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Mar 22, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘lasagna’

By the Book: Clodagh McKenna’s Authentic Lasagna

Saturday, February 14th, 2015


My mom is an amazing cook. She would say that’s she’s the best –modesty doesn’t exactly run in my bloodline when it comes to skills in the kitchen. Because she’s so good, I always want her recipes. I’ll ask her how to make a dish and she’ll give me her recipe: a confusing jumble of words that contains vague instructions, approximations of ingredients (“You could add cumin, if you feel like it, sometimes I like it sometimes I don’t.” What?!) and cook times and temperatures that actually don’t make sense. In short, if I wanted to learn how to make a dish of my mom’s, I’d have to watch her make it a few times and write down the recipe for myself. That’s how I felt when I cooked out of this latest book by Clodagh McKenna, Homemade: Irresistible Recipes for Every Occasion.

I had high hopes for this book. At first glance, the recipes seem to be right up my alley: Banana bread pudding, baked eggs, lasagna, potato gratin, all some of my favorite things. I decided to make her Authentic Lasagna. In the end I thought the recipe could have used a bit more editing. Like my mom, it felt like she just left some important details out of her recipe, which can be frustrating.


Another pitfall: The béchamel sauce was too thick, and the writer adds a note saying to add more milk to thin it out if it is too thick. (That’s so my mom.) To me, that instruction indicates the recipe needed more milk, I would have preferred that she just gave a more accurate volume of milk in the first place. It’s not like baking, where humidity and other subtle factors can affect how much liquid your flour will absorb that day. This is a sauce. The amount of milk (3½ cups) to the amount of butter (6 tablespoons) and flour (¾ cup) was not right. I would have added an extra cup of milk.


My biggest issue with this recipe was the lack of clear instruction on seasoning. In the recipe for the meat sauce, there’s no measurement of salt and pepper, and it just says to season the sauce during the meat-browning stage. There’s tons of great flavor in the sauce with the mirepoix, the meat and the wine, but it needed extra salt at every stage to bring all those flavors out. Also, there’s no salt or pepper in the béchamel at all, just a pinch of nutmeg, which leaves the sauce tasting floury.


In the end, I was left with an OK lasagna that was underseasoned and carried a faint taste of flour. In other words, not cute. At least it’s a lasagna. Lasagna always gets eaten.

Authentic Lasagna
6 servings

2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ stick butter, plus a little extra for greasing
2 onions, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
½ celery stalk, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2¼ lbs. freshly ground beef
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1¾ cups red wine
1¼ pound canned chopped tomatoes
Fresh basil leaves, torn
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
12 fresh lasagna noodles

For the béchamel:
¾ stick butter
¾ cup all-purpose flour
3½ cups milk
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  • Place a flameproof Dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter, followed by the onions, carrot, celery and garlic. Stir and cook for 5 minutes until softened.
  • Stir in the beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef has turned a light brown color. Pour in the red wine and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomatoes and fresh basil. Lower the heat and simmer for 1 hour, or more if you can. The longer you allow it to simmer, the more tender the meat becomes.
  • To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour, and cook for 2 minutes until it resembles a small piece of dough. Slowly whisk in the milk, stirring all the time. Turn down the heat and cook until the sauce starts to thicken (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon). Stir in the nutmeg. The béchamel sauce should be creamy in texture; if it becomes too thick, add more milk.
  • Preheat the oven to 350.
  • Grease a shallow baking dish. Pour a layer (about 1/2 inch deep) of meat sauce into the baking dish so that it covers the base. Follow with a thin layer of béchamel sauce and a grating of Parmesan cheese. Place a layer of lasagna noodles on top. Continue with two or three more layers. Finally, smear a layer of béchamel sauce on top of the last lasagna noodles followed by a final generous sprinkling of parmesan.
  • Bake in an oven for about 40 minutes until bubbling all over and a knife slips easily through the layers of lasagna

Reprinted with permission from Kyle Books

What recipe forces you to improvise – and improve – the original? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Homemade.

Wheatless Wednesday: Twisted Vegetable Lasagna

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014



Tomorrow begins a new year and the post-holiday food slump. We’re all tired of rich food, but we need filling meals to keep the belly warm as winter drags on. (Want more light, bright winter fare? Click here.) That’s why I turned a classic heavy dish into a lighter gluten-free meal with a twist. Instead of layering noodles into the lasagna pan, try wrapping them around the filling, creating portioned packets of lasagna resting on a veggie bed and swathed in gooey cheese. It’s perfect for last-minute New Year’s Eve gatherings or long winter nights that lie ahead.

