Classic Lasagna

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I don’t know how else to put it: this lasagna is epic. There are a million iterations of lasagna: mushroom, bechamel, spinach, pesto – I could go on forever. This lasagna recipe is more traditional but be forewarned: it’s really hearty. It contains beef and sausage; ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan, for starters. It may be time-consuming to make, but it’s worth it. Plus, it makes enough servings to just about feed an army. (Well, a small army at least.)

Lasagna

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground beef
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 28-ounce cans Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped, juices reserved
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, tied together with kitchen string
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
2 pounds ricotta cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoons dried basil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound packaged mozzarella, shredded
1 egg, beaten
1 package dried lasagna noodles

1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the beef and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat into large chunks, until no pink remains. Add the garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until the meat is coated. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the tomato puree along with the chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme and sugar. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 7 cups, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet. Add the sausage meat in large pieces and cook over moderately high heat until browned and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Crumble into 1/2-inch pieces with back of wooden cooking spoon as sausage is cooking. Drain the sausage and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta with the parsley, basil and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Add two-thirds of the shredded mozzarella and season with salt and pepper. Beat in the egg.

4. Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a large glass or ceramic baking dish. Line the dish with 4 overlapping noodles. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, then top with one-third of the sausage, 1 cup of the sauce and another 4 noodles. Repeat the layering two more times with the remaining ricotta, sausage and another 2 cups of sauce. Top with 4 noodles and cover with remaining sauce. Toss the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan and sprinkle over the lasagna.

6. Bake the lasagna for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and crisp around the edges and the filling is bubbling. Let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes before serving.

Veal Marsala

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One of these days I’d like to eat my way through Italy. That hasn’t happened yet, but thankfully there are tons of Italian classics I can recreate in my kitchen. Veal marsala is one of the most common, and I make this with variations all the time. Sometimes I use chicken, sometimes I use cremini mushrooms instead of button – you get the idea. You can eat this with mashed potatoes but I prefer to serve the veal over buttered egg noodles.

Veal marsala with mushrooms

3 tablespoons butter
1 pound button mushrooms, quartered
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 1/2 pound veal cutlets
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sweet Marsala wine
1 cup beef broth
10 ounces egg fettuccine, cooked al dente and tossed with one tablespoon butter

1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over high heat until foam subsides, then saute mushrooms, stirring frequently, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and parsley and saute, stirring, 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl and wipe skillet clean.

2. Pat veal dry, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano. Heat 1/2 tablespoon oil with 1 teaspoon butter in skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. While fat is heating, dredge 2 or 3 pieces of veal in flour, shaking off excess, then saute until just cooked through, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter with tongs and keep warm, loosely covered. Saute remaining veal in 2 more batches using remaining oil and butter.

3. Add Marsala to skillet and deglaze by boiling, stirring and scraping up brown bits, until reduced by half. Stir in broth and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Stir in mushroom mixture and any veal juices accumulated on platter, then season with salt and pepper if necessary. Simmer 2 minutes more and spoon over veal.