Monday, February 4, 2008

Improvisation: Lasagna

The Eastside Marinara recipe is presented in the context of making a lasagna. So, a few nights ago, I decided to throw some together. I decided, deliberately, to not refer to a recipe to see what would happen.

Having two quarts of the marinara at home and two packages of thawed chopped frozen spinach, I stopped by Jewel to pick up lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese (this was very hard to find until I realized that it's kept by the cottage cheese and milk, not with the cheeses, even though the latter section included marscapone), shredded mozzarella and Morningstar Farms Sausage Flavored Crumbles. I'd used this fake meat in a lot of stuff over the past few years and it's really pretty good.

For the prep, I boiled the noodles and seasoned the drained and squeezed-dry spinach with garlic. The new thing I did was using a technique with the garlic I first saw on Tyler Florence's How to Boil Water. Using the flat of the knife, you essentially grind the garlic down (after a rough chop) into a paste with kosher salt as an abrasive and olive oil. The instructor in Pan Handling showed a woman the same thing, so there was some more validation. If there's a description or video on the show site or the net, I'll like it here.

It was going okay, but I definitely need practice. I forgot the olive oil component (which I think the Chopping Block teacher didn't use either) and only remembered it after I was watching another episode of the show where he did it again. In fact, I'm not entirely sure Florence did it the first time.

When everything was prepped, I layered starting with sauce, noodles, ricotta, spinach, fake sausage, then repeated once. On the second sausage, I laid down sauce again, another noodle layer, then mozzaralla, topped with dried oregano.

Baked that at 350F (in my newly recalibrated oven) until the cheese and the sides were bubbling. I have to say, it looked amazing. However, it's pretty bland. At very least, it needs more salt, but it also seems I was too heavy on the ricotta, because that's the texture and taste that stays in the mouth. I'd give it a C+/B-.


Anita said...

Did you season your ricotta? I have found that adding herbs to the ricotta helps it not stand out so much.

raw said...

For years and years we've made the veggie lasagne out of Jane Brody's Good Food Cook Book. It's gotten to the point where I won't even use a recipe anymore: I'll just use 4 cups of tomato sauce, a brick of mozz, a tub of ricotta, and prepare a variety of sautéed veg, no-boil noodles, and layer away.

If I've got time I'll toast some walnuts and layer them in, too. And I usually sprinkle some parm reggie on the top. Part of the trick here is that any sogginess in the veg is absorbed by the (dry) noodles.

I like the suggestion of seasoning the ricotta. That would be a nice detail.