I do this really annoying thing when I get mad. I stew and fume and the minute I actually open my mouth to say all the clever, witty, and perfectly formed arguments I have been stewing about, I burst into tears.
This is me. If I'm mad, I'm crying.
This wouldn't annoy me so much if when I was crying, people were still listening to my voice. But as humans, when someone is crying and talking, we tend to focus on the blubbering mess rather than the words they are saying. I think as a whole this is a good thing--something about sympathy, or empathy, or the basic good in people...or something. But what this means for me is that if I'm mad, I end up either being comforted by the person I'm trying to express my anger to, or I make them completely uncomfortable to the point where they aren't listening, but rather counting the seconds until they can run far away.
My loved ones know this about me. This poses more of a problem when I'm mad about something or at someone that doesn't know me. As a non-confrontational person in nature, trying to express my ire is awkward enough, but add unexplained, sudden sobbing? Oh please.
So that's what I do. But don't worry, I can do other things too that aren't as annoying. Or annoying at all, really, like make lasagna. I think that's a fair trade off.
This lasagna has multiple parts, as most lasagnas do. It starts with ragu sauce, which is just a meaty tomato sauce. You could make this labor intensive Ragu Bolognese, which is delicious, or you could do as I did, and make a slightly simpler version.
It starts as most things do in my kitchen, with olive oil in a large pot.
Onions and garlic are added, then stirred around with some red pepper flakes for about 5 minutes.
Ground turkey is added and cooked until no longer pink. I used ground turkey instead of beef to make it a bit lighter.
When the turkey is cooked through and no longer pink, add tomato paste and stir. Cook until it is slightly darker in color.
Then add some red wine and some chicken stock and reduce the heck out of it.
When that liquid is reduced by half, add a can of tomato puree and stir.
Season with salt, pepper, and dried oregano, then simmer on stove top for at least an hour.
That's part one! Part two is making a bechemel sauce. I don't like lasagna with ricotta cheese--it tastes grainy and weird. I recently have found a couple of websites that had gone a more traditional route, traditional meaning from Italy and not here, in which they made a creamy bechemel sauce flavored slightly with freshly grated nutmeg. If you ask me, this is the only way to go.
It starts with olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Traditional bechemel obviously would use butter, but I can't cook with butter, or any highly saturated fats at the moment, so I used olive oil. When the olive oil is shimmering and hot, add flour and whisk until smooth. You made a roux!
Let the roux cook for a couple of minutes until slightly darker but not burned, and whisk in 4 cups of milk. Whisk constantly until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, then season with salt, pepper, and freshly grated nutmeg.
Set aside. Part two is done!
Now you just have to assemble the lasagna. This is the fun part--its like you're building something. In a large baking dish, coat the bottom with a layer of the bechemel sauce. Then add a layer of fresh lasagna noodles (I found mine in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, by the deli and produce. Buitoni ravioli also lives there). Then on top of the noodles I added a layer of ragu, then a layer of bechemel, then Parmesan cheese, and finally mozzarella cheese.
Repeat until you run out of either ragu or about to run out of bechemel (you need to save some for the top) Mine took about 5 layers total. The final layer should be topped with pasta, then the bechemel, and then cheese. No meat sauce on top--we want it to be brown and crispy!
Into the oven it goes, uncovered, for about 35-40 minutes, until the cheese and bechemel on top is nicely browned.
How beautiful is that? Let's get a close up.
Yum. Melted cheesy toasted goodness.
Let the lasagna rest for about 10 minutes, until it's firmed up a bit. This is the perfect time to make some garlic bread!
Cut the lasagna into servings--I cut mine into ten servings which were plenty big--then serve along side the warm garlic bread and possibly a green salad if you're into that sort of thing!
That's just one serving. Look at what's left!
I meant it when I said this was for a crowd. Or in my case, lunch for the week. Did I mention that I think it tastes better the next day? Well, it does!
Weirdly enough, considering how much I love pasta, this is the first time I'd made lasagna. Every other time I'd had the dish it tasted like a big mushy mess of soggy noodles, grainy cheese, and jarred tomato sauce. This was not that.
The bechemel lent an overall creaminess to the dish while the ragu gave it substance and heft. The noodles retained much of their texture, and the top, oh that top layer. Slightly crunchy with caramelized sauce and cheese on top--a mushy mess this was not.
This dish made me realize that I actually like lasagna. I like when a dish can change a mind.
I'd love to stay calm while angry. Heck, I'd love to be angry while angry. But, whatever. I'm me and I make lasagna and I can't be anyone else. And I'm ok with that!
Here's the recipe!
Lasagna for a Crowd
For the Ragu (Adapted slightly from Dinner: A Love Story)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste (I probably ended up using a tablespoon and a half)
- 1/4 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1 28 ounce can of tomato puree
- salt and pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 2 minutes. Add turkey and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 7-10 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir, cooking for about 2 minutes more, until it starts to slightly darken. Add wine and chicken stock and reduce by half, about 5 minutes.
- Add tomato puree and stir. Season with salt and pepper and dried oregano. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and let simmer for at least an hour. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly. When done, set aside.
For the Bechemel
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups of milk (I used skim because I'm watching my fat intake, but you can use whatever you want! I'm not the boss of you)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
- Heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Let cook for about 2 minutes, then add milk, whisking constantly. Whisk until it starts to thicken and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Cook until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and set aside.
To Assemble the Lasagna
- Ragu sauce
- Bechemel Sauce
- 2 packages of fresh lasagna noodles
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
- salt and pepper for finishing
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large baking dish, add a layer of bechemel to the bottom, just until coated. Add two lasagna noodles over the sauce, then top with ragu sauce, and then bechemel sauce. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese then Mozzarella cheese on top.
- Cover with another layer of lasagna noodles, then ragu, bechemel, Parmesan and Mozzarella, repeating until you run out of sauce (save enough bechemel for the top layer!) Mine ended up being about 5 layers. The top layer should end with a layer of noodles, then a layer of bechemel, then the two cheeses. I added some fresh cracked black pepper to the top, too.
- Bake, uncovered, for 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the edges are slightly crispy. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes. Cut into servings (I got about 10 good sized servings out of this) and serve with a green salad or your favorite garlic bread.