. This way you know that the flour has reached its full thickening power.

For lasagne al forno, I like my balsamella to be quite thick. This is the advantage of doing it by eye rather than by formula -- I simply stop adding milk when I reach the consistency I want. Going from memory (and I made some balsamella for baked ziti just the other night), I'd say that Mario's 5T butter/4T flour sounds like just about right for a good sized lasagne al forno. Again, you don't want to use all that much anyway. Hard to say whether his three cups of milk is too much, as I never measure. However, if you add the milk a cup at a time and make sure you bring the mixture up to the boil after every addition, it's possible that a fair amount of the milk evaporates.

Plenty of fresh grated nutmeg is, of course, crucial.

--

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Hmmm... interesting question.  I never measure when I make mine.  I just melt some butter, toss in enough flour to make a thick but not clumpy roux (my sense is that this means a bit less flour than fat by volume), cook the roux for a while, and then slowly start whisking in milk.  The trick is to make sure the bechamel comes back up to the simmer after each addition of milk.  This way you know that the flour has reached its full thickening power.

Plenty of fresh grated nutmeg is, of course, crucial.

I previously measured out 250 g chunks of clarified butter and Foodsaved 'em in the freezer. Since I have a digital scale, I just add 250 g of bread flour and start my roux. The milk I just add slowly whilst stirring to keep the bechamel thick. When I finally get the right thickness, I'd never use it on lasagna. I use it on Moussaka!!!!

Layer your roasting pan with sliced browned potato slices, make a lamb mixture of cinnamon, allspice, S&P, red wine, onions, and garlic, layer that next. Then griddle the sliced Egg Plants, put them on top of the lamb mixture, and then the Bechamel, to which I'd already added 4 egg yolks, and 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and YES~! Lots of nutmeg.

I hardly make Lasagna anymore, as we've grown so fond of the Moussaka.

doc

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Before I started keeping Kosher, I made a White Lasagne. It is with chicken, bechamel and ricotta. It was always a hit a dinner parties:

White Lasagna

As for the reference to Tuscan Lasagne al Forno! Please excuse me, I am from the backwoods of Alabama and Lugano, Switzerland where Bolognese is just referred to as Ragu and Ragu' respectively. :rolleyes:

Truth be told, my mother makes the best Bolognese sauce I have ever had. We never used bottled sauce.

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Balsamella, or as my Lancashire granny called it: White Sauce. The butter and flour amounts were always equal, and as follows: Thin sauce: 1 T butter, 1T. flour, 1 C. Milk. Medium: 2 T butter, 2 T flour, 1 C milk. Thick sauce: 3:3:1. It's pretty foolproof and can be expanded as necessary. And as Sam said, don't forget the nutmeg.

I never use ricotta or cottage cheese in lasagna. Mine is a rather puritan recipe from , I think, Marcella's first book. Layer the noodles with Ragu B, balsamella, and grated parm. C'est tout. And making this recipe marked the first time I really liked lasagne. (Homemade noodles are primo here.)

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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The lasagne is in the oven as I type. I made the Balsamella as per Dave's instructions except I didn't use all the milk. The sauce would have been too thin. I used probably 2 and 1/3 cups.

I used both mozzarella and grated parmigano because I figure you can never have too much cheese.

I'm baking it at 375 for about 40 minutes at which point I'll take off the tin foil and let the top brown up.

I'll let you know if it's edible.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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The lasagne was more than edible, it was fantastic. The Balsamella sauce made all the difference in the world. Thank you everyone for your help!

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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But, as a kid, my mom would always make lasagna with only mozarella, noodles and meat sauce. It's passable. Just be prepared for a cheese fest. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

As long as you use good, fresh ingredients, you can't go wrong.

I shudder when I think of my sweet, well-meaning mother's "lasagne".

There were no noodles. She cut strips of zuccini, then layered that with tomato sauce and undrained cottage cheese. She might have topped it with some mozz.

Sometimes ground meat was involved in some way. Bless her heart.

Vile, watery, bland nastiness. I didn't know lasagne had noodles until I was married and made it for the first time.

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Hi Marlene

I am glad that it worked out for you.

Please, please, please don't use cottage cheese. 

I would say sneak in come ricotta if you can. You could add some parsley and oregano if you wanted.

But, as a kid, my mom would always make lasagna with only mozarella, noodles and meat sauce. It's passable. Just be prepared for a cheese fest. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

As long as you use good, fresh ingredients, you can't go wrong.

I too have made and seen many dishes with cottage cheese in the recipe; it is very good, it is not a mater that it is traditional, that is not the point, in the seventies many persons in Alberta did not know what the hell ricotta cheese was, but that is assuming that the cottage cheese was a substitute for ricotta, that is being a little presumptuous, from what I can see, I see no direct evidence to that theory, but actually the cottage cheese being one of many ingredients in a or the lasagna recipe(s).

