11 October 2010

Family recipe Monday: lasagne

Autumn flower heads, Spirit Mound

We traveled to Vermillion, South Dakota, this past weekend for the state bird meetings (about which more later). It was late summer when we left and full-scale autumn when we returned two days later, if the temperature and the foliage are to be believed. The migratory birds are mostly gone, except for a few who were lulled into a false sense of security by the recent warmth.

It's time to bring out the fall and winter recipes. Lasagne is a popular feed-the-hordes preparation. We didn't know much about this in West Texas until the late 1960s, then, suddenly, it was everywhere. It is a little bit labor-intensive, but the results are worth it. This is another preparation that is better the second day after the flavors have a chance to bloom. Any good Italian will note that it didn't take long for West Texans to put their stamp on this in the form of ground beef rather than lamb and veal, and chopped bell peppers, for which good Italians have no use. This is good with garlic bread, for that double-starch postprandial stupor, and with a nice peasant red wine.


½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped bell pepper
3 T olive oil
1 lb. ground round
2 cloves garlic
½ tsp chili powder
1 ½ cups water
Salt to taste
1 cup Romano cheese, grated
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, grated
1 lb. ricotta or cottage cheese
12 oz lasagna noodles
1 tsp Italian seasoning
¼ tsp black pepper
3 6-oz cans tomato paste

Sauté onion and bell pepper in olive oil in a large saucepan. Add ground meat, separate well and cook till no red shows. Mash garlic with small pinch of salt and add to meat mixture. Add water, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, chili powder, pepper and salt. Mix well and simmer over low heat about ½ hour. (Sauce should be very thick.) While sauce cooks, prepare lasagna as directed on package. Leave noodles in water--cold water so you can handle them. In a 9x12x12” baking pan, spread ¼ of sauce. Add layer of noodles, layer of mozzarella, layer of cottage cheese and sprinkle with grated Romano. Repeat once more and top with remainder of sauce and sprinkle with grated Romano. Bake uncovered in preheated oven at 350o F for 45 minutes. Serves 8-10.


Mix in a large kettle:

1 large can tomato purée
2 cans tomato paste
2 cups water
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sugar (optional)
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Let the mixture simmer. Meanwhile, heat 2 T olive oil in a skillet. When the oil is hot, sauté 1 cup minced onion and 1 clove crushed garlic. When the onion is golden, add 1 ½ lb. ground beef and 1 tsp salt (optional). Cook until brown, then add to kettle mixture. Simmer for about 2 hours or until sauce is thick.

Cook ½ lb. (1 box) lasagna noodles as directed. Drain, rinse, and separate noodles on towel to dry. Cut 1 lb. mozzarella into thin slices. Have ready 1 lb. ricotta and ¼ lb. fresh grated Romano cheese.

Spoon some of the sauce into two large 8” square pans or one large casserole. Put in a layer of noodles, then a layer of mozzarella and a layer of ricotta. Put in another layer of noodles crosswise, then more sauce, and layers of noodles, mozzarella and ricotta. Top with a last layer of noodles and the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle generously with Romano. Bake at 375* F for 30 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serves 8 to 10.

Happy Monday to all. Mangia!

Happy anniversary, Gene! It's been magic.

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