Ben’s “little” brother (6’6″) and one of his friends came to visit this weekend, and since I knew I would be feeding two young guys who can eat impressively large quantities at a sitting, I planned big, food-wise. For dinner when they got up here Friday night I made a meat lasagna, using the Cook’s Illustrated recipe I cooked once last fall. The ingredients total more than six pounds, so I figured it would do the trick.
Hearty Meat Lasagna – New Best Recipes (Cook’s Illustrated)
(As adapted by Kate’s Mom)
Notes from Mom: “This is a production but easy to do. It is important to get the mix of meats. I get it fresh ground at Long’s and ask Mike to make the pork fatty because veal and beef are lean.
Unless I am doing it for a party and need the whole recipe, I assemble it in three tin foil square pans and freeze the other two.”
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
6 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. meat loaf mix or .33 lb each ground beef chuck, ground veal, & ground pork
.5 t. salt
.5 t. black pepper
.25 C heavy cream
1 (28 oz) can pureed tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
2. Sauce: Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering, but not smoking, about 2 minutes.
a. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not brown, about 2 minutes.
b. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
c. Increase heat to medium-high and add the ground meats, salt, and pepper; cook, breaking the meat into small pieces until the meat loses its raw color but has not browned, about 4 minutes.
d. Add the cream and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid evaporates and only the fat remains, about 4 minutes.
e. Add the pureed and drained diced tomatoes, and bring to a simmer; reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly until the flavors are blended, about 3 minutes – and only 3 minutes; set the sauce aside. (Note from Kate: You’re leaving the sauce wet, not cooking it down, because you need enough liquid to cook the no-boil noodles.)
Ricotta, Mozzarella & Pasta Layers
15 oz whole-milk ricotta, 1.75 C
2.5 oz Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, 1.25 C (divided)
(optional per Beth: .5 t. red pepper flakes & .25 t. nutmeg)
.5 C fresh basil, chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
.5 t. salt
.5 t. black pepper
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 lb whole-milk mozzarella, shredded, 4 C
a. Mix ricotta, 1 C of the Parmesan, basil, egg, salt, and pepper (and optional red pepper flakes and nutmeg) in a medium bowl with a fork until well combined and creamy; set aside.
b. Smear the bottom of a 13 x 9” baking dish with .25 C of the meat sauce.
(Note: Here’s Mom’s adaptation, and a brilliant one it is. Instead of trying to dab the ricotta onto noodles in the pan, lifting them up and displacing them with your spoon, she lays them out like playing cards and uses a spatula to spread the mixture on.)
c. Lay out 9 of the noodles and smear equally with the ricotta mixture.
d. Place 3 of the coated noodles in the dish to create the first layer.
e. Sprinkle the layer with 1 C mozzarella.
f. Spoon 1.5 C meat sauce evenly over cheese.
g. Repeat layering of coated noodles, mozzarella, and sauce over the noodles two more times.
h. Place the remaining three noodles on top of the sauce, spread with remaining sauce, sprinkle with the remaining 1 C mozzarella, then with the remaining .25 C Parmesan.
i. Lightly spray a large sheet of foil with nonstick cooking spray and cover the lasagna.
j. Bake 15 minutes; remove foil.
k. Return lasagna to oven and bake until the cheese is spotty brown and the sauce is bubbling, about 25 minutes longer.
l. Cool the lasagna about 10 minutes; cut into pieces and serve.
Let me tell you, this is a delicious lasagna. Each boy had two of those huge pieces that night; Ben and I each had half a piece and split the other piece for lunch the next day. See the pretty layers in the cold slice:
I served it with salad and a loaf of store-bought garlic bread. That is a classic combo for a reason!