Despite it’s lengthy time commitment, lasagna is one of the simplest meals to make. It is based only upon the stacking of Italian ingredients — not exactly a complex culinary exercise.
As a result, the flavor of lasagna stands upon the shoulders of it’s filling. It only goes as far as your selection of cheese, veggies and meat. When I set my sights on making a lasagna, I knew I would have to take the time to make each ingredient pop on the palate; I would need to get the little things right. Such is the case when we aspire to greatness.
Of course, our meals are never as delicious as we imagine them in the supermarket isle. Like all foods once dreamed and later cooked, my lasagna made the inevitable journey, from perfect food archetype to flawed edible reality.
When I sampled my final entree, I found that my dairy distribution was mediocre at best. I had commitment issues with the spinach. My Italian sausage was incredibly dry, a desert landscape to rival a Georgia O’keeffe painting.
But as my good friend Frank once told me, “don’t change your hair for me, not if you care for me, stay little valentine. Stay.” No my lasagna wasn’t perfect. It’s figure was certainly less than greek. But damn if it wasn’t reasonably tasty.
I now realize that most of my blog is lengthy eulogies for lost food potential. Let’s move onto the pictures.
The sauce was one of the strongest components of my lasagna, and for this success I credit patience. I let the onions and garlic sauté on low, with some fennel and oregano, for about 23 years. In the process I got a sweet and highly flavorful base. The other trick: whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes. If a can of European tomatoes has ever been worth 4.99, it would be San Marzano’s.
Fungi or Fun Guy?
I know, I know, I’m too hilarious for my own good. In similar fashion, Mushrooms are too delicious for their own good. They always want to be the star. They can steal a meal like Tom Hardy stole The Revenant from Leo. I don’t exaggerate when I say that properly sautéed crimini mushroom can leave me breathless. My mushrooms weren’t perfectly sautéed, but they were a solid effort. I cooked them down in a little butter and olive oil, and added a splash of red wine for that next level flavor.
We Have The Meats™
Yeah, I overcooked the sausage, and no, I don’t want to talk about it.
Don’t Forget to Say Cheese!
Mozzarella, fresh mozzarella, parmesan grated two ways, ricotta (with one egg mixed in for smooth consistency). I had all the cheese. But don’t expect me to pick favorites. I love them equally.
The Art of Jenga
So there was my array of ingredients. All I had to do was stack them in between layers of dry lasagna noodles. You might be wondering, why dry noodles? And to that I answer, because it is way better. Dry lasagna noodles soak up enough moisture from the sauce while baking that they cook all the way through. However, they don’t run the risk of getting too wet or mushy like a pre-boiled noodle might.
Actually, is a lasagna even a noodle? Is there a certain width at which point we can no longer call something a noodle? Is “flat pasta” a more politically correct term? I have so many questions but so few friends intrigued by noodle semantics. (And after that sentence, just a lack of friends period.)
Anyhoo, my whole creation went into the oven at 350 for about an hour. Twenty minutes before I took it out, I added the top cheese layer, so it melted just the right amount.
It wasn’t everything I dreamed. Nothing in life ever is. But I was excited to eat the leftovers, and that’s about all I can ask for.