I have used béchamel as well, but for me this is a more recent experience, it is more of a West coast thing, and we used different kinds of cheese such as Edam, jack, and Moza.

Building layers of sauce with the ricotta or cottage cheese mix in, the sauce could be a meat sauce or tomato sauce, or both; I generally use tomato sauce and cheese for the top, less burning, I have used fresh and dry pasta and dry pasta that is put in the recipe dry.

There are more ways to make lasagna then I can count, if it works for you do it.

steve

Cook To Live; Live To Cook
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Marlene, did your tomato sauce have meat in it?

How did the leftovers reheat?  (assuming there were leftovers)

I used my leftover spagetti sauce which did have meat in it. Sadly, there were no leftovers. :smile:

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I think that my mother's recipe for lasagne was the first recipe I ever prepared on my own. I was 17 years old when I got that first big charge. I fondly remember serving it to my Turkish friends from school. They said it was the best lasagne they'd ever had.... (but what do they know?)

It featured:

cottage cheese mixed with egg and pepper (no doubt the American substitution for Ricotta)

meat sauce started with minced bell pepper, onion, and celery sauteed, then meat , tomato and herbs added

Cheddar and "mozzerella" mix

What can I say? It always turned out great. Better the next day, and even better the next. I have been served the lasagne with bechamel. But I've always found it heavy. This was the impression made during my youth. Sorry.

I did make lasagne this last week. It was well received. Since cottage cheese is not available here, I used sheeps ricotta. But I made sure to add pepper and an egg for consistency (the egg lightens things considerably and allows you to appreciate the pasta) and flavor. :smile:

I also used buffalo mozzerella and topped it off with a picorino/parmesean mix provided by my local Italian goods provider.

It actually tasted a lot like the lasagne my mom used to make. It must be the egg. :smile:

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I'm thinking of making this Butternut Squash Lasagna recipe as a Thanksgiving side. Any opinions? I doubt I'll have time to do a test recipe before I make it for the holiday, so I'd appreciate y'all's thoughts.

Rachel - This idea of doing the lasagne for Thanksgiving, is this something you usually do as a family tradition? I ask because today I tasted some pasta and now I'm convinced it is perfect to include in my first course soup. A truffle ravioli, prepared by a caterer at Les Halles. It just seemed like the perfect match for the Poulet de Bresse consomme I'm going to serve, but I was wrestling with myself about this idea of serving pasta (even if it's going to be just four small bites floating in the soup) as a starter at Thanksgiving, because my instinct is to go light light light in the beginning.

About the butternut squash recipe, I find the amaretti cookies really intriguing as an element in that dish. They could harmonize with the rest of the sucre / sale and then again they might make things complicated - Do you plan to test this recipe in advance? -

edited to say I think you should test it.

Edited by bleudauvergne (log)
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I wasn't planning to test the Butternut Squash Lasagna in advance, as it seems a pretty straightforward recipe. Lasagna is something typically on the Italian-American Thanksgiving table. I'm not Italian, but my sister-in-law is, so there will usually be something like lasagna or manacotti when she hosts Thanksgiving. This year, we will not be at her house and instead I am co-hosting with a friend, at their house. I like Butternut Squash, and usually include something made with it at Thanksgiving -- I've served Butternut Squash soup in the past. Actually, I thought of making it this year as a run through for next year (which will probably be at my brother's house).

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Actually, I thought of making it this year as a run through for next year (which will probably be at my brother's house).

It seems like a really nice recipe, why not try it? If it works, you can only benefit. I think I might try it out anyway, on just a normal day... I'm not sure I would use so many cookies, those things pack a flavorful punch... I'm assuming that the cookies are crumbled into the sauce. Yes?

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Come now, not ALL Midwesterners think Cool Whip is whipped cream. Judgments and generalizations tend to set one's teeth on edge if one is among the targeted group. I haven't lived in the Midwest for almost 40 years, but I still consider myself a Midwesterner at heart.

As for Cool Whip, however, the nasty stuff is making greater inroads everywhere. Here in PA, I overheard two hair stylists talking excitedly about Cool Whip coming out with new flavors. Perhaps chocolate would be better than the regular flavor which is kin to sweet shaving cream.

Even my sister, who is otherwise a very good cook, served Cool Whip with her pies at Thanksgiving last year. (This could go under the "I was floored" topic.) I had to forgo my slice of pumpkin pie, which would not have been the same either with or without, but luckily there were other choices.

Sorry, back to topic now.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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