By Rod Cohenour
By now I think everybody knows I am a foodie! I am especially a fan of spicy foods. While my first love is Mexican food (New Mexican, of course), I also harbor a great love for Italian, spicy Chinese, Indian, and Thai foods as well. I thought you might be interested in my take on lasagna. I do love Italian food and this lasagna, while it takes a bit of patience, is well worth the effort.
Here’s how I do my imitation of Mario Batali (heh, heh!) Although Mario would make his sauces from scratch, I value the ability to use high quality, ready-made sauces where possible. Dried spices save time, as well. Remember dried spices are more potent than fresh so caution is recommended. You can always add more to a dish, but can never remove the excess.
Here’s another little hint: For you adventuresome types, a few sprinkles of crushed red pepper flakes can add even more zing to your lasagna. If you want the color of fresh herbs, by all means, cut up a few leaves of basil or add parsley to the sauce just before ladling into the casserole dish.
Delicious served with hot garlic bread, a crisp salad, and iced tea. For dessert, I suggest a lovely, light sherbet such as a lemon sorbet or lime or orange sherbet to cleanse the palate.
Lasagna by Rod
- • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
- • 1 lb. lean ground beef
- • Garlic powder, to taste
- • Italian Seasoning, to taste
- • Sweet Basil, to taste
- • Oregano, to taste
- • 1 large jar good marinara sauce
- • 2 cans (large) spaghetti sauce (Spicy & Zesty and Garlic & Herb)
- • 1 lb. lasagna noodles
- • 6-8 qts. Salted water
- • 16 oz. container Ricotta cheese (small curd cottage cheese is a good substitute)
- • 1 lb. shredded mozzarella cheese
- • Shredded parmesan cheese
In large skillet or sauté pan (I use my electric skillet), brown Italian sausage and ground beef together, adding garlic powder, Italian seasoning, Sweet basil and Oregano (begin with 1 teaspoon of each, but guide by smell and personal preference). Drain well. (TIP: Put drippings aside to pour over your furbabies’ dry dog or cat food. They love it and it’s good for them. Use sparingly, though)
To drained meat, add marinara and spaghetti sauces. Mix well and lower heat to simmer while lasagna noodles are cooking. This will permit the meat and sauce flavors to blend well with the seasonings. At this time, taste the sauce mixture to adjust seasonings to your preference.
In 6-8 qt. pan, bring salted water to a boil. Add lasagna noodles one at a time, ensuring they do not stick together. Cook lasagna noodles to al dente stage. Drain and place drained noodles into bath of ice water to stop cooking process and keep moist.
Using large rectangular casserole or baking dish, put down a layer of the meat sauce. Then, place a layer of the lasagna noodles, covering the entire pan. Dab on ricotta at half-inch intervals. Cover with mozzarella, sprinkle with Parmesan. Add more meat sauce, more noodles, and more cheese. Continue this process until all noodles and sauce are layered in the pan. Be sure to retain enough sauce, then cheese to top the casserole.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350º for approximately 45 minutes. Remember all ingredients have been cooked, but you want the sauce and cheeses to have an opportunity to flavor the noodles. When top is slightly crusted and golden brown, bubbling, remove from oven. Let stand for at least ten minutes before serving to permit the casserole to set.