Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dinner in Layers

I combined several recipes to create this lasagna. It has the best of everything - tomato sauce, pesto, two cheeses, meat, and vegetables. The no-boil noodles almost taste like fresh pasta, and the ricotta and pesto combination lightens the dish without taking over the other ingredients.

My Lasagna

a box of no-boil lasagna noodles (Barilla)
1.25 lb spicy Italian turkey sausage, casings remo
28 oz crushed tomatoes

6 oz tomato paste


1 cup chopped onion 2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 bag baby spinach

15 oz. part skim ricotta

4 T or so pesto

approximately 10 cremini mushrooms, sliced

4 chicken pesto meatballs, chopped

*a little extra tomato sauce

2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan

Make sauce (from Barefoot Contessa's Turkey Lasagna):
saute onions in large pot over medium heat for 5 minutes; add garlic and saute another minute add sausage and break up very well, cook over medium low for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through
add meatballs, tomato paste, crushed tomatoe
s, a few sprinkles of oregano
allow to simmer for 15 minutes until thick

turn off the stove

combine ricotta and pesto in a bowl, set aside
spoon 1/3 of sauce into bottom of 9 x 13" bakin
g dish
move sauce pot off the burner, add spinach, stir to wilt it

Continue building lasagna:
arrange noodles and break off pieces so the entire
bottom of the pan is covered
sprinkle 3/4 cup mozzarella over pasta,
spread half of ricotta/pesto mixture over cheese
spoon another 1/3 of sauce (with spinach) over ricotta
add an
other layer of noodles, mozzarella, and ricotta

spread mushrooms throughout (or only on part if you choose)

put the remaining sauce on top, followed by the last of the noodles
*I used a cup or so of meatless sauce I had already made on top of the noodles, and topped it all with the rest of the mozzarella and the parmesan
bake at 350 for 25 minutes, finish at 400 fo
r 5-10 minutes

A meal as involved as this one deserves a special dessert, and the January issue of Gourmet inspired me to try the Mile High Chocolate Cake. If you've seen the picture of it, you probably understand. In case you haven't, here's one of mine during the construction process:

Although it was fun to make, as layer cakes usually are, this one didn't make me want to forget my favorite recipe for chocolate cake. It was slightly dry, which may have been my fault for making four 9" layers instead of 8," but the icing was so rich that it was distracting.

With six sticks of butter as its base, the frosting was never completely smooth, and never regained its spreadable texture once it was refrigerated. It may be "mile high" and impressive in appearance, but there are desserts much worthier of my newly developed lasagna.

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