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Marilyn’s Lasagna

Lasagna

Mmmm Good! Lasagna

Ah, Lasagna! Pasta, yet not quite. It is in a class all by itself: Layers of cheese, sauce, and noodles all fused together to make one beautiful culinary delight!

There are those who make their lasagna with cottage cheese and those who prefer ricotta. Personally, I like the smooth and creamy taste and texture of ricotta. It isn’t as wet as cottage cheese and spreads a little easier and doesn’t leave lumps like cottage cheese does. But, in a pinch, cottage cheese will do. Just drain it very well and run it through the blender to smooth it out, and it will work nearly as well as ricotta.

The ingredients are fairly flexible. The main thing is the sauce, the cheeses, and the noodles. Add meat, spinach, and mushrooms or not. It makes a great lasagna either way.

This makes quite a bit of lasagna. If you are expecting more guests, double the amounts.

Marilyn’s Lasagna

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. good quality sweet Italian sausage in bulk
1 lb. of ricotta cheese (16 ounce container)
2-1/2 to 3 cups of GOOD QUALITY “fresh” Parmesan cheese shreds–My rant: Don’t ruin it and don’t even bother trying to make this with that stuff in the green container that passes for Parmesan. Don’t go cheap on this particular cheese!!
3 cups of shredded Provolone cheese
3 cups of shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 lb. box of lasagna noodles
4 to 5 cups of your favorite homemade or good-quality spaghetti sauce
a splash of wine for the sauce (optional)
mushrooms (optional)
3 TBSP Italian broadleaf parsley, finely chopped (can substitute regular parsley–try for fresh if you can find it)
2 cloves finely minced garlic cloves
1 egg

1. Start browning the Italian sausage until no longer pink–don’t allow it to crisp. Drain well. Follow with the ground beef and brown but don’t allow it to crisp.

2. Add the spaghetti sauce at this point and maybe 1/4 cup of wine (optional). Also add clean and chopped mushrooms (optional)

3. Add 1/4 cup GOOD quality Parmesan cheese shreds. Allow to simmer for flavors to blend.

4. In the meantime, get a big pot of water on to boil. Add about 1 tsp of salt and a splash of olive oil.

5. Once boiling, add the lasagna noodles carefully. Gently push them into the water without breaking and allow space between them. Occasionally stir the pot to keep them from clumping together. Cook until just barely done–to the “very chewy, firm” stage. Just enough to be pliable. Trust me. They will finish cooking during the bake time.

6. Drain well–rinse under cold water, gently separate the noodles if necessary. Set aside.

7. Mix the ricotta, egg, parsley, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of that good quality Parmesan shreds, garlic and blend well.

Now here is the fun part:

In a large baking dish, add some of the sauce on the bottom of the pan–about 1-1/2 cups of it. Spread it around to coat

We will be building 3 layers:

Add the first layer of noodles–you may have to cut them to fit.

Now, add a layer of ricotta mixture, 1/3 of it. “Butter” the noodle layers with it.

Sprinkle generously with 1/2 cup of Provolone shreds add 1/2 cup of Mozzarella shreds.

Add 1/3 of the remaining sauce, spread evenly.

top with 1/2 cup or more of Parmesan shreds

Add the second layer of noodles in the opposite direction. Again, you may need to trim the noodles to fit. Repeat with the ricotta, Provolone & Mozzarella, sauce and Parmesan cheese layers.

The last layer is where we get a little more wicked. After adding the noodles in the same direction as the first layer, the ricotta, cheeses,and sauce, add about 3/4 cup of Parmesan shreds, 1 cup of Provolone shreds, 1 cup of Mozzarella shreds as the final topping. You want to cover the top very thoroughly.

Cover loosely with aluminum foil

Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes and remove the foil and bake until the top has a nice golden brown crust.

Now, the secret to help this slice into squares without turning into a sloppy mess: Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Homemade Pizza Dough

Homemade Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough

Pizza Dough

1-1/2 cups  warm water
1 packet of quick rise yeast (that’s one of the strip of the three packets of yeast you buy in the store)
1-3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
2-1/2  cups bread flour
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour

Put warm water in a bowl. Add the sugar. Add the yeast. Mix and let start to proof (bubble).

Add the salt and bread flour. (You can substitute all-purpose flour, but the bread flour gives a better dough and taste). Mix. Might be a little sticky at this point.

Turn out onto a surface covered with the 3/4 cup all-purpose flour. Knead until smooth and elastic.

Turn into a greased bowl, cover with a clean towel, and let rise an hour. Punch down.

Lightly sprinkle a clean surface with flour, flour a rolling pin and roll out to fit a pizza pan or pizza stone. Add a little cornmeal to the pizza pan or stone. Add the rolled out crust, tuck in the edges. Bake about 5 to 8 minutes at 475 degrees just enough to set it up and keep it crispy, not enought to brown it. Remove from the oven, add the tomato sauce, toppings of choice, and cheese. Return to the oven and bake at 475 until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

This dough also makes excellent bread sticks. You can also add herbs to the dough when adding the flour. Rosemary and Basil make good additions to the crust.

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