Summer is over, friends. Tomorrow I go back to work, to my classroom, open house, parents, lesson plans, grading, meetings, and my students. Tomorrow. Oh my goodness.
So I had to make one of my favorite meals that happens to take a ridiculous amount of time to cook, making it almost impossible on a school-year-weekday. That meal, of course, is lasagna. Beautiful, decadent, all from scratch lasagna. This meal seems to get a bit mistreated in the USA, because people drench the noodles in unnecessary quantities of sauce and cheese and don’t let the noodles do their job of carrying the dish. Pasta is delicious. It does not need to be drowned.
I made this dish with a creamy ricotta and sour cream sauce, my marinara sauce recipe (that seems to be going into everything these days). homemade pasta, and a mixture of ground beef and mushrooms for some heart and earthiness. Of course, there was also lots of mozzarella cheese. This is my meal plan for dinners this week, because I just will not have much time to cook. Open house goes late both Tuesday and Wednesday.
It may seem strange to celebrate summer with a heavy baked pasta. Don’t judge. It has been cool here. Summer is over anyway.
- 1 batch marinara sauce
- 22 oz ricotta cheese
- 10 oz sour cream ( I used a light version)
- 4-6 cups shredded mozzarella, as desired
- 3.5 cups flour
- 4 eggs
- 2 T water
- 1 lb ground beef
- 8 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
- 2 T black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- olive oil
Start by preparing the marinara sauce using the recipe in the link.
Let it simmer for up to half an hour, then turn heat off. (Everything is easier to work with if it is cool when you build the lasagna.
While the sauce simmers, prepare the meat and mushrooms. Cook the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat. When it starts to brown, add the chopped mushrooms, cumin, smoked paprika, chili flakes, salt, and 1 T black pepper. Continue cooking until the meat is done and the mushrooms have released and then soaked their juices back up.
The meat gets a slight kick to it from the spices. It is fab. When it is done, let cool until you are ready to build the lasagna.
While the meat cooking, make the pasta dough. Put flour, eggs, water, and 1 tsp salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with a spoon until ingredients start to combine, then attach your dough hook and let it knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. Then use your hands to form the dough into a ball. The dough should be leathery but pliable, not sticky at all. Add water or flour as necessary to make it the right consistency. Let the dough rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
While the dough rests, make the cheese sauce. Combine ricotta, sour cream, and 1 T black pepper in a large bowl. Let rest until you are ready to build the lasagna.
Set a large pot of water to boil, with a bit of salt and oil in it. When it is close to boiling, Send your pasta through your pasta roller. Set it through on the thickest setting to knead 4-5 times, folding in half between trips. When it is smoother and the same thickness as your roller, send it through the thinner levels until you can start to see your hand through it. I just went to level 4 on my Kitchenaid pasta roller.
Use a pasta cutter to cut each sheet to desired size. I cut each pasta sheet into fourths.
Put the sheets into boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and let rest on a pan until you build the lasagna. Feel free to drizzle the pasta with a little extra olive oil to prevent it from sticking. I cooked the pasta in two batches.
To build the lasagna, start with about a cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9″by13″ baking dish. Then lay down one layer of noodles.
Top with the ricotta cheese mix.
Top with another layer of pasta. Repeat these layers until you are out of toppings. I had four layers. Make sure to reserve enough sauce to put on top of the dish. I did this by not adding the sauce mix to every layer. Also, add shredded mozzarella to at least one or two of the layers, on top of the ricotta. Again, reserve enough to put on top of the dish at the end.
When you are out of toppings, finish with a final layer of pasta noodles, then sauce, and finally shredded mozzarella.
You should have a full pan of deliciousness. Now! The full lasagna can be refrigerated until you are ready to cook it if you are planning to make it within the next day or two. You can also freeze it for another day. When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the lasagna for 30-40 minutes. When it is finished, let cool for 3-5 minutes before serving.
Goodbye summer, I will miss you!