Twisted Gluten-Free Vegetable Lasagna
15 to 16 servings

1 16-oz. box gluten-free lasagna noodles
3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more to coat, divided
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 yellow squash, thinly sliced lengthwise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tsp. dried herbs like basil, thyme or oregano, divided
1 small white onion, chopped
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
1 16-oz. jar pasta sauce
8 oz. cottage cheese, drained
8 oz. ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tsp. garlic powder
5 oz. baby spinach leaves
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar, divided
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to boil with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook the lasagna noodles under just tender enough to roll easily, about 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and lightly coat each with more olive oil to keep from sticking, then lay them flat on an olive oil-coated baking sheet until ready to use.
• Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect heat or place a grill pan over medium-high heat.
• Toss the zucchini and yellow squash with olive oil to coat and season with 1 teaspoon herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Grill the zucchini and squash until tender and a bit charred, about 5 minutes, then flip and grill another 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
• Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and mushrooms with the remaining 1 teaspoon herbs until lightly brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat.
• Roughly chop the grilled zucchini and yellow squash and toss with the mushrooms and onion. Set aside.
• Spoon a thin layer of pasta sauce on bottom of 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish, then cover with the chopped vegetables.
• In a medium bowl, stir together the cottage cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, egg and garlic powder until combined. Spread a thin layer of this mixture on top of each lasagna noodle, then sprinkle with a few tablespoons cheddar and mozzarella cheese and cover with a few spinach leaves.
• Roll each noodle into a tight pinwheel and place spiral-side-down on top of the vegetables, packing together tightly so they stay closed. Cover the noodles with the remaining sauce and remaining cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Place the pan on a baking sheet to catch any drippings and bake 35 minutes, until the sauce and cheese are bubbly and slightly brown. Cover with foil and bake another 10 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

The Weekend Project: Lasagna

Thursday, November 20th, 2014



Ready or not, here it comes… The holiday season is upon us, and there are a million-and-a-half things on your to-do list: a house to clean, gifts to purchase, decorations to dig out of storage, family to host for the big meal next week – and how are there already Christmas carols on the radio?!

Pause. Take a deep breath. Now is not the time to spiral into a frenzy of takeout or frozen meals. You need simple comfort food, and if it can be made in advance and feeds that crowd about to show up on your doorstep, all the better.

Homemade lasagna is the perfect solution – and we promise it’s not as stressful as it sounds. Even with an infant, three other children and two full-time jobs, we still found this dish easy to prepare. You may be tempted to substitute store-bought ingredients (we understand; we opted to use store-bought ricotta instead of making our own this time), but this meal is a much lighter, more elegant affair when you take the time to make as much as you can from scratch.




Prepare the hearty ragu on Saturday morning (omit the sausage and double up on the mushrooms for a delicious vegetarian option) and let it simmer slowly on the back burner while you continue your myriad of Thanksgiving preparations. On Sunday, enlist an assistant to help roll out the pasta. It only takes a few minutes, and the taste and texture of fresh pasta blows the boxed stuff out of the water.





For those who want immediate gratification, assemble and bake your molten, cheesy creation Sunday night, then dig in with your prep crew. If this meal is meant to fortify you during the long week ahead, cover the unbaked lasagna in plastic and hide it in the refrigerator up to two days. When your Thanksgiving guests arrive, just throw it in the oven and enjoy a relaxing, stress-free meal that will warm and invigorate even the weariest travelers.


The Game Plan
Day 1: Make the ricotta. Make the sauce.
Day 2: Make the pasta. Assemble and bake the lasagna.

The Grocery List*
1 gallon whole milk**
1¼ quarts heavy cream
1 cup 5 percent-acidity white vinegar
2 king oyster mushrooms
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 onion
5 cloves garlic
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
½ cup white wine
½ cup sweet marsala
2 28-oz. cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
3 oz. tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
6 to 7 large basil leaves
5 eggs
2 lbs. sliced mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan

*This list assumes you have olive oil, butter, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and flour. If not, you’ll need to purchase these things, too.
** Raw or low-temperature pasteurized milk is preferable, but ultra-pasteurized milk will work, too.

Courtesy of Blood & Sand’s David Rosenfeld
Makes 1 quart

1 gallon whole milk
1¼ quarts heavy cream
4 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 cup 5 percent-acidity white vinegar

Day 1: In a large pot, gently heat the milk and cream until it reaches exactly 188 degrees. Add the salt and vinegar and stir once to combine. Remove from heat.
• Use a strainer to skim the curds from the top of the liquid and place them in a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Continue to skim every 15 to 20 minutes as curds form, until the whey is clear. Discard the whey or reserve for another use.
• Let the curds drain in the cheesecloth until the ricotta reaches the desired consistency, up to 12 hours. Ricotta will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.



Sausage-mushroom Ragu
Makes 1 quart

2 king oyster mushrooms, diced
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
½ cup white wine
½ cup sweet marsala
2 28-oz. cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes
3 oz. tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
6 to 7 basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Day 1: In a large stock pot over high heat, saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until brown, 5 to 7 minutes, working in batches to avoid crowding. Remove the mushrooms from the pot and set aside.
• Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to the pot and reduce the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts, add the sausage and brown about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion and saute 3 minutes, until the onions are translucent, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove any browned bits. Add the garlic, carrots and celery and continue to saute another 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables are fragrant. Salt to taste, then return the mushrooms to the pot.
• Add the white wine and marsala and simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and stock, stirring until the paste is incorporated. Add the thyme, basil, salt to taste and several grinds of pepper.
• Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Continue to gently simmer about 3 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent the ragu from scorching. When the sauce is reduced by half, season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from heat. Ragu will keep, refrigerated, up to 1 week.





