Starting Off the New Year Right…With Lasagna!

I grew up in the South and New Year’s Day there means eating black-eyed peas to bring good luck in the coming year.  This is one tradition that I’ve never really embraced because they are not what I want to start out my year eating.  To me, you should start out a year by eating something that brings sheer joy to you, as well as your stomach.  For me and my family, this means lasagna.  No, I’m not talking about that premade stuff you buy in the freezer section.  I’m talking about something that takes most of the day to make, starting with the meat sauce and ending with a pan of something that will not help to jumpstart that resolution of dieting.  However, I promise that I will not be boiling any noodles or making them from scratch.  I’m not that crazy!

I’ve made a number of different versions of this dish to suit the tastes of different friends, but this is the one that I sit down to enjoy with my family.  To begin, we have to make the sauce.  This sauce is my version of a recipe I’ve been making for years out of Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef cookbook.  On its own, this recipe is delicious over spaghetti, but it’s even more amazing in lasagna.

Bolognaise (Meat Sauce)

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 3/4 lb. pancetta, diced
  • 3/4 oz. rosemary, leaves removed and chopped
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic (depending on your taste), finely chopped
  • 2 lb. ground turkey
  • 2 cups red wine (use what you like to drink)
  • 2 tsp. (rounded) dried oregano
  • 2- 28 oz. cans of crushed tomato (look for San Marzano and use them, if you can find them)
  • 2- 8.5 oz. jars of sundried tomatoes in olive oil, finely chopped (food processor works best)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large, deep, oven-safe pot (you will need a lot of space). Toss in the pancetta and rosemary. Cook them until the pancetta has rendered its fat and has turned golden brown.
  • Once the pancetta is golden brown, add the onion and garlic with some salt and pepper.  Cook the onion until it turns translucent (about 5-7 minutes).  Make sure to stir every now and then so that the garlic doesn’t burn.
  • When the onion has turned translucent, add in the ground turkey and break it up as it cooks.  Make sure that it fully cooks through (I cover the pot and stir every minute or two for about 5-10 minutes).
  • When the turkey is completely cooked through, add in the wine and cook for about 2 minutes.
  • When the alcohol smell has dissipated, add in the oregano and all of the tomatoes (crushed and chopped sundried).  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Now bring the mixture to a boil.
  • When the mixture begins to boil, put your lid on the pot and place it in the oven for an hour and a half.
  • When the timer goes off, take out the pot.  Carefully taste the sauce and season as you see fit.
  • Let the sauce cool with the lid off for about an hour or two so that it’s not boiling when you add it to the lasagna.

Now I know that by this time your house smells fantastic.  At this point, it is so tempting to just stop here and boil some spaghetti, but don’t do it.  Stay with me and you will have a dinner that is so much more amazing!  Now lets start assembling the lasagna.

Lang Family Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 32 oz. part-skim ricotta
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese, plus more
  • 24 oz. shredded, part-skim mozzarella
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 to 1 Tbsp. garlic granules, depending on your taste
  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 box of no-boil lasagna noodles (I prefer to use Barilla brand, but it’s your choice)
  • 1 large, deep-dish, aluminum lasagna pan (should be about 9″x13″)
  • The sauce from the above recipe (yes, you will use all of it)

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, 3/4 cup parmesan, eggs, garlic granules, parsley, and pepper.  Mix them until they are thoroughly combined.  The mixture will get a little airy and smooth, but make sure not to over mix.
  • Lightly spray the lasagna pan with some cooking spray to prevent sticking later on (it’s worth it, believe me).
  • Spread enough of the meat sauce you made earlier over the bottom of the pan to coat it (about 1 – 1 1/2 cups).
  • Place a single layer of noodles on top of the sauce.  You may need to break a few noodles to fill in the gaps, but that’s fine.
  • Place the same amount of sauce (enough to cover) on top of this layer of noodles.  Now place dollops (about 1/2 a cup each, but use your judgment) of the ricotta mixture on top (you can see how I placed it in the photo above.  They look like clouds).  Now sprinkle about a cup of mozzarella over this.
  • Repeat the above steps for another layer and then top with lasagna sheets.
  • Now pour the remaining sauce (be careful not to go up to the rim of the pan because any leftover can be frozen for use later), sprinkle the remaining mozzarella and some parmesan.
  • Cut a piece of foil that will fit over the pan, lightly spray it with cooking spray, and use it to seal (with the cooking spray side facing the cheese) the pan.  Place the pan on a baking tray and cook for 1 hour, or until the noodles do not give any resistance when a knife is put into the lasagna.
  • After the hour has passed, remove the foil and place the pan back in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • After ten minutes, turn off the oven and turn on your broiler.  Place the lasagna under the broiler just long enough for the cheese on top to lightly brown and crisp up a bit.
  • When the cheese is lightly brown, remove the lasagna from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes.  If you don’t do this, it will still be good, but it will turn into a big, messy blob.
  • Now would be a good time to warm up some homemade ciabatta bread (you can find the recipe I use here) and enjoy with your family.
  • Any leftovers, once the lasagna has cooled in the fridge overnight, can be cut and frozen individually for reheating later.

This meal is a yearly tradition for my family and one that we look forward to.  It is not a health conscious meal to start out the year, but this is the last part of the holiday season.  Go ahead, live a little!  Just remember to exercise the next day.  Happy New Year everyone, from my family to yours!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s