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Three Cheese Lasagna with Marcella's Marinara...Kind Of.

So, recently, I finally made Marcella Hazan's buttery tomato sauce and, unlike the other 98% of the food world, I didn't totally fall in love with it. I found it a bit too rich and buttery (if that can even happen) and missed the olive oil taste in my marinara. I didn't dislike it, I just didn't love it beyond all other sauces. What I did like was the silky texture the butter gave it and the ease of preparation and I wanted to try it again with less butter and some olive oil replacing the lost butter, finally settling on a ratio of 2 tbls butter/3 tbls of olive oil. This mix gave me the rich, silky texture but the olive oil flavour I was missing so much.

Shack woke up on Sunday morning with a craving for cabbage rolls but, unfortunately, he didn't share that with me until early afternoon. Cabbage rolls are not something you can just whip on on a whim. My mom, who was famous in our family for a couple of dishes, made a mean cabbage roll and I miss them tremendously. We really only made them in huge batches, freezing most of them, because they were so labour intensive and it always felt like a really big deal to me. When we had a big family reunion style gatherings, my mother's cabbage rolls were always requested (much to the chagrin of my aunt who was married to a Ukrainian man and learned to make them from her mother in law) and devoured with gusto. I recall hours of separating the leaves, steaming them and then trimming the thick core down so that they would be pliable, never mind making the filling, stuffing them and rolling them. Instead of attempting to make them last minute, we tried to find a european deli in the east of Toronto where we could buy some and heat them up at home. We did find a couple but neither opens on Sunday. I offered pierogies (sorry, pedaheh is the pronunciation if you are Ukrainian as Shack never fails to remind me) but he then said what he really wanted was a dinner of cabbage rolls, pedaheh and breaded veal cutlet and since that was NEVER going to happen, he settled for lasagna.

I never said his thought process made sense.

Anyway, lasagna it was to be except that The Kid really doesn't love Shack's heavy meat sauce and, therefore, doesn't really love his lasagna. As a compromise we decided to try out Ms Hazan's modified sauce again adding some garlic and basil and I am happy to say that we are thrilled with the results. We could prep the cheeses while the sauce simmered away, almost unattended so that was a bonus and, in the end, there was a delicious, creamy, cheesy lasagna that everyone could enjoy (Shack made a batch of meat sauce and ladled that on his serving). The kid got a clean marinara, Shack got meat sauce and I had the peace of mind that comes when all bellies are full and everyone's tastebuds are happy.

We kept it really simple because I wanted to taste the sauce but next time I will most likely add some greens - My preference would be rapini to give a nice bitter contrast to the richness of the dish but I am always vetoed on that so if you make it with rapini, please let me know how it turns out so I can live vicariously through you.I think some sauteed zucchini or eggplant in there would be great too.

This a double batch of sauce so if you are making a single batch I would do:
1 28oz can tomatoes, 1 onion, 2 tbls butter, 3 tbls olive oil, 1 clove garlic, 1 bunch basil and salt.

Three Cheese Lasagna

2 28oz cans San Marzano tomatoes, puréed
2 onions, peeled and halved
4 tbls or 1/4 cup butter
6 tbls extra virgin olive oil
Big pinch kosher salt
1 big clove garlic, peeled and smashed lightly
2 sprigs fresh basil
1 box oven ready lasagna noodles
1 lb mozzarella, grated
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
500 ml or 2 cups ricotta
1 egg, lightly beaten
Pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Put the tomatoes, butter, olive oil, onions, garlic, basil and big pinch of kosher salt in a big pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and let it simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring frequently. After it's done, fish out the onion and basil and discard.

Meanwhile, get your ricotta ready and grate your mozzarella and Parmesan. Mix the ricotta with the egg, nutmeg, about 1/4 cup of your grated mozzarella  and a pinch of salt with a few grinds of black pepper in a bowl and set aside. Put about 1/4 cup mozzarella and about 3 tbls parm in a bowl and set aside to scatter over the very top of the lasagna)

Preheat your oven to 375f

Get a 9"x13" baking pan and put a good cup and bit of tomato sauce in the bottom. Add a layer of noodles, snapping any pieces to fit so that you end up with one single layer. Cover that with 1/3 ricotta, sprinkle 1/3 of your mozzarella and your Parmesan over that. Ladle another couple ladles of sauce and then start again with noodles-ricotta-mozzarella-Parmesan-sauce two more times so you have three layers.  Add a few more ladles of sauce over the top layer of noodles and sprinkle the rest of your reserved cheeses on the very top.  You will have sauce left over and we use that to pour over each serving when it's time to eat because we are a saucy bunch.

Cover with foil and bake for about 40 minutes. After that time, remove the foil and cook, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. You can add more Parmesan on the top at that point if it doesn't look as cheesy as you'd like.

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