Just like every family has its own recipe for sauce, so does every family have its own recipe for lasagne . There is no single “right way” to make it, although I have tasted quite a number of “wrong ways” over the years.
Here in South Africa, lasagne has very little cheese in it. Instead, they make it layered with what they optimistically call “béchamel sauce,” which is actually nothing more than a simple flour-based white sauce, gooey and tasteless. Personally, I find it disgusting and will not buy lasagne here. So, when I want lasagne, I have to make it myself…and the recipe below is how I do it.
Again, this qualifies as an authentic dish since Old Joe taught this to me and he learned it from his mother. The original recipe must be more than 100 years old by now. This can be made vegetarian by using the Basic Sauce recipe instead of the meat sauce recipe.
This is the perfect “pot luck” dish…in fact, whenever I took this to a potluck dinner, it was always the first dish to be emptied. Everybody loves lasagne!
Prepare a 9”x 13”x 3” baking pan by spraying well with cooking spray. Set oven to 325°F (165°C). Cut a piece of aluminium foil 1 ½ times the width of the dish and its full length.
2 quarts (8 cups) Meat Sauce
1 package dry lasagne noodles
1 quart (4 cups) ricotta cheese
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (Asiago or Scarmozza can be used)
1 cup each grated Romano and Parmesan cheese
1 large onion, finely minced
6 cloves garlic, crushed or put through garlic press
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
½ cup coarsely cut fresh basil
1 tbsp dried oregano or Italian seasonings
Boil noodles in salted water. Remove from heat as soon as they are flexible and plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process. If the noodles are cooked until they are soft, they tear more easily while handling. Keep noodles in water, otherwise they will stick together.
Sauté onion, garlic, seasonings and mushrooms together in oil until onion is translucent. Set aside to cool a bit, then mix thoroughly with the ricotta cheese.
Ladle some sauce into the bottom of the pan and spread it around. Place a layer of noodles on the sauce. Cut length of noodle to fit if necessary. Generously spread a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles, then sprinkle generously with mozzarella, followed by Romano and Parmesan, then a layer of sauce. Now put another layer of noodles on top of the sauce and repeat the process. End with a layer of sauce, then sprinkle with any remaining cheeses.
Cover the dish with foil, tenting slightly to prevent the foil from sticking to the cheese. Bake for a minimum of 45 minutes or until the cheese in the middle is melted.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. This allows the cheeses to set a bit. Cut into 3” squares and serve with a salad on the side and more grated cheeses at the table.
Photo by lachlan, flickr