My friend, Jen, at Piccante Dolce has issued a lasagna challenge for November and I was so exited about joining in the fun that I started this blog so I could play along. I have some ideas floating around in my head for the next three weeks but I wanted to start simple for the first week. It also helped that I had a big bowl of meat sauce in the fridge that I had to use up.
Since the three of us all have different needs in a lasagna, I was interested in making individual lasagnas. I thought about making three small lasagnas but i only have ramekins, which are too small or various mismatched casserole dishes of varying sizes. To avoid a catfight over who got the biggest casserole, I decided to make lasagna roll ups and customize each roll up since I like spicy and bitter, Shack likes mushrooms and Little Shack doesn't like either.
I sauted mushrooms in garlic, olive oil and a bit of butter for Shack and I. I sauteed some finely chopped kale for Little Shack and Rapini for us. This proved to be a fatal mistake, but I will get into that later.
I cooked and cooled the noodles and spread on the ricotta mixture, added the mushrooms on all but three, kale for the kid, rapini for the adults and a healthy layer of meat sauce for everyone. I then rolled them up and put them in a shallow casserole dish that was prepped with a ground layer of sauce. Once i filled the casserole dish, i covered them in the rest of the sauce and sprinkled a generous amount of a four italian cheese mix and some fresh basil which i had intended to add to the inside of the roll but i forgot. YES I WAS LAZY AND BOUGHT ONE OF THOSE BAGS OF MIXED PRE SHREDDED CHEESE OKAY?
I baked it in a preheated 350F oven for about 35 minutes until I could see the sauce getting all bubbly and the cheese was just starting to brown. It came out looking like this:
I loved it. It was nice and gooey and cheesey and saucey and one roll was a perfect portion size for me. I really, really love rapini and thought that without the rapini it would have been too rich and mild but Shack did not agree and complained that the rapini did not, in fact, work at all and he would prefer it if I did not add rapini to his again. I think that he is wrong and he is not the one with the yum yum factor in the first place so I will stand by my opinion that the bitter rapini is a perfect foil to all that ricotta and exotic bagged four italian cheeses. Little Shack loved his and ended up eating a second roll and was very happy that his contained kale and not rapini. I cannot account for their lack of taste but I also can't complain about having a kid who loves kale.
Recipe for my meat sauce:
Heat a couple of good size glugs of olive oil , add some chopped garlic and a finely diced onion or a few shallots. Take two or three italian sausages, remove the casing and throw that in the pot to brown. Make sure to really break it up so that you don't end up with huge lumps in your finished sauce. Once that is browned I throw in two or three cans of italian plum tomatoes. You can break up the tomatoes by crushing them with your hand as you add them or whirring them up with an immersion blender right in the can before you add them. Chunky sauce gets the same reaction as rapini in the lasagna around here so i use the immersion blender.
At this point, i salt and pepper to taste and let it simmer for at least half an hour and up to an hour. You can add some dried basil and oregano if that's your thing. I did use about a tbls of dried oregano in this particular sauce but i usually throw in some fresh basil right before we serve it.
I mixed a 300g container of ricotta with about 1/2 cup coarsely grated parmesan, and egg and salt and pepper and set that aside
Saute whatever green you want to add. I liked both the rapini and the kale but it would have been great with spinach or swiss chard too. I sauteed both greens seperately in a bit of olive oil until it was nicely wilted and just starting to get soft and set that aside.
I sauteed a cup of sliced mushrooms in some olive oil and garlic until they were nicely browned and set that aside.
Cook the lasagna noodles according to your package directions, rinse under cool water and set aside for a few minutes to dry a bit.
I put parchment paper in a cookie tray for my work space because, as I have said, my kitchen is miniscule and I have limited counter space so things have to stay neat and contained if I don't want to end up with a dishwashing sponge in my food.
I laid out the cooled, cooked lasagna noodles, spread a layer of ricotta, added mushrooms and rapini to ours and only the kale to the kid's. Then I added a thick layer of sauce, going out of my way to get lots of meat in this layer. I covered the bottom of a shallow casserole with sauce and packed the individual lasagna bundles into the dish. When it was full, I covered them with the rest of the sauce, sprinkled fresh, chopped basil and used just over half of a 340g bag of exotic mixed italian cheese (asiago, provolone, mozzarella, parmesan) and baked it for 35 minutes in a preheated 350F oven.
I served it with a salad of baby arugula, roasted beets and a really simple vinagrette because I wanted to avoid anything too rich.
We all gave it three thumbs up except that Shack wouldn't eat it with the rapini again and I think he is crazy and would not want it without the rapini, so there you have it.