Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lasagne Imbottite


Confused with spelling and the overall recipe name? Well, Lasagne is the dish and lasagna are the noodles. Imbottite means “stuffed” or more literally “padded” and is the perfect description for my over the top version.

Having clarified that, I want to tell you a story...

The first time I made fresh pasta at home, I hung the long linguini noodles I made over a (clean) broomstick suspended between the backs of two kitchen stools. So proud of myself, I went to the local market to pick up the last minute necessities for what was sure to be a spectacular Italian feast! When I arrived home, not 30 minutes later, something seemed a little off. Nothing looked out of place, but something was definitely wrong. Then I realized that my rustic looking, homemade pasta no longer looked all that rustic. All the strands of linguine that had previously been of widely varying lengths, as you can imagine a first attempt at homemade pasta might be, were now trimmed nearly perfectly even.

It was at that time that I realized that my loyal and loving Sheltie, Chip, had not greeted me at the door as was his custom. It was also at that time that I realized the near perfect trim job on the pasta corresponded pretty much exactly to what would be the height of Chip’s upturned incisors. The lazy little dog didn’t even bother to get up on his hind legs; he just walked along with his head turned up and ate only what he could reach.

It was impossible to scold Chip; I should have known better than to leave the house with any food within his reach. And after all, for the best presentation, even homemade pasta should be cut and trimmed uniformly!

That charming bit of my kitchen history aside, I did not make the Lasagna noodles for this Lasagne. I bought them at my grocer. I’m still working on my homemade pasta skills, or at least I’m still trying to find a safe place in which to dry it out of reach of the dog!

Lasagne is by far my favorite pasta dish. I love the variety of textures and flavors that all the different layers reveal. I love the sweet richness of the sauce (creating this Lasagne is primary the reason I developed my Essential Red Sauce with Meat); I love the velvety yet crumbly consistency of the different cheeses; the tenderness that the parmesan adds to the Meatballs from Heaven and the creamy luxuriousness of the exotic Black Trumpet Mushrooms. I also love the fact that the lion's share of the preparatory work is done in advance when I’ve made a kettle full of Essential Red Sauce with Meat!

And Lasagne, like Meatloaf, is great on the next day and some people say it’s even better! (I seem to recall Paula Deen making a Lasagne sandwich, hmmm...)

Lasagne Imbottite
Servings: 12     Preparation Time: 30 Minutes     Cooking Time: 40 Minutes


• 1 Cup Dried Black Trumpet Mushrooms
• 2 Cups White Wine, heated to almost boiling
• 1¼ Pound Dried Lasagna Noodles
• 2 Pounds Whole Milk Ricotta, drained
• 2 Eggs, beaten
• 1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, minced
• 1 Tablespoon Fresh Basil, minced
• 2 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
• 1½ Teaspoons Freshly Ground Black Pepper
• 4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
• 3½ Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
• 2 Cups Milk, hot (about 110ºF)
• 5 Cups of Essential Red Sauce with Meat
• 1 Pound of Meatballs From Heaven, sliced in half
• ½ Pound Mozzarella, shredded + ¼ pound for topping
• ¼ Cup Asiago, grated + ¼ cup for topping

Preparation Steps

Step 1. In a small bowl stir the Dried Black Trumpet Mushrooms into the heated White Wine and let steep for 30 minutes without disturbing.

Step 2. In a large wide pot, bring 6 quarts of salted water to boil, add the Lasagna Noodles and, when the water returns to a boil, cook until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, give a large baking sheet a light coat of Olive Oil and set aside. Drain and rinse the cooked pasta under cool water until cool enough to handle. Lightly coat your fingers with some Olive Oil and then lay the noodles flat on the baking sheet. If you need to make multiple layers, arrange each layer at 90º to the one below it.

Step 3. In a medium bowl, mix the Whole Milk Ricotta, Eggs, Parsley, Basil, 1½ teaspoons of the Kosher Salt and 1 teaspoon of the Freshly Ground Black Pepper until combined.

Step 4. Carefully remove the Mushrooms from the Wine to avoid stirring up any sediment. Allow the Mushrooms to drain in a mesh strainer then give them a rough chop. Set aside.

Step 5. In a 2½ quart sauce pan over medium heat, melt 2½ tablespoons of the Unsalted Butter then stir in the All-Purpose Flour until it forms a paste. Cook stirring for 2 minutes while the Butter and Flour foam together. Remove from heat and whisk in 1½ cups of the hot Milk. Return the pan to medium-high heat and whisk while the sauce comes to a simmer. Thin the sauce slowly by adding the remaining ½ cup hot Milk in a drizzle while continuing to whisk. Whisk in ½ teaspoon each of Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper. Add the drained Mushrooms and continue to cook for another minute. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 1½ tablespoons of Unsalted Butter until smooth. Set aside.

Step 6. Preheat oven to 375ºF. Spread a thin layer (about 1 cup) of Red Sauce evenly across the bottom of a 14”x10” baking dish and place a layer of pasta noodles over the sauce. Put the sliced Meatballs in one layer over the pasta and sprinkle ½ pound of shredded Mozzarella over the Meatballs. Spread 1½ cups of sauce over the Mozzarella and put another layer of noodles on top.

Step 7.
Pour the Mushroom mixture over this layer of pasta. Sprinkle ¼ cup of grated Asiago cheese over the Mushroom mixture and top with a layer of noodles.

Step 8. Dollop the Ricotta mixture on top of the noodles and spread it evenly across the surface. Spread 1½ cups of sauce over the Ricotta and put another layer of noodles on top.

Step 9. Spread the remaining 1 cup of sauce on top of this final layer of noodles making sure that there are no dry spots. Top evenly with the remaining ¼ pound of Mozzarella cheese and then with the remaining ¼ cup of grated Asiago cheese. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Remove from oven to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with some additional Red Sauce and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for garnish.


Tips and Trending

~ I use dried mushrooms because I want them to absorb the flavor of the wine as they rehydrate.

~ I use an oval Dutch oven to cook the lasagna noodles to keep them from twisting and folding. This is also the reason I go through the additional steps to lay out the cooked pasta on a baking sheet.

~ As mentioned before, one of the joys of Lasagne is that its preparation is more about assembling some amazing tasting, fully formed ingredients into a whole that surpasses any of the individual parts.

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