Monday, February 18, 2013

Lasagna Fit for Cattle Ranchers, or Never Too Much Meat!

So...I was watching The Pioneer Woman on Food Network on Saturday morning, as is my way, and she made a fabulous-looking lasagna. Now, I already had a plan to make posole yesterday, but I figured I could assemble the lasagna, pop it in the fridge, and then my roomie could just bake it off for dinner tonight. I love it when I'm proactive with my cooking! YAY, me!

Reading through the comments on Ree's website, I ran across this review from a dude named Ryan: "I’ll have you know I made a giant batch of this lasagna for my men’s bible study group and it was an absolute disaster! There were dead bodies everywhere! We were supposed to be studying a book but, we couldn’t get anything done because everyone was is a food coma. I had about 12 guys there so I made enough lasagna for 20 thinking I would have plenty of leftovers. There were no leftovers to be found! Thanks a lot peedub. You ruined a perfectly good evening. p.s. Thank you Lord God for this lasagna."

How could I resist making PW's lasagna after reading this? However, I did make a few changes to her boilerplate recipe. First of all, it should be noted that there is a 2007 version of this lasagna with CANNED Parmesan--blech--dried herbs, and iodized salt), and then there's the one from her show on Food Network (fresh herbs, real Parm, and kosher salt). I suppose mine was a hybrid, based on what I had on hand. I only used one pound each of ground beef and Italian (not breakfast) sausage. I mean, how much meat do you really need?? Sheesh.

Moreover, I doubled the garlic, as I usually do on principle. I didn't use fresh basil in the meat sauce because I didn't have any; I used a tablespoon of dried Italian herbs plus a teaspoon of dried basil and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, because I used sweet, not hot, sausage. But I did use fresh parsley in the cottage cheese mixture. I also would have added mushrooms to the meat sauce if I had had them, and next time, I will add some red wine to the meat sauce as my foodie friend, Sheri, who often makes this recipe, wisely recommends!

Lastly, I assembled it a bit differently. It seemed odd to only use eight lasagna noodles and end with a thick layer of meat sauce. So I split the meat sauce into thirds (well, one of the "thirds" was skimpier), added one last layer of noodles (=12 total) and the lesser portion of sauce on top with the last bit of Parmesan, just so the noodles wouldn't dry out. Then I wrapped it with parchment and heavy duty foil and popped it in the fridge to bake later, and that worked perfecty. This is a hearty, flavorful, American-style lasagna that everyone (except vegetarians) will love. Give it a try!

The Pioneer Woman's Lasagna
(Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman, via Food Network)

2 pounds hamburger (I only used one pound)
1 pound hot breakfast sausage (I used sweet Italian sausage plus a pinch of red pepper flakes)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I used six cloves!)
one 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
one 6-ounce can tomato paste
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil (I omitted this)
10 ounces lasagna noodles (I used twelve noodles in three layers)
1 pound mozzarella, sliced
10 to 12 fresh basil leaves (I swapped out one tablespoon of dried Italian herbs plus one teaspoon dried basil)
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 cups low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 eggs, beaten
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the hamburger, sausage and garlic until brown. Drain off the excess fat. Add the tomatoes with their juice, tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Stir together well. Simmer over low heat, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the olive oil (if using) and a dash of salt. Cook the lasagna noodles according to the package directions until al dente. Drain the noodles and lay them flat on a piece of aluminium foil to keep their shape.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the fresh basil (if using) into a chiffonade by stacking the leaves on top of one another, rolling them tightly and then cutting across. Finely chop the parsley. Add half the herbs to the meat mixture and stir together. In a medium bowl, combine the other half of the herbs, the cottage cheese, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and the eggs, and stir together well. (I added the dried herbs to the meat sauce, and the chopped fresh parsley to the cottage cheese mixture.)

To assemble, begin by laying four lasagna noodles in the bottom of a deep rectangular baking pan; the noodles should slightly overlap. Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture onto the noodles; spread to distribute evenly. Lay half of the mozzarella slices on top of the cottage cheese mixture. Spoon just under half (I did about a third) of the meat mixture on top of the mozzarella, and spread evenly, being careful not to disrupt the layers below. Now repeat the process, beginning with a layer of lasagna noodles, followed by the cottage cheese mixture, followed by the mozzarella slices, and ending with a thick layer of the meat mixture. (I split the sauce into thirds, made an additional layer of four noodles on top and another third of the meat sauce.)

Sprinkle the remaining half cup of Parmesan over the top. Bake until the lasagna is hot and bubbly, 35 to 45 minutes. Allow to stand 10 minutes before cutting into squares. (I baked mine cover with parchment and foil. I prefer it to be tender on top.)
Helpful Hint: Lasagna can be fully assembled and refrigerated or frozen, unbaked. But then the cooking time may have to be extended. (Mine took closer to an hour cold from the refrigerator.)

1 comment:

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