A Step-By-Step Guide to Building a Lasagne

The purpose of this photo journal is to demonstrate how to build a lasagna.

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Zim’s Lasagne!

By BOB ZIMORINO

Amy and I were having our friends Jack and Shelly Meyer over for dinner. We decided to go Classic Italian with the menu.

(Grandma Angie’s Homemade Chicken Soup) We followed that with a Strawberry Almond Salad with Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette. Dressing. So here it is folks, more than you ever needed to know about lasagna

The Thing About Lasagna…
Lasagna (singular) Lasagne (plural) –Lasagna been around since the middle ages and is believed to come out of Naples, although in the 1400’s Rome had a similar dish called Lasanum. Lasagna is an Italian word that means cooking pot, in reference to what the dish is normally cooked in. Interestingly enough, There were no tomato sauces at that time because until Columbus brought tomatoes back to Europe they were unheard of. Northern Italians developed Lasagna further because of their access to cheeses and other dairy products. There are arguments (Italians love to argue…no we don’t…yes we do…see that, I am arguing with myself) as to what is the traditional Lasagna.

The Northern Italians claim theirs, with its’ blend of tomato and béchamel sauce and fine cheeses. Of course the Southern Italians have a different idea of what is a traditional Lasagna and béchamel sauce is not part of it. Goat cheeses however are. What is the true traditional Lasagna. My folks are Southern Italians. I find béchamel makes it a little too rich for me.
What is the true traditional Lasagna? Well, for me it starts with a blend of meats and cheeses, a fabulous tomato sauce and pasta made from semolina flour. However, I have seen and made countless varieties of lasagne using everything from thins trips of zucchini instead of pasta sheets, to a variety of different meats, seafoods and cheeses, as well as various vegetables, and topped with alfredo, or tomato sauce or even pesto.

The purpose of this photo journal is to demonstrate how to build a lasagna. I am making the assumption, that you have a few things that you can get together on your own, such as, your favorite tomato sauce, your favorite, Italian Sausage (I make my own) Meatballs (I make my own. If you don’t have access to meatballs buy some ground beef and saute it with finely chopped onions, minced garlic, fresh chopped parsley salt and pepper and then let it cool completely), and pasta (obviously lasagna noodles). The pictures will have comments explaining what you are seeing and other ingredients…

Oh by the way, the thing about lasagna is…don’t get any on ya…

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Mis En Place…Lower Right – Bolognese style (Meat) Sauce, Upper Right – 3 Cheese Filling, The two pans on the left are cold water for the pasta coming off of the stove (far left)

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I cook my pasta in a wide pan so that I can submerge the sheets in the boiling water. I also have backup boiling water to replace that which is lost to evaporation and absorption.

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I want it to bend readily but still be pretty raw because it will bake in the oven and continue to cook there. From the boiling water it goes to the cold water to stop the cooking process.

Lsagne ingredients

Now to build the lasagna. Start with some sauce in the bottom of the pan. These pans ( although somewhat distorted by the camera) are 1/2 Hotel Pans (approximately 10 X 12 inch). They can be purchased through a restaurant supply house or on line. You can make one big one in a full sized pan. I like the half size beause I find that they bake more consistently.

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Spread Tomato Sauce to coat the bottom of the pan and giving the noodles a chance to bake without sticking. Remember you with want to reserve some sauce for the topping as well as for the finished table ready portion.

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Three cheese filling. The base cheese for this is Ricotta not Cottage Cheese, It is in your grocers case. Figure 3 pounds per pan. Because I did 2 pans, simple math says 6 pounds. Drain it well and use a low moisture choice (usually part skim).

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This starts by sauteing 1 medium onion, chopped fine, with 2 tbsp. of fresh minced garlic until the onions are slightly translucent. chill completely then add to 6 lbs. Ricotta Cheese , 8 oz. Shredded Mozzarella, and a cup of grated parmesan cheese, 6 eggs ( a handy rule of thumb with ricotta is one egg per pound) a half of a cup of fresh chopped parsley and salt and pepper.

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Round 2 of pasta layering.

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Slight overlap and curl up the sides.

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This is the meat layer. Saute 2.5 lbs of Italian Sausage sauteed with 2. 5 lbs. of Meatball (If you don’t have access to meatballs buy some ground beef and saute it with finely chopped onions, minced garlic, fresh chopped parsley salt and pepper and then let it cool completely.)

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Add tomato sauce to the meat mix to flavor it and help make it more spreadable. Note the texture, the meat is not swimming in sauce.

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My sous chef prepping the final pasta layer…

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Beacuse I don’t want this layer to curl up on the edges, I lay them the other way.

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4 across, slightly overlapping with the one horizontal one trimmed to fit the pan.

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Your next layer of sauce.

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Almost done…

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I love using fresh mozarella for this layer but…

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You can use shredded out of the bag if you choose.

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The first wrap that I put on it is plastic wrap. It may be hard to see and many will think this is crazy but let me explain. If you cover it with aluminum foil the acid in the tomatoes will cause degradation in the foil creating what is called aluminum salt. While harmless it will show up visibly in your dish make it taste of aluminum when you are eating it. That is a lot of work to have that end result.

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Then you can cover it with foil. It seems a little crazy and how do you get all of that melted plastic off of your food? Plastic will melt to the hottest things available which in the case is the aluminum foil and the pan it is baking in. When you pull off the foil for the last 15 or 20 minutes of baking, the plastic will come right with it. You make have to pick some melted wrap off the the pan edges but if you do it when the pan cools it is easy. Bake at 400° until the internal temperature is approximately 140° then peal the foil and plastic off and pop it back in until it hits 155°. It should be browned on top but you can always finish it to the color you like using the broiler. be extra careful not to burn it, if you do this.

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Set it off to the side. Because heat was being applied then is suddenly stopped, the cooking process works in reverse with the outer edges beginning to cool while the middle of the lasagna will keep cooking and should finish at 165° Once it settles (10 to 15 minutes) cut into tobetween 9 and 12 pieces depending on how big you want your portions.

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A plate of heaven.

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Lasagna and a glass of sturdy red…

cupcakes

Shelly made dessert which was what I would call an Old Fashion Cupcake. Not because there was some old style baking method but because it had maraschino cherries in the cupcake and a maraschino cherry / bourbon frosting and tasted like an Old Fashion. Perfect end to a great meal.

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Visit the “Taste It” archive or check out Bob’s recipes.

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Bob Zimorino is a full-time real estate agent with Lambros/ERA Real Estate, a retired Certified Executive Chef, a musician with the popular local bands The Levitators and Spinal Pizza, a dad, and a grandpa. He shares the experiences from his life that helped shape his careers and hobbies. His weekly “Taste It” blog is his take on the evolution of food in his lifetime.