Once I made my own meat sauce, the jarred stuff didn’t stand a chance. Unless I am in a migraine-induced cloud, or the flu has got its grip on me, jarred tomato sauce has no place in my house. When you get used to eating homemade sauce, having jarred sauce is an unpleasant experience. It’s sweet, one-dimensional, and unsatisfying. Red sauce is so easy to make, and you can freeze it and pull it out when you need to. So make a batch, and then make this lasagna.
When I make lasagna, it’s this one, or Mario Batali’s with bechamel. I haven’t found better. These are both David Rosengarten recipes, whom I have had a culinary crush on for over a decade. The man can do no wrong in my book. His book It’s All American Food is my Joy of Cooking.
Classic Brooklyn-Italian Meat Sauce
yields about 3 quarts
2 tbls. olive oil
1/2 cup finely minced garlic
1/2 pound onions, peeled and finely minced
1 carrot, peeled, and finely minced
1 stalk celery, finely minced
3 lbs ground beef
2 (28 ounce) cans tomatoes in juice (I use 1 can tomato puree, 1 can chopped tomatoes)
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 tsp. sugar
2 tbls. dried oregano
*I also add 1/2-1 tsp. crushed red pepper, and 1/2 cup of water if sauce gets too thick while simmering.
* I mince vegetables in food processor.
1. Place the olive oil in a large, heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onions, and saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and saute for another 5 minutes.
2. Push vegetables to one side of the pot and add about 1/3 of the ground beef. Salt the beef to taste. Cook until starting to brown, about 3-5 minutes. Stir the beef occasionally, breaking up as you do. Push it to the side (or over the vegetables) and repeat with the second third of the beef. After that starts to brown, push it aside and repeat with the remainder part of the beef. When all the beef is done, mix the beef with the vegetables.
3. Add the tomatoes with their juice to the pot. Add the tomato paste, sugar and oregano. Mix well. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, breaking up the tomatoes against the side of the pot as you do.
4. When the sauce is done cooking, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve or freeze.
from David Rosengarten
Classic American Lasagna
Yields: 8 main-course servings
1 ( 1 pound) box lasagna noodles, preferably curly at the edges
1 (15 ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 quarts Classic Brooklyn-Italian Meat Sauce (above) *I use a little more.
1 pound grated commercial mozzarella cheese (not soft, freshly made mozzarella)*I use a little more.
*If you have access to Tillamook cheese they make a great Mozzarella for this use.
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano *I use a little more.
1. Preheat oven to *350.
2. In a very large pot of boiling salted water cook lasagna noodles 10 minutes, carefully stirring to separate. They should remain al dente. Drain and cool under running water. Lay noodles flat on a sheet pan, separating layers with parchment or waxed paper. You will probably not need all the noodles in the box, but do cook them all, as some may break, tear, or stick together.
3. In a large bowl, stir together ricotta, egg, and parsley. Season mixture with salt and pepper.
4. Select a lasagna pan that is roughly 14x10x3. (I used a 13×9 inch glass dish, and sprayed with cooking spray.)
5. To assemble the lasagna, season layers as you go with salt and pepper, place 1 cup of meat sauce in the bottom of the lasagna pan. Top with a single layer of noodles that fit perfectly in the pan and cover the sauce; if you have to cut them a bit and reconfigure them to cover the sauce, that’s fine. Top the noodles with half of the ricotta mixture, spreading evenly with a spatula. Top that with a third of the mozzarella, a third of the meat sauce, and a third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Cover with another layer of noodles. Top the noodles with the remaining half of the ricotta mixture, spreading evenly, Top that with half with remaining mozzarella, half of the remaining meat sauce, and half of the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Top with another layer of noodles that covers all. Top noodles with remaining sauce, mozzarella, and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
6. Bake uncovered for about 1 hour, or until lasagna is browned, bubbling and hot in the center. Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes to ensure nice clean slices. Cut into portions, sprinkle with a little chopped fresh parsley and serve.
from David Rosengarten
Off course some garlic bread, a romaine salad with a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of cheese, and some olive oil, salt and pepper round out this perfection. I ended with apple pie that I cut way too soon, but was worth not waiting for the perfect slice, and homemade vanilla ice cream.