Saturday, 18 February 2012

Dinner Party Perfection: OMG Lasagne

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Normally, my posts here are about dishes I've made and photographed a ways before writing about them – I have a running tally of foods to 'put up on the blog'.  I don't always go in order, but I rarely get around to posting within a week of making something.  This time, though, I just couldn't wait, and I'm getting this post in just under the one-week wire because I had to share.  This lasagne is just that good.

How good, you ask?  Well, I made a 9x13 pan of the stuff, with 1.5x the meat the recipe called for, and there were only five of us eating, but there were still barely any leftovers; what little there was left, the bf and I fought over the next day like little kids bickering over the last piece of cake.  It was so good I was sneaking bites of it as I put it away, long after our guests left (I also sneaked some bites the next morning, before the bf woke up – sorry, honey! (not really)).

Now, I will say: this recipe is not a quick-n-easy one like those I usually favor, and it makes a fair few dishes.  And if you're more of a baker than a cook, as I am, then you might be a wee bit dismayed at all the time spent prepping and standing over the stove and stirring.  BUT, that said, once you get the filling done and the lasagne assembled, this baby goes in the fridge until your guests arrive, and then you just bring it to room temp, pop it in the oven for half an hour, and Bob's yer uncle: the best lasagne I've ever made (not hard, as I've only made two), and one of the best I've ever had.

The main thing to remember about this recipe (something I'm terrible about doing) is to prep your ingredients and measure them out beforehand.  I actually did this this time around (pats self on the back), and I was really glad I did, because it meant no panicking about burning things while I hastily chopped herbs / skinned sausages.

And as a result, my sauce turned out perfectly, with no scorched garlic or overcooked meat!

Once the sauce is made, you just stir together the cheeses and a last handful of chopped parsley (make sure the goat cheese is room temp, because mine was cold and I had big hard chunks of it that I had to mash with the spoon), grab your fresh noodles (no pre-cooking!) and mozzarella, and get to layering!

This was the fun part.

And after all those layers of magnificence, you can take a moment to breathe, stand back, and admire your beauteous creation, before you have to cover it with cling film and stick it in the fridge and go shower the garlic off yourself and wash a bunch of dishes and straighten up the house.

And then, finally, it's time to put this baby in the oven – oh my goodness, the smell is heavenly.  When I went to retrieve our guests from the elevator, we could smell this lasagne all the way down the building's long hallway, and by the time we got inside the flat we were all drooling.  The party was supposed to be a relaxed affair, no big deal, and it totally was, but I have to say I think this lasagne may have topped all the other dinner dishes I've made so far.  Maybe even the wild boar stew... well, it was a very different kind of dish, and significantly lower-maintenance, which may make me a bit biased.

But trust me on this one: make this lasagne.  It's easy enough (as long as you have plenty of time and a bit of patience), and relatively cheap to make, and I promise it'll go down an absolute treat.  In fact, I'm still lamenting just how well it went down – I could really use a slice of leftovers right about now...

Amazing Lasagne
     from The Amateur Gourmet 

     Adam says the active time is 20 minutes, but I found it took me about an hour... but maybe that's just because I'm rubbish at prep!
     Take the time to prep your ingredients beforehand – it makes a huge difference

When you're ready to bake your lasagne, preheat the oven to 400F/205C.

To make the sauce, start by heating 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large (and deep) skillet.  When the oil is hot, turn the heat to medium-low and cook until translucent:
     1 large yellow onion, chopped (I used two small onions because that's what we had)

Add and cook until just fragrant (about a minute):
     3 cloves garlic, minced

Add, breaking up into small pieces with a wooden spoon and cooking until no longer pink (about 8 minutes):
     1.5 lb (680g) sweet Italian sausage removed from the casing (I used 800g because I had two packages and I figured it couldn't hurt – it didn't!)

When the sausage is cooked, stir in:  
     28oz (800g) can crushed tomatoes in their juice 
     6oz (170g) tomato paste
     2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley 
     1/2 c fresh chopped basil 
     1.5 tsp salt
     1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper 

Simmer the whole lot, uncovered, for about 15-20 minutes, until thickened.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  Set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, stir together: 
     15 oz (425g) ricotta cheese
     3-4 oz (85-115g) creamy goat cheese
     1c grated parmesan cheese
     1 large egg
     2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
     1/2 tsp salt
     1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Now, assemble your lasagne.  Set out a 9x13 baking dish, your sauce, your cheese mixture, and:
     1/2 lb (225g) fresh lasagna noodles
     1lb (450g) fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
     1/4 c parmesan

Spread a third of the sauce onto the bottom of the dish, and then add a layer of pasta, half the mozzarella, and half the ricotta mixture (spread it around as best you can).  Do that all over again – sauce, pasta, mozzarella, ricotta – and then finish off with the last third of the sauce.  Sprinkle with parmesan and bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

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