Monday, March 30, 2009

Grubbin' With Fuzzy - Lasagna

Here's one of those things I've always wanted to try. The often celebrated Italian cusine that no one with functional taste buds can refuse.

Whenever I decided to cook something new, I usually troll the Internet for recipes, take a sampling of them, and just see the general process of constructing it. here's the common tasks:

Brown Sausage/Ground Beef, then cover in tomato sauce, add herbs, and simmer. You have acquired: Meat Sauce!
Ricotta Cheese: Get some.
Boils some of them fancy noodles with the crinkly edges until they are al-dente
Layers are: Meat Sauce, Pasta, Ricotta, Pasta, Mozzarella Cheese, Meat Sauce, Pasta, Ricotta.
Cover in Foil, bake for a long time, remove the foil halfway through for proper browning.

Sounds easy, and I had about a quart of Frozen Marinara sauce left over from about two months ago, so the one ingredient that would be the most time consuming is in the bag.

The Ricotta that I had purchased in advance for this project became frozen after several days in the wrong spot in the fridge, but it defrosted pretty well. I guess when the food already has a grainy texture to begin with, deicing the stuff isn't a big deal. (PRO TIP: Cream Cheese does not defrost well; it gets the afore mentioned grainy texture, that doesn't work well on bagels.)

I mixed in half a block of frozen spinach (thawed, of course) to the Meat Sauce and The Ricotta, the latter also getting an egg beat into it.

Everything went pretty smoothly and surprsingly fast. This is when I discovered that lasagna noodles take a LONG time to cook, even to al-dente, which is like medium rare for pasta. This added on a lot of time to the proccess, especially becuase I didn't start this until late, becuase I didn't want cooked noodles sitting around in water for that long. Next time, I'll trust the cold water bath more for keeping the noodles soft, yet not too soft, and start them first.

Oven heated at 375 degrees, with an Itinerary of 25 minutes covered in foil, 25 minutes uncovered. Compents were layered as I mentioned above. But I could never figure out what to do on the top level. Pasta on top? Dries out. Meat Sauce? I don't ever recall having lasagna that's pure red on top, and there must be reason for that. Ricotta? again, it might burn and dry out.

Becuase I ended up making two pans (Leftovers: I has them!) I tried two things:
  1. Noodles on top, with a generous covering of mozzerella cheese.
  2. Ricotta on top, nevermind the bullocks!
The stuff with the pasta/motz on top didn't turn out too dry, but it was still a little bit too firm from what I could tell. It was, thankfully, quite edible. Good, even. To my surprise, ricotta is a more resilient cheese than I gave it credit for; it can withstand the rigors of an oven, with only slight browning. So the correct answer to my dilema is "Ricotta on top". Remember that.

So, this project was a success, and now, I'll be eating it for lunch and sometimes dinner well into next week, I'd imagine. Until next time, Bon Apitite, and happy OM NOM NOM NOM to you all!

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