We had about fifteen more inches of snow here yesterday! Unfortunately, we had finished all of our wonderful curry, and even the second batch of curry chicken which I made this weekend (recipe coming soon). So I spent most of our "snowed in" day in the kitchen, preparing a delicious meal which we ate by candlelight (as our power went out just after I served our plates). It was really pretty romantic.
I know that we are coming up on Valentine's day here, but I want to reminisce a little over our Christmas break. Although I don't have any new family pictures to share, I want to tell you about our Christmas feast. We actually had several feasts, including a traditional Christmas meal, so on Christmas day my sister-in-law, our hostess, decided to do something a little less traditional.
Our planned meal was lasagna, salad, and garlic bread. Now, my sister-in-law loves to cook just about as much as I do. She knows her stuff. However, when she brought out her chosen recipe, entitled "The World's Greatest Lasagna," for some reason I felt entitled (obligated?) to tell her that the recipe she had chosen was not the world's greatest lasagna. To my credit, I had previously made that recipe (from now on, referred to the World's Second Greatest Lasagna), and my humming taste-tester told me that it was not as good as my recipe. My sister-in-law insisted that we not be guilty of serving the World's Second Greatest Lasagna for Christmas dinner. So, we set out to make not the World's Second Greatest Lasagna, but to make the best: my recipe (evidently I have a pretty inflated kitchen ego).
I don't make lasagna too often, but when I do, I make this recipe. It is not a "weeknight meal" so to speak because it does require a bit of a time investment and several cooking pots. But nevertheless, it is so, so good, and is perfect for a special occasion (or when you are snowed in). It is pretty traditional, but in addition to the meaty ragout, it has a creamy béchamel sauce, which I think, makes this dish the best. My husband thinks that it is the italian sausage that puts it over the top. But I would love to know your thoughts...Is this the World's Greatest?
The World's Greatest Lasagna (Subjectively Speaking)
1-8 oz package of pre-cooked lasagna (about nine lasagna noodles)
1 pound ground beef
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
1 tablespoon oil
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 large can of tomatoes
1-6 oz tomato paste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups warm milk
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
24 oz cottage cheese (or ricotta, to be more authentic)
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 pound sliced mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
For the ragout: brown the meat. Drain off any grease and return the meat to the pan. Add the next eight ingredients. Simmer, uncovered, until thick, about 1 hour.
For the béchamel: while the ragout is simmeringl, combine the butter and flour in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk to make a medium caramel colored roux. Remove from the heat, let rest one minute, and then whisk in the warm milk. Return to heat, simmer 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Season the sauce with salt and nutmeg. Remove from the heat.
For the cheese: Combine the cottage cheese with the next five ingredients.
To assemble: Spread a third of the ragout sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour (or dollop) a third of the béchamel sauce over the ragout. Arrange 3 noodles lengthwise over the sauce (you may have to break the noodles to make them fit). Spread with a third of the cheese mixture. Top with a third of the mozzarella cheese slices. Repeat layers two more times, and top with remaining mozzarella. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top.