February 25, 2010

Three Cheese Lasagna

So once again it looks like I've been slacking off. I'm not sure how some bloggers out there find the time to make such elaborate food items, take stunning photographs, and then post an entry about it week after week, and sometimes several times a week, and not only that! I've seen some bloggers post a drool worthy recipe daily! Daily. D-A-I-L-Y. I mean, seriously, where do these people find the time to have a job, be with family, take care of day to day chores, and then whip up something spectacular and share it for all the world to see. I envy those types for their time management skills. Kudos to you. But back to me and my lacking of time management prowess. This time around I would like to blame it on the weather. It has been too cold for too long. I live in Texas for pete's sake! Where are you spring weather!?! The cold and snow has made me lazy and unmotivated. All I want to do is stay wrapped up in a blanket, by the fire, all day long. But this weather can also be blamed for my latest culinary obsession: lasagna.

While I consider myself a lover of carbs, it's not often that I crave a large bowl of pasta. My carb cravings usually stem from something of the likes of cake... or cookies... or anything that's got a good serving of butter and sugar really. (Come to think of it, maybe it's not carbs that I'm craving after all...) But this past weekend, I went to a popular restaurant here in Dallas, Avanti, and while I ordered their filet mignon sandwich, the menu item that was most alluring to me at that moment was their lasagna. I wiped away the drool dripping from my bottom lip and went with the sandwich instead. However, the next morning, which just so happened to be bone chillingly cold, I woke up with a massive craving for cheesy, warm, gooey lasagna. Like I said, it's the weather. What's better on a cold day than something warm, comforting, and soul satisfying? Not much. And what's more comforting than melted cheese, spicy beef, and tangy tomato sauce layered between tender sheets of pasta? Come to think of it, nothing.

Three Cheese Lasagna
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.com

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
2 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
12 ounces lean ground beef (I used 96% lean)
10 ounces spicy Italian sausages, casings removed (I used lean Italian hot turkey sausage)
42 ounces crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 tablespoons golden brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

12-15 lasagna noodles (about 12 ounces)
30 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3.5 ounces)
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, squeezed dry
2 large eggs
4 3/4 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 1 1/4 pounds)
*(I think fresh mozzarella would be a great addition! I'll try this next time!)

1. Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic; sauté until softened, about 12 minutes. Add beef and sausages to pan; sauté until cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until flavors blend and sauce measures about 7 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; cover with cold water.

3. Combine ricotta and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Mix in spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs.

4. Drain pasta and pat dry. Spread 3/4 cup sauce over bottom of 13x9-inch glass baking dish. Place 4 or 5 noodles over sauce, overlapping to fit (I used a more narrow baking dish, thus only needing 4 noodles per layer). Spread half of ricotta-spinach mixture evenly over noodles. Sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella cheese evenly over ricotta-spinach mixture. Spoon 2 cups sauce over cheese, spreading with spatula to cover (sauce will be thick). Repeat layering with 4-5 noodles, remaining ricotta-spinach mixture, 2 cups mozzarella and 2 cups sauce. Arrange remaining 4-5 noodles over sauce. Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese evenly over lasagna. (Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

5. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake lasagna 40 minutes; uncover and bake until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes more. Let lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 10-12

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