Tuesday, August 28, 2012

White Lasagne

Garfield's favorite food! U.S. spelling is "lasagna." Possibly the oldest pasta shape. Hm, and those are the only fun facts I have in my brain regarding the subject of lasagna. I'm sure google would be much more helpful than I.

Why white lasagna? Because I like it and because I can. Any other questions?

Ingredients:
I used a 9x9 casserole dish because I wanted to; it would be just as easy to use a normal 9x13 pan
1/2 box of lasagna noodles
8 oz container ricotta cheese
1/2 lb sliced mozzarella (or 2 cups shredded if that's what you have)
6 to 8 basil leaves
1/3 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup broccoli florets, cut up tiny
1 or 2 small eggplants
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini
1 small sweet onion
3 to 5 cloves of garlic
3 links of sweet sausage (or 1/2 lb of whatever sausage you like) ** omit for a vegetarian lasagna
olive oil
butter for greasing pan
Start by preparing the vegetables. Slice up the zucchini, eggplant, and yellow squash (using a mandolin slicer if you have one); slice the onions a bit thicker, and give the garlic a rough chop (unless you hate big pieces of garlic, in which case, mince it, by all means).

Grate some cheese. Unless you bought it pre-grated.
Cut up the basil into ribbons (chiffonade, anyone?) and then mix it in with the ricotta and 1/4 cup of the parmesan. Save the remaining parmesan to sprinkle on top of the lasagna.
Remove the sausage from the casing and cook in a bit of olive oil until lovely and brown. Cook onions and garlic in the leftover sausage grease. And then cook the eggplant, squash, and zucchini until just tender.
Blanch the broccoli florets. Isn't it cool how they get brighter once they've taken a hot bath?
And of course, cook the noodles. I like to cook them just shy of al dente and then give them a bath in COLD water so that I can handle them without necessitating a trip to the E.R.
Butter your baking dish because 1) it'll make cleanup easier and 2) butter makes everything better. Just ask Paula Deen. And then spread a little béchamel on the bottom because a naked noodle adjacent to the casserole dish is just indecent! Give it a little cushion, why don'tcha?
And then, it's time to assemble the rest of the dish. You don't have to follow exactly what I did. But I will say that what I like to do is make sure that each layer has something moist, like ricotta or béchamel or cheese (or all of the above) as well as something of substance (like one of the many fillings you've prepared). The moisture is to make sure the noodles stick to the substance-y stuff and the lasagna doesn't slide all over the place and fall apart. And take note that if you wanted to make this a red lasagna, you could definitely spread a little sauce in each layer. It wouldn't take that much more effort.

Here's a narrative of what I did:

LAYER 1: I laid down some noodles, which had been trimmed to fit (trimmings were not wasted - they were either used in other layers or snacked upon). Then I spread on some ricotta, then layered on the yellow squash and then spread on some béchamel.

LAYER 2: More noodles. Then the sauteed onions and garlic, then mozzarella cheese.

LAYER 3: Yes, indeed, more noodles. Then some more béchamel, then sausage, then the eggplant.

LAYER 4: Alas, more noodles! Then ricotta, broccoli, zucchini, and béchamel.

LAYER 5: The final layer of noodles, then mozzarella cheese, then the reserved bit of parmesan, sprinkled all over the top. I like to make sure there's some sort of protective cheese layer on top of any baked pasta dish because again, I think a naked noodle is indecent and of course, bubbling ooey gooey cheese makes a dish look crazy yummy.

The bit of parmesan promotes browning and when parmesan browns, it gets a little nutty and really delicious.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese on top is melted. All you're doing is heating the dish through, because everything's cooked already.
Looks good. Real good.
Cut into the dish really well when you're serving it to make sure everyone gets a bit of each layer without stuff sliding out. Eat and be merry. And don't feel too guilty because between all the layers of pasta and cheese and sauce are delicious and healthy vegetables.

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