Monthly Archives: May 2016

A Lasagne For All Seasons

Daffy

Daffodils are way prettier than even the best looking lasagne, AND proof that we’re in the heart of spring.

True—the last post had a picture of daffodils. Also true, the last post and this one have nothing to do with daffodils. But they’re pretty aren’t they?

Today we’re taking a moment to breathe between seasons, to make sure we have one more solid meal before we’re all about veggies and salads, strawberries and spritzers. Because, even though linen and sandals are on the near horizon, we also have end of year sports parties, late night studying, school reunions, graduation visitors, all night studying, prom shenanigans, etc, etc, etc. There is always a need for a go-to lasagne. This one, thanks to Sister B, is now mine.

Like all of the most useful recipes, this is more about a solid method than about exact measurements and complicated ingredients. It comes straight off the package of Trader Joe’s no boil lasagne noodles and uses a mascarpone/parmesan mixture (vs ricotta/mozzarella) to coat the noodles between layers of red sauce and Italian sausage (vs spreading blobs of cheese between layers). This makes it both smoother in the middle and crunchier on the top than traditional lasagnes.

It is awesomely perfect as is, however it is also infinitely tweakable, with or without meat and with any combination of roasted vegetables. I recently made it with layers of roasted cabbage and walnuts, omitting the red sauce, and pouring a little water over it at the end for extra liquid to cook the noodles. Onions and butternut squash would be excellent in an all white sauce version or you could try a Mexican twist with chile-spiced mascarpone, chicken and corn. And of course kale will always try find it’s way into the party.

Once you’ve got the basic method down don’t be afraid to experiment and make it your own. Or just follow the directions and make it again and again. After all, who ever had too many lasagnes at the ready?

Note: I highly recommend using a big rectangular pan (up to 10″ x 15″) and doubling it. Trust me–you’ll go through it. And you won’t be left with half a container of mascarpone cheese. Sister B also swears by using one extra noodle per layer. I just swear too much.

All Season Lasagne a la Trader Joe’s

Lasagne

Yep–not pretty at all. But you know you want that crunchy top layer.

Ingredients:

1/2 package no-boiling lasagne noodles (Any brand would work)
1 lb. uncooked sweet Italian pork sausage (or any sausage you prefer)
1 jar Trader Joe’s Bolognese meat sauce (or your favorite jarred or homemade red sauce)
12 oz. mascarpone cheese (1 1/2 small containers)
1/2 cup 1% milk
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove the casing from all the sausage links; place sausage in a large skillet; break up sausage with a fork or spoon while it pan fries until cooked. Add Bolognese sauce to pan; mix, warm through and set aside.

In a separate bowl cream together mascarpone, milk, and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese; mix in nutmeg. Season with pepper to taste. Spread a thin layer of the mascarpone mixture on the bottom of an 8 x 8 baking dish. Dip lasagne noodles into mascarpone mixture one at a time to cover completely; place in a single layer in the baking dish; top with meat sauce and evenly sprinkle on some of the grated Parmesan cheese.

Keep layering in the same order until all of the meat sauce is used (this should make three layers). For the top layer (4th layer): dip the noodles; make the layer; pour remainder of mascarpone mixture over top and sprinkle on the remainder of the Parmesan.

Rest lasagne for about 30 minutes to allow noodles to absorb liquid. Place in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbly. Rest at least 20 minutes before cutting.

Serves six.

 

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Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce—Mother’s Day Salvation

A bright, safe spot well outside of the kitchen

A bright, safe spot well outside of the kitchen

Growing up, the Hallmark Holidays got no play in our household. My parents refused to acknowledge either Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, and my Dad was quick to remind us that “every day is Children’s Day” when we pondered the possibility of such a thing. My own household is apparently steadfast in their resolve to uphold this tradition. This is the long way of saying that no, I am not recovering from Mother’s Day festivities. The complete lack of fanfare might have even been upsetting had it not been for some strategic culinary failures that assured I will not be cooking on Mother’s Day next year.

We started the day with Vegan tofu waffles, which were awesome. As soon as I get a picture they’re going up on the blog. I kept the waffles’ key ingredient as a smug secret. Not a soul suspected anything other than maternal good will.

Then came lunch. The waffles had gone over so well that I proceeded with my next experiment, going to considerable effort to collect all the right, freshest, fanciest ingredients. This lunch, Cooking Light assured me, was a “Staff fave” that would satisfy the “heartiest appetites.”

Long story short, the Braised Tempeh Reubens were inedible. Everyone gave them a good faith go, but even one tentative bite was just too much. In justifying my effort, I revealed the truth about the waffles which tipped off my total loss of credibility, and an every-man-for-himself dash to the fridge to pinch hit for lunch. The raid left us with nothing for dinner. Nothing but a sheepish suggestion to go out. On Mother’s Day. With no reservations. Two words: Not Happening. And yet, the cupboards were bare.

Enter, Marcella Hazan’s brilliant tomato sauce made with three ingredients and no chopping. It is so effortless even a Mom striking on Mother’s Day can make it without considering it actual work. This is a must for your weekday repertoire and for those Mother Hubbard moments when you’re not on your fresh and fancy game.

I have no picture, but hey, it’s tomato sauce with lots of butter. And there is not a smidge of tofu or tempeh left in the house. What could possibly go wrong?

Three Ingredient Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups tomatoes, in addition to their juices (for example, a 28-ounce can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion (or a big shallot), peeled and cut in half
  • Salt

Method:

  1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter and the onion halves in a saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt.
  2. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with a spoon. Add salt as needed.
  3. Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta. (This is a stealth move. Moms—grab that onion for yourself and mash it right up. It’s delish!) This recipe makes enough sauce for a pound of pasta.

 

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