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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

THE BEST LASAGNA WE'VE EVER EATEN

Lasagna resting before dinner
My family doesn't over-the-top-rave about a lot of my recipes...but when we sat down to dinner Saturday night, our Valentine's Day family dinner, there were raves!  Yay!!!

I made regular off-the-back-of-the-pasta-box lasagna...but, as in so many things...the special ingredients make something ordinary...very extraordinary!  I used my homemade ricotta cheese to make this fabulous pan of lasagna.  My husband looked up after his first bite and said " this is GOOD"...ate another few bites and said "I think this is the best lasagna I've EVER eaten"... my heart nearly stuttered!  Then, the teen, said (without prompting for a score) "Mom, this is a 9.5!"  Well, that just warms me to my toes!  The teen and I gave each other high fives over the lasagna and focaccia (which he made).  It was indeed, an awesome dinner.

I'll give you the recipe (despite it being from a box) because I made some tweaks...as I always do.  What a great dish this was.  Half the big pan was consumed by the 3 of us.  We could barely waddle away from the table!

Our lovely early Valentine's Day dinner

MY BEST LASAGNA

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground sirloin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pinch of kosher salt
1 24 oz. jar Bertolli 5-cheese spaghetti sauce
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce - I used unsalted
1 recipe homemade ricotta cheese (which was about 17 oz.)
1 egg slightly beaten
2 tablespoons fresh basil - chiffonade 1/2 and chop 1/2
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 package Skinner Oven Ready Lasagna (12 pieces), uncooked!
4 cups (16 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prep all of your ingredients - mis en place.
In large skillet, add ground beef, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder; crumble and cook meat until browned.  Because I used ground sirloin, there was no fat to drain.  If you used something that leaves fat, remove from heat and drain the fat.
Stir in jar of spaghetti sauce and can of tomato sauce.  Add 1 tablespoon of chiffonade of basil, stir, and set aside.
In small bowl, stir together ricotta cheese, egg, 1 tablespoon of chopped basil and oregano.  Stir industriously until smooth.  If you use a lower fat ricotta, not using the homemade recipe, you may need to add a bit of milk or cream to thin it to a thick saucy consistency.  My homemade ricotta is made with heavy cream and whole milk...I truly believe that is why this lasagna was so good.

Ricotta Cheese with egg, fresh basil, and dried oregano

Assembly:

In bottom of 9x13x2 pan (I used a Pyrex baking dish), spread 3/4 cup meat sauce.
Place 3 pieces uncooked pasta crosswise over the sauce.  Pieces should not overlap or touch side of pan since they will expand when baked.
Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture evenly over the pasta.  I found it easiest to dollop a portion on each piece of pasta, then, holding the pasta gently by the corner, use a spatula to spread it evenly across the pasta.
Sprinkle the ricotta with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
Spread 3/4 cup meat sauce evenly over the cheese - covering the cheeses completely.
Lay down 3 more pieces of dry pasta, keeping them centered and away from the edges/overlapping.
Spread second 1/3 of the ricotta mixture evenly over the pasta.
Sprinkle the ricotta with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
Spread 3/4 cup meat sauce evenly over the cheeses.
Lay down 3 more pieces of dry pasta, keeping them centered and away from the edges/overlapping - they are getting wiggly by now ;-)
Spread the last of the ricotta mixture evenly over the pasta.
Sprinkle the ricotta with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
Spread 3/4 cup meat sauce evenly over the cheeses.
Lay down the final 3 pieces of dry pasta.
Spread all of your remaining sauce from the pan over the pasta - spread to totally cover.
Sprinkle the meat sauce with the last cup of mozzarella cheese.
Sprinkle 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese over the mozzarella cheese.
Cover with foil.  Try not to have the foil touching the cheese.  Kind of tent it up.
Place on a baking sheet (in case of bubble overs).
Place in middle of pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.

foil removed from top - back in for final baking
Remove foil from top of lasagna and return to oven for 15 more minutes.  Lasagna should be bubbly and all cheeses thoroughly melted.

Yum - ready to come out of the oven
Remove from heat and let stand for about 10 minutes.  I recommend slicing with a serrated steak knife and lifting out with a flat pancake turner without holes.

This really was good lasagna.  I hope you make lasagna with homemade ricotta cheese...it kicks it up to a whole other level!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

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