Meaty Lasagna

I make lasagna not because I love it, but because it is my husband’s favorite meal.  If we are ever out at an Italian restaurant and lasagna is an option, he will order it 8 times out of 10.  The remaining 20% of the time he will order a spicy seafood pasta.  I like to keep the lasagna simple but fresh, so I followed the recipe I grew up on with only minimal changes.  I did make this extra meaty, which you may or may not appreciate.  You will have extra sauce for serving and you can cut back on the meat as you see fit if 2 pounds of meat seems excessive to you.

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Ingredients:

– 9-11 Lasagna noodles

– 2 1/2 cups Ricotta cheese

– 1 1/2 cups mozzarella-shredded

– 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

– 2 eggs-beaten

– 1 lb ground beef

– 1 lb hot sausage

– 1 tsp oregano (dried since I didn’t have fresh)

– 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped

– 5 leaves of fresh sage, chopped

– 5 sprigs fresh thyme, center stem removed and chopped.

– 2 tsp fresh parsley, chopped

– 5 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 large onion, diced

– 1 red pepper, diced

– 1 green pepper, diced

– 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

– 1/2 cup red wine

– salt and pepper to taste

– 2-3 28 oz cans tomato sauce (use 2 cans if you want thick sauce, use a half can or a full 3rd can if you want it a little more saucy)

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Directions

1. Make Sauce: In sauce pan, brown ground beef and sausage then drain.  Remove the meat and add a little olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan to saute the onions and peppers.  When they look a little sweaty, add oregano, garlic, red pepper flakes, sage, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper, and simmer in the red wine.

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Add meat and tomato sauce, heat through simmering at least 30 minutes to develop flavor.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F

3. Cook lasagna noodles al dente and set aside.  Better yet, buy the “no cook” version!

4. Make filling: combine ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and eggs.  For an added touch I folded in the 2 Tbsp of fresh chopped basil.

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5. In 9×13 pan alternate layers of noodles, sauce, and filling starting with sauce on the bottom.  Top with extra cheese.

6. Bake 40 minutes.

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I have to say with all the fresh herbs I was pretty excited for this dinner.  It was fresh and filling with good depth overall.  I did find it best to add extra sauce as the no-cook noodles probably absorbed a bit of moisture and the sauce was extra thick and meaty to start with.  Adding the red wine to the sauce really does a lot to develop flavor in a short amount of time.  You can add a little sugar to improve the depth of the sauce of you don’t have red wine available.  We picked a deep red and drank the rest with dinner, complimented the meal wonderfully.

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End of Summer Pesto

My basil plant has officially decided to pack it up for the summer.  It is bolting despite my efforts to prune and fertilize and the leaves are not as vibrant as they used to be, so it’s time to make Pesto!  My mother was boasting about how she used her basil at home and made 31 cups of pesto.  I thought my basil plant on the balcony was pretty big…it made 2 1/4 cups of pesto.  Note to self, get a bigger balcony.

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I didn’t have any pine nuts at home, so I substituted pistachios, and I used my infused olive oil instead of regular olive oil for a little something special.

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Ingredients:

Now I used some very loose measurements…it’s sort of about feel.  I wanted to use terms like “a lot”, “enough” and “a little” instead of actual measurements, but people like my husband will go a little crazy and abandon the project if I do that…so here are some guidelines as to what I did.

– 2 cups of packed basil leaves

– 4 sprigs of curly parsley

– 3 cloves of garlic

-12 pistachios, shelled

-1/3 cup infused olive oil (see “Garlic Chicken with Zucchini Ribbons” post for directions)

– 1/3+ cup of grape seed oil

– salt to taste

– 1/4 cup fresh shaved Parmesan cheese (I go pretty light on the cheese and add it to dishes later, most recipes call for 1/2 cup)

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Directions:

Put everything in the blender and pulse to blend, add oils slowly until consistency is smooth but not too runny.

For the final batch I didn’t have enough basil, so I added mint leaves, rosemary, and sage to fill up the food processor.  It had a nice herb flavor that will likely pair well with chicken.

Use immediately or store for a few days in the refrigerator.  If you want to freeze the pesto, most websites recommend not adding the cheese until thawed for use.  My mom has always frozen it with the cheese mixed in without consequence, so I did the same.  A good secret however is to pour a layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to keep fresh in the freezer.  Use in up to 3 months is recommended.  Again we must live on the wild side in my family, I have used pesto that is a year old and it’s still perfect and fresh…cheese and all.

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