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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Lasagne / Lasagna



Obviously from my posts, I like a variety of different types of food - Mexican, Asian, American, and of course Italian. My grandmother was 100% Sicilian, and I have always identified strongly with my Italian heritage. Surprisingly, she didn't cook much Italian food, but her influence on our family has inspired many recipes. My aunt originally developed this lasagna years and years ago, and my mom then took it on - whether she tweaked anything, I'm not quite sure, but I do know that I put a major wrench in it by substituting ground turkey for the beef! To be honest, most of the people who have tried this recipe don't even realize it's turkey. The only thing that tips them off is this: I'm eating it!

My aunt and mom also make a homemade sauce with it, which I've made and really enjoy, but for me, as I've mentioned before, Prego Traditional is so good that it's not worth my time to make the homemade sauce. My new favorite sauce is Trader Joe's Tomato Basil Marinara.  I only go to Trader Joe's about 4 times a year so I make sure to stock up on this sauce. I buy so much that the checker once asked me if I was buying it for an Italian restaurant.  He actually had a customer who did this before! 

The ricotta-type layer actually uses cottage cheese. I always thought this was a little strange, but it's delicious so I ever complained. Then I saw Cook's Illustrated substitute cottage cheese for ricotta in some recipes! Guess it's not that strange!

One thing this lasagna does contain is a classic St. Louis ingredient - Provel cheese.  If you do not live in the area, you probably won't be able to find this cheese (and may not even like it if you didn't grow up with it), so you may substitute mozzarella or Provolone.  


Lasagne / Lasagna

For the sauce:
1 - 2 pounds ground meat (I use lean - not extra lean - ground turkey. 2 pounds if you like it a bit heartier)
homemade or store bought marinara sauce - I like a lot of sauce so I use about 40 ounces, but you may use less if desired

For the lasagna:
12 lasagna noodles
24 ounces small curd cottage cheese
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
chopped parsley (fresh or dried)
Parmesan cheese
2 - 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 cups shredded Provel cheese (if available - if not, you may substitute mozzarella or Provolone)

1. Brown the meat in a skillet. If using ground turkey, you may want to add a teaspoon or two of olive oil.


2. Drain the meat if necessary.  Sometimes with ground turkey there isn't much liquid left to drain, and the small amount that is there may lend flavor to the sauce.

3. Add the homemade or prepared sauce of your choice to the meat and simmer for at least 30 minutes, ideally an hour or more. I find that ground turkey starts to break down if cooked too long, so I wouldn't do an all-day simmer.

4. Cook the lasagna noodles as directed on the package to al dente (use the lower time or even a minute less). When the noodles are done, I like to lay them in a single layer on pieces of waxed paper to cool until I'm ready to assemble the lasagna.

5. Place the cottage cheese, eggs, salt, pepper and parsley (to taste) in a food processor and blend until smooth.

6. To assemble the lasagna: spread about 1 cup of sauce over the bottom of a 9x13" pan then beginning layering: 3 noodles, sauce to cover, 1/3 of the cottage cheese mixture, 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Provel cheese, and a little Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers. If your pan is not deep enough for 4 layers, 3 will suffice. For the final layer, I top with lasagna noodles, sauce, and then an extra 1/c cup mozzarella and some Parmesan.

7. If the pan is full, place it on a baking sheet lined with foil because it may spill over the sides. Bake uncovered at 350F for 45 minutes. (To make ahead, assemble but do not bake, then refrigerate or freeze. If you make ahead and refrigerate, then bake for 1 hour. If make ahead and freeze, it may take up to 90 minutes or more).

8. Remove dish from oven and let rest at least 15 minutes before cutting.
Source: My Aunt Sue and my Mom :)  

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