Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Italian Sausage Lasanga

Lasagna is one of my absolute favorite foods. I have also been making it for a very long time. I have changed a few things over the years, but never really deviated much from my first ever recipe.


(for the sauce)
1 pound  Italian Sausage (I used 1/2 lb Hot Italian sausage and 1/2 lb Turkey Sausage)
1 medium Onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
1 1/2 cups Chopped Fresh Mushrooms
2 Clove Garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 tsp Sugar
1 tsp Dried Basil
1 tsp Oregano
1 can (16 oz.) Whole Tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes-see my note)
1 can (15 oz.) Tomato Sauce
12 Uncooked Lasagna Noodles (see my note)
(for the cheese mixture)
1 Carton (16 Oz.) Ricotta Or Cottage Cheese
¼ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Tbsp Chopped Fresh Parsley
1 ½ tsp Dried Oregano Leaves
(for the top)
2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese (8 Ounce Package)
¼ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese


Make the sauce- Cook sausage, onion, mushrooms and garlic in a large stockpot, stirring occasionally, until sausage is brown, drain. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley, sugar, basil, tomatoes and tomato sauce. Use clean kitchen shears to snip the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Heat to boiling, stirring occasionally, reduce heat. Simmer uncovered about 45 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook noodles as directed on package (don’t overcook), drain. Mix ricotta cheese, ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon parsley and oregano. Spread 1 cup of the sauce mixture in an ungreased rectangular baking dish, 13x9x2 inches. Top with 4 noodles overlapping slightly.

Spread 1 cup of the cheese mixture over noodles, spread with 1 cup sauce, sprinkle with ⅔ cup mozzarella cheese. Repeat with 4 noodles, the remaining cheese mixture, 1 cup of the sauce mixture and ⅔ cup of the mozzarella cheese. Top with remaining noodles and sauce. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and ¼ cup Parmesan. Cover with aluminum foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.

*My best pans of lasagna have started with fresh tomatoes in place of both the canned whole tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Nothing wrong with lasagna made that way; I make it all the time in the winter when fresh garden tomatoes are not available. But you cannot beat the fresh taste.  It certainly takes a bit more time and effort to cook down the fresh tomatoes, but the final taste is worth every minute. 
I have come full circle with cooking the noodles. I started by cooking them fully; then started not boiling them at all and simply letting them cook in the lasagna. The lasagna sets up beautifully that way but I always ended up with some unacceptably crunchy pasta on top.
My method now is to boil them for just a few minutes; basically enough so they are flexible, but certainly not fully cooked. The crunchy on top is eliminated and the pasta gains the wonderful flavors of the sauce and cheese as they cook.
This recipe is adapted from Betty Crocker. The mushrooms were not part of the original but have been a part of my recipe since day one. 

Normally with a recipe this large I would cut down the recipe for the two of us. Not with Lasagna. The pan gets separated into individual portions for terrific lunches or quick weekday dinners.

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