Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Tale of the 85 Pound Lasagna

Yup, this is going to be a veeery long one gals. So if you would like to learn how to go totally psycho and spend 14 hours making dinner then bunker down!

Warning! There are lots of food pics. I don't think they are drool worthy though.

You see it started out innocently enough. I wanted lasagna. I was craving lasagna. Lasagna is usually no small undertaking either. Well, I managed to turn it from a molehill to a mountain. I admit it, I suck at making bread. I just can't get it to rise right. So lately I have been wanting to make more bread to perfect it.

Ciabatta bread goes great with lasagna

BTW - you have to pronounce the "g" in lasagna in our house. When my son was younger he didn't understand why you didn't. He still does this to this day.


Ciabatta bread. First you have to make a sponge. I don't know what the purpose of the sponge is or what it does. The recipe just says you have to, so I do.

1/8 t (teaspoon) of yeast
2 T (tablespoons) of warm water
1/3 c (cup) of room temp water
1 c flour

In a mason jar, mix the yeast and warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Ah, I still LOVE my painted countertops!

Anyways.... add the remaining water and flour. Cover the lid with saran wrap and put just the ring tightly on. Shake for 4 minutes. (Tip - 4 minutes is about where you believe you can shake this no more after switching back and forth between arms) Let stand for 2 hours.

Ciabatta bread
1/2t yeast
2T warm milk
2/3 c room temp water
1T olive oil
2c flour
1/2t salt

Mix yeast and milk. Let stand for 5 mins. Mix milk mixture, sponge, water, oil and flour on low with a dough hook til flour is moist. Beat on medium for 3 mins. Add salt and beat an additional 4 mins.

LOVE my mixer girl!

Oil up a large bowl and put dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand til doubled.

I left it overnight.

Lay out 2 pieces of parchment paper on 2 cookie sheets. Dust paper with flour. Gently remove dough from bowl and set on a floured surface, not your paper. Divide dough in half. Set each half on the paper and shape into an oval. Dust top with flour. Lay a damp towel over the two halfs and let stand til doubled again.

Note - I decided that next time I make this I am not going to divide in half. Just do as one loaf.

Should double in about 2 hours. I let mine sit til an hour before dinner so the bread would be warm for dinner. I kept redamping the towel though when it got dry.

Heat a pizza stone in a 450 degree oven for 45 minutes. Bake one loaf at a time. Set each loaf on stone and bake for 20 minutes.

It's a very rustic bread.

Note - if you forgot to thaw out some butter for dinner and set it on the cooktop to thaw put a dish under it. If it melts all over it makes a HUGE mess. Not that I did that, I'm just saying...

Now for the lasagna. I use Giada DeLaurentiis' recipe. I love Giada! I don't look as happy or dress as pretty when I cook as she does though.

First you need to make a Marinara Sauce

1/2 cup olive oil
2 small onions finely chopped
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 celery stalks finely chopped
2 carrots finely chopped
1 lb bella mushrooms sliced and washed
1 large roasted red pepper sliced
1/2t salt (I use kosher salt)
1/2t freshly ground pepper
2 lbs Roma tomatoes (or 2 large cans of diced tomatoes)
2 dried bay leaves
1T oregano (I used Mexican oregano)

Or you could make this easier and just use your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce. About 2 jars.

If you are using the canned tomatoes you can skip this step. Wash your tomatoes and put whole in a pot of boiling water. You want the skins to split so you can peel the skin off.

Peel the tomatoes and put in a food processor. Pulse to just rough chop. You want to see chunks of tomatoes.

In a large stock pot, heat the oil. Add the garlic and onion and cook til translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, mushrooms, red pepper, salt and pepper. Cook til veggies are soft, about 10 minutes.

Giada's recipe doesn't use the mushrooms and red pepper. That is something that I added since I love both in a marinara sauce.

Add the tomatoes, bay leaf and oregano. Simmer til the sauce is thick.

Giada doesn't use the oregano either. I added that too. I like the Mexican oregano over the Italian since it is sweeter.

Set aside in a bowl when done.

Caution, there will be LOTS of dishwashing when you are done!


You can use a box of lasagna noodles if you like. I have a pasta maker. In fact I have 2. One for food and one for clay. I have never used either til now. I now know why. I just love gadgets though! If you are using box noodles you can also skip this step.

3 cups flour
4 large eggs slightly beaten
1T kosher salt
1 T olive oil

In a small bowl, beat eggs with salt and oil. Put flour in a food processor. Add the egg mix to the flour and pulse to combine. Scrape bowl down. Turn on processor and blend til dough sticks together. Put dough on a floured surface and knead til dough is smooth. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Let sit 30 mins.

My pasta maker has 3 sets of rollers. One is a smooth roller and the two others are cutter rollers. My largest setting is also "9". Some pasta makers are different, but you want to put yours on the largest setting.

On mine you just move the handle to whichever roller you want to use.

Now you want to flatten out your dough into a rectangle about 1/2" thick. