I'm not normally a huge fan of lasagna. There always seems to be a unpleasantly dry and somewhat tasteless layer of ricotta, which is a big turn off. The noodles always seem to be off on their own, sliding around as you try to eat. Like the whole layered thing immediately falls apart when in hits your plate. Recently I had some lasagna at my favorite Italian place. There was none of that happening. Everything was all happily getting along, being delicious and moist.
Part of it may have been the homemade noodles and the way it was layered. The homemade noodles aren't necessary but do make this dish. Everything else comes together really quickly, but the noodles take a little work. You'll get a good arm workout though. Can't complain about that. The noodles come out perfectly al dente. They aren't pre-cooked, cooking instead in the sauce and filling. Perfectly melded sauce and noodle situation.
If you have a pasta machine, go ahead and use that instead of a rolling pin. The difference with really be arm workout or not. The sheets also won't be as wide, but most of mine weren't anyways. Don't panic when your sheets aren't a perfect 9 x 13 rectangle. Just think rustic lasagna. Cut them up to fit appropriately.
I'm not sure what the "normal" way of layering lasagna is because I've never made it. The majority of recipes I looked at had layers of ricotta all by its lonesome. Easy solution was to not do that. It worked. No dry ricotta bits in this lasagna. Ricotta is sort of bland too, which doesn't help its situation. Mixing the ricotta with the mozzarella Parmesan and basil, I like to think also made a big difference. All together it is a little piece of heaven.
Homemade lasagna noodles:
2 1/4 cups flour
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- In a food processor, combine the flour, eggs and salt. Pulse several times until the dough resembles medium crumbs (if the dough seems too moist, add a 1/4 cup flour).
- Turn out the dough onto a clean, dry, flour-dusted work surface. Gather the dough together and knead it until it comes together and is smooth and elastic, about 3-5 minutes. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let rest for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours. Remove from fridge 5-10 minutes before rolling out, into your desired form.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds spicy Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 large onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon (generous) cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 28-ounce and 1 14-ounce crushed tomatoes
3/4 ounce package fresh basil leaves
1 15-ounce container plus 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 12 ounces)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
- Heat oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage, onion, garlic, oregano and red pepper and saute until sausage is cooked through, mashing sausage into small pieces, about 10 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes. Bring sauce to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper.
- Using on/off turns, chop fresh basil leaves finely in a food processor. Add ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan egg, 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Using on/off turns, process filling until just blended and texture is still chunky.
- To make the lasagna noodles, divide the dough into 3 equal balls. Using a rolling pin, flatten the ball out from the center to the outer edge. Keep rolling out the dough, rotating the dough one-quarter turn as you go. Flip the dough over once or twice and be sure to lightly flour the surface to prevent sticking. Continue rolling out the dough until it reaches a 1/16-inch thick, or until it becomes transparent enough to read through.
- The sheets of pasta should be roughly large enough for a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, if not cut them to cover the whole area of the pan (it doesn't need to be pretty, mine wasn't).
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Spread 1 1/4 cups sauce in 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Arrange one layer of noodles on sauce. Drop 1 1/2 cups cheese filling and 1 1/4 cups sauce over noodles, then spread evenly to cover. Repeat layering of sauce, filling and noodles 2 more times (3 layers of noodles). Top the final layer of sauce and filling with mozzarella and Parmesan. Spray large piece of foil with nonstick spray. Cover lasagna with foil, sprayed side down.
- Bake lasagna 40 minutes. Carefully uncover. Increase oven temperature to 400F. Bake until noodles are tender, sauce bubbles thickly and edges of lasagna are golden and puffed, about 20 minutes. Transfer to work surface; let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Adapted from Bon Appetit