Hot & Spicy Lasagna
Friday, July 11, 2008- Hot & Spicy Lasagna- It has been many years, perhaps 10 or even 15, since Dawn and I made any lasagna from scratch. In recent years I have just given up on buying lasagna in restaurants because the meals we were getting were absolutely no better than a frozen lasagna that we purchased at the grocery store! When we go out to an Italian restaurant I will order some kind of chicken dish because my spaghetti (see recipe for world class spaghetti) and our frozen lasagnas are better. But in recent months I have had a desire to make some lasagna from scratch (alright, I do use prepackaged noodles). Here is the recipe I came up with, but it varies each time.
Step 1) Go to my world class spaghetti recipe and follow that recipe to make the sauce. No kidding…I make my lasagna with my spaghetti sauce. I made the spaghetti sauce a couple of days ahead of time and we ate spaghetti those days; but I had enough sauce left over to use in this lasagna. I basically doubled my sauce recipe for this occasion.
2) I make a cheese mixture with one 15oz container of Ricotta cheese and about 1 1/2 lbs of grated mozzarella cheese. I mix in 2-3 eggs, 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 tblspn of Parsley, a tspn of black pepper, a half tspn of cayenne pepper, and about a tspn of Italian seasoning and another tspn of Oregano. Mix all this up well in a bowl.
3) I spread a layer of my spaghetti sauce on the bottom of my large baking pan (13×9?) then I add the first layer of whole wheat noodles. I do not pre-cook my noodles, I put them in dry. Then I add large dollops of the cheese mix and spread it out till the noodles are covered. Add another layer of sauce, etc. I have done 3 layers and 4 layers and definitely prefer the 4 layer lasagna. The last time I did this I bought a package of pepperoni and added that to half the lasagna on every layer of sauce. It was good but I think I will try sausage next time. I did add one layer of regular white lasagna noodles in the middle, so the whole thing was not whole wheat. If you have never eaten whole wheat lasagna I recommend that you add it in gradually. The first time you bake it, use one layer of whole wheat, then the next time use two layers, and so on.
4) I topped it off with a final layer of cheese on top of the final layer of noodles, but that top layer of noodles came out a bit tough. I should have gone ahead and added a bit more sauce on top so the noodles would soften up. But on top of the cheese layer I added some chopped and minced fresh garlic. I used about 5-6 big to medium cloves and minced some up real fine and some were in chunks. This was actually too much garlic for my wife, the odor while cooking was pretty strong, but I thought it tasted great. Probably for most of you it would be too much, so go with just 2-3 cloves.
5) I stuff extra noodles in the ends (I have to break them off for them to fit) and extra noodles along the sides. (Hey, the more noodles the better!) Then I stuff some more sauce all around those extra noodles.
6) What makes this lasagna hot and spicy is the garlic and the cayenne pepper. My spaghetti cause already has garlic and cayenne in it, plus I added cayenne and black pepper to the cheese mix. The goal is to have just a little bit of an after burn after every bite, but not enough to make you scream!
7) I baked it on about 350 for almost about an hour, but if you only do three layers you should back off to about 45 min.
8) I took this lasagna (not the one with pepperoni) to a church fellowship and none of it came home and received several nice remarks. I made the one with pepperoni for Luke when he was home on leave from the Army and he loved it too. We got several meals out of this huge pan of lasagna.
9) Granted, lasagna is probably a high calorie meal with all that cheese, but using the whole grain noodles and all the veggies that are in my very thick spaghetti sauce (onions, garlic, carrots, bell pepper, tomatoes, mushrooms, black olives, and zucchini) helps. I use hamburger (90% lean) in the sauce but the dominant part of the sauce is the veggies.
Enjoy, and invite some friends over for this huge meal.