There was lasagna!

December 7, 2015

The first step on the road to lasagna.

The first step on the road to lasagna.

Of course, the only evidence I have of said lasagna is the photo above, of the beginning stages of the sauce. That was because I was cooking at friend Kate’s house, away from my “real” cameras, and my phone died.

(Said phone is now resurrected. It was a bad charging cable. Said charging cable has been replaced, and new chargers ordered to replace the others, which are showing signs of wear. We will be duly charged, yes, we  will.)

Anyway, Kate wanted to have some friends over for dinner, and wanted me to cook, which is fine by me, because I enjoy her company and her friends’ company and I enjoy cooking for other people. So I said sure, and we commenced to menu-plan.

Now, you must understand, Kate is not an adventurous soul when it comes to food. I ran through a few potential entrees to a somewhat less than enthusiastic response, until I hit on lasagna. Yes, she allowed, lasagna would do nicely.

So lasagna we would have. I would bring some of my roasted tomato and garlic sauce, along with some of my canned tomatoes; I would bring ground beef, as I have a gracious plenty of it; I would bring appetizers, because I had made that pate’, and I could pick up olives and pickles and cheese. She would get cheese, noodles, salad makings, and a few other things I assigned her.

And I headed in the direction of her house Saturday afternoon. Without, as it turned out, the tomato sauce and its accoutrements, which I had forgotten to grab when I was getting the other stuff. So, as I needed to pick up cheese and pickles and olives anyway, I just decided to grab some tomatoes, an onion and some garlic, and recreate it.

Got to Kate’s, got unloaded, and eventually set about roasting veggies. Peeled the cloves from a full head of garlic, tossed those in a roasting pan. Roughly diced up an  onion, added that. Cut about 8 Campari tomatoes into eighths, and a basket of grape tomatoes in half, added those. Drizzled with olive oil, added salt, pepper, and dried oregano, thyme and basil. Stuck it in the oven at 300 for a couple of hours, until everything started smelling happy and there were no vampires anywhere about the premises. Before I went to bed, I pureed it in a blender and put it aside in the fridge for the next day.

The next day came, and I set about building the sauce. To the puree, I added a big can of tomato sauce (the 14-ouncer), a can of tomato paste (6-ounce, I think; the little cans, anyway), and a cup of water to thin it down. Set that to simmering, and tasted it after a while. Too garlicky. Added a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Simmered some more. Still pretty garlicky. Added some chopped fresh herbs, another couple of teaspoons of sugar, and looked to see if there was more tomato paste anywhere. Didn’t see any. Made do with a couple of tablespoons of tomato ketchup.

Let THAT simmer a while, and decided it was Just Fine. Let it cool a little, and set about stacking the lasagna.

Sauce in the bottom of the pan, a thin coat to cover. Lasagna noodles (the Barilla no-boil ones are my personal favorite). Browned ground beef. Dollops of ricotta cheese. Another cup of sauce (about that much, for a big pan). Grated mozzarella cheese, and Parmigiano. I repeated the layers three times, and finished up with a layer of noodles topped only with a thin coat of sauce and some Parmigiano.

Then — an important step when you’re using no-boil noodles — I rinsed out my dipping cup and my pan I’d simmered sauce in with about a cup of water, and I gently poured that water down alongside the lasagna stack on either side of the pan. This gives you moist lasagna and ensures nicely hydrated and thus tender noodles when you bake uncovered.

In the oven for 45 minutes at 350, and boom, it was done. I took it out, covered it with foil, and let it rest for an hour until we ate.

Meanwhile, I baked a round of foccacia bread I’d baked from dough I’d brought along — the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day recipe for olive oil dough. This is the best all-purpose bread to go with any soup or stew or Italian dish that they make. I’d made some to go with the beef stew earlier this week, and stashed the extra dough in the fridge. It came in handy.

We had it with a nice tossed salad. It was one of the better lasagnas I’ve made; plenty of sauce, plenty of good stuff in it, good, tender noodles, lots of cheese. Good thing it was good, as there was a fair amount left, which will go in Kate’s freezer. Along with the appetizer spread (cheese, pate, pickles, olives, bacon-wrapped dates), I brought the untouched Nutella cheesecake. three-quarters of which I brought back with me.

Also brought some other goodies back with me — namely, 20 pounds of Arkansas Black apples and five pounds of shelled pecans. The apples will get cooked up in the Instant Pot this week for apple butter. The pecans will go in holiday treats of one description or another. I was quite pleased to find both of them, cheap, at a place in Bald Knob, Arkansas, also marking one of the few times I’ve gotten off the interstate there and NOT gone to either Who Dat’s, the Big Bayou Market, or the Bulldog.

So I have apple butter to make this week, along with a ton and a half of work to do. You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em come on by, and I’ll set you to work doing something.




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