Lasagna Noodles
Makes 8 large sheets

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 eggs

Special equipment: pasta roller

Day 2: Scoop the flour onto a clean counter and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well. With a fork, stir the eggs to slowly incorporate the all flour until a dough forms. Knead the dough, adding flour to the surface when necessary, until the dough is firm, about 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
• Unwrap the dough and slice it into 4 even pieces. Press 1 piece flat and feed it through a pasta roller on setting No. 1. Repeat on the same setting, then roll it through twice on setting No. 2. Continue feeding the pasta sheet through roller twice on each setting through No. 5. Cut each sheet of pasta in half, sprinkle with flour and place on a large cutting board. Repeat the rolling technique with the remaining dough.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare a large ice bath.
• Drape a sheet of pasta over the handle of a wooden spoon and dip it into the boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove and plunge into the ice bath, then let drain in colander. Rinse under cold water to remove any starch, then lay the blanched pasta sheet onto a clean kitchen towel. Repeat until all the pasta is blanched and rinsed.




6 to 8 servings

2 cups Ricotta (recipe above)
3 eggs
1 tsp. kosher salt
Olive oil, for greasing
1 quart Sausage-mushroom Ragu (recipe above)
8 large Lasagna Noodles (recipe above)
2 lbs. sliced mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan

Day 2: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
• In a bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs and salt together until smooth. Set aside
• Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil. Spread about 1 cup ragu in a thin layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with a layer of lasagna noodles. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles, then sprinkle with Parmesan. Cover with a layer of sliced mozzarella. Repeat the layers 2 more times, then sprinkle the top with Parmesan.
• Bake 15 to 20 minutes until the top is browned. Lasagna will keep, refrigerated, up to 1 week.




-photos by Michelle Volansky

Meatless Monday: Summer Lasagna

Monday, July 7th, 2014


Lasagna has something for everyone. Cheese. Starch. More cheese. But vegetarian lasagna? Well that’s usually just Mom’s recipe without the meat. Bo-ring. (Nothing against your mom. She’s lovely.) Since it’s too hot to turn on the oven and my farmers market produce overfloweth, it’s time to find a new twist on this old favorite.

Ready for a vegetarian lasagna that doesn’t require gallons of tomato sauce or even pasta? Click here for the recipe and click here to read more about how a friend’s love affair with polenta inspired Kellie Hynes to create this vibrant vegetarian dish.

-photo by Carmen Troesser

Wheatless Wednesdays: Quinoa Vegetable ‘Lasagna’

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013



Summer turns to fall, turns back to summer, then reappears as fall. You get the gist; the body is often confused during these seasonal transitions. Today I crave salads; tomorrow I slurp soup.

Attempts to listen to my body and use up the last of the summer squash resulted in this one-dish wonder, light enough for a warmer day, yet sticks to the ribs when the night turns cool. Test your creativity and cravings by replacing the summer squash with eggplant or shaved sweet potatoes, or feel free to add more layers to the dish.

Take advantage of these last few evenings of sunlight and cook this Sunday night for a quick, healthy meal during the week.

Quinoa Vegetable “Lasagna”
8 to 12 Servings

1 cup pre-washed quinoa
2 cups water or vegetable broth
2 large eggs, beaten, divided
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup fresh wild mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup white wine
Kosher salt, to taste
4 cups quality prepared pasta sauce
2 cups ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese for a lower-fat version)
2/3 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese, divided
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
¼ cup fresh oregano leaves, torn
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
2 cups fresh greens (spinach, spicy braising greens, mustard greens, etc.)
1½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
• In a medium saucepan with high sides, toast the quinoa over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Add the water or broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool slightly.
• Beat 1 egg and stir into the quinoa. Evenly spread the quinoa mixture in the prepared dish and press down with the back of a spoon to create a smooth, even bottom layer. Bake for 15 minutes.
• Meanwhile, wipe the saucepan, then add the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and stir frequently, until it is transparent and starting to brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and stir frequently, until mushrooms are softened, about 3 to 4 minutes.
• Add the white wine and simmer until evaporated. Salt to taste. Add the garlic and the pasta sauce and heat through, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
• In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta and remaining egg in a medium bowl and mix well. Add 1/3 cup grated Parmesan, basil, oregano and pepper.
• Spread 1/3 of the sauce over the baked quinoa. Cover the sauce with a layer of zucchini slices. Spread the cheese mixture over the zucchini in an even layer, then top the cheese with ½ of the remaining sauce, then all the greens. Finish with a final layer of the remaining sauce and cover with the shredded mozzarella.
• Bake the lasagna until it is hot and the cheese is melted and slightly browned around the edges, about 40 minutes. Top with the remaining Parmesan and switch the oven to broil. Broil until cheese is slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Jill Duncan is the owner of Wellness by Jill and follows a gluten-free diet.



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