Sunday, September 16, 2012

Layered Veggie & Traditional Meat Lasagna

Alright - before you say it - I know it's still summer, and nowhere near baked pasta season, but I have so many yummy summer veggies and lasagna sounded SOOO good!

So, I'm making it! And eating it!

I decided on a layered eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash lasagna for my self, and a good ole traditional lasagna for my carnivores.

And, if you're going to spend all that time making lasagna - you may as well make a few more for the freezer!!

This is enough to make 2 large (9X13) lasagnas, or more smaller ones.
(I made a 9X9, a 9X11 and 2 4X7 for the freezer.)

(My cute little 2-3 serving freezer lasagnas!!)

The prep:

I started with making a pot of marinara sauce - just a super simple one with canned tomatoes instead of fresh.
  • 1 diced onion
  • (6) 12 oz cans of tomatoes
  • (2) 12 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 6-12 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 handful basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
I used some diced and some stewed tomatoes - you can use whatever you have on hand.

Put all the ingredients in a pot and cook on medium for about an hour or so, I just let it cook while I get all the other components ready.

Or, you can use your favorite sauce - homemade or in a jar.

Next - get the meat cooking.

I used 1 lb of ground beef and 1 lb of steak. I cut the steak into tiny pieces, and brown them both up together with salt and pepper.

Next - I shred 2 lbs of mozzarella cheese. You can buy the pre-shredded cheese if you want to save time or work, but that stuff has flour on it, or something to keep it from sticking together, and I don't recommend it unless you are really in a hurry.

Next - I mixed together the ricotta cheese mixture.
  • 2 lbs ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup shredded Pecarino Romano
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Mix this all together and set aside.

Next, I slice the veggies.
I used my mandolin on the 2nd to thinnest setting.

Lastly, if you are using standard lasagna noodles, boil them and rinse them - I prefer the no boil noodles from Barilla or Ronzoni. You will need about 3 no boil noodles per layer for a 9X13 pan - so plan according to how many layers you think you will need... (about 3 layers for a veggie and 4-5 for a traditional lasagna - I think there are 12 noodles in a standard 8 oz. box... but don't quote me on that, I forgot to count...)

The layering:

I always spray the pans with non stick cooking spray to help them from sticking.

For the meat lasagna, I start with a very this layer of marinara sauce, just enough to barely coat the bottom of the pan.

Then, a layer of pasta, don't worry if they don't go completely to the end - they will expand when it cooks.

Then, a layer of ricotta cheese mixture - spread this carefully across the pasta.

Next, a thin layer of meat.

Then, a thin layer of sauce.

Next, sprinkle on a small handful of cheese.

And on top of that, repeat the layers until the pan is full - for a standard depth pan, you can usually get 3-4 layers before you get to the top.

On the top, I like to add one last layer of pasta, a very thin layer of ricotta mixture, a good thick layer of sauce and a good thick layer of cheese.

For the veggie lasagna, you can start out the same, sauce, pasta, ricotta.

Then you will want to layer on the zucchini...

yellow squash...

and eggplant.

Then a thin layer of sauce.

Then a small handful of cheese.

Again, you can continue to build the layers until the dish is full. With a veggie lasagna, I usually only get 2 layers, because the veggies are so much thicker than the meat.

On the top, I do just the same with pasta, ricotta, sauce and cheese.

With the veggie lasagna, you want to avoid too much moisture, as the veggies will release a ton of liquid while they are cooking. You will want to use a pretty thick sauce, not a watery one, or use more of the tomatoes and less of the sauce itself.

If you are using glass, look thru the side, yo do not want more liquid than what is pictured.

Put these in a 350` oven for about 45 minutes. If it has been in the fridge, you will need to cook it for more like an hour to an hour and a half.

When you remove the lasagna from the oven, you always need to let it sit for 10 - 15 minutes  before cutting into it.

I like to serve this topped with some freshly shredded Pecarino Romano cheese, a side salad and some crusty buttery garlic bread.