Lasagna for the Super Bowl
Or the Olympics or a snowy winter weekend....it's lasagna and it's your call!
Good morning sports fans! I think the Olympic spirit has overtaken me because this week’s bonus post is going out to everybody on the list, not just paying subscribers. If you find yourself in a similarly generous state of mind, might I suggest you direct it towards a subscription? Here is where you do that, and big thanks to those of you already supporting the operation…
Now for that lasagna! I know when you think Super Bowl, lasagna does not come to mind as readily as, say, chili, baked beans, wings, or my friend Heidi’s Super Bowl Sammies might. But why is that? I made one last month for a small gathering and forgot how satisfying it was, as both a project and as a dramatic centerpiece that easily feeds a crowd. This recipe is a version of my mom’s — it requires no béchamel, kids can help assemble, and you can include or omit the sausage (or strategically place on one half) depending on who you’re cooking for. Lastly, sure, you can use a jarred sauce, but a good homemade marinara like this one is worth memorizing. Add a big salad, and your work is done.
My Mom’s Lasagna
4 cups homemade marinara sauce (recipe follows) or good-quality store-bought marinara (we love Rao’s, Cucina Antica, or Ooma Tesoro’s)
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
1 clove garlic, halved
1⁄4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed (or one 9-ounce bag spinach, trimmed, rinsed, and cooked) and squeezed dry
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (1⁄8 teaspoon)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 links (about 8 ounces) good-quality sweet Italian sausage (or to taste, or omit to make this vegetarian), skins removed
1 1⁄4 cups fresh ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
3⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 cups grated fresh mozzarella cheese (from an 8-ounce ball mozzarella)
1 pound no-cook lasagna noodles (or if you can’t find them, regular lasagna noodles, prepared according to package directions and tossed very gently with olive oil)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. If you’re making your own marinara, do that first. If you’re not, place the jar of sauce on the counter. It is the first ingredient in your Lasagna Assembly Line. (No need to heat it up.)
Add the olive oil to a skillet set over medium heat. Cook the garlic halves cut side down to infuse the oil, about 2 minutes. Remove. Add the onions and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach, the nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the spinach is warmed through (or wilted if you’re using fresh). Transfer to a medium bowl. (If you used fresh, use kitchen scissors to chop into bite size pieces right in the bowl.) To the same skillet, over medium-high heat, add the sausage (if using), breaking it up into crumbles with a fork, and cook until brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the skillet to a bowl and add to your assembly line. (You could save yourself a dish and just set the skillet on a trivet on the assembly line.)
To the bowl with spinach, add the ricotta, egg, 1⁄2 cup of the Parm, and all but about 1⁄4 cup of the mozzarella. Fold together gently until everything is incorporated. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the bowl to your assembly line.
Now, time for the fun part. Scoop about 1⁄2 cup of the marinara into the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and “paint” the bottom completely with the back of a spoon. Place lasagna noodles on top, trimming the noodles if you have to in order to cover the sauce completely. Add another layer of sauce on top, then top with sausage crumbles and about eight generous dollops of the cheese-spinach mixture, flattening them a bit with your spoon. Repeat with the remaining noodles and toppings, finishing with only a thin layer of sauce, the remaining mozzarella, and the remaining Parm. (Try to reserve some of the sauce which comes in handy for serving with leftovers that could use a lift.)
Cover the dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes, until everything looks bubbly. Remove the foil and bake for another 10 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly, which will make it easier to cut.
Makes 4 Cups
1⁄4 cup good-quality olive oil
4 heaping tablespoons finely chopped onion (about 1⁄2 medium onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon dried oregano
quick shake of red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1⁄4 cup water
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
2 basil leaves, torn (optional)
Set a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and onions and cook until the onions have softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt and pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute, watching closely so the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the sugar and smush in the tomato paste, along with the water, until all the onions are coated in tomato. Stir in the tomato puree and basil (if using) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer covered, lid slightly ajar, for 20 to 25 minutes. I like to use an immersion blender at the end for about 20 seconds, which makes the sauce silkier and brighter.
P.S. I’m delighted to announce that…
…next week’s bonus post will be episode 6 of the Dinner: A Love Story Podcast. (With a very special guest star!) Woohooooo! Lots of February-related fun, including but not limited to: more Super Bowl food ideas, Valentine’s Day for cynics, and the soul-sucking force of reasonableness. Obviously! #IYKYK
Thanks for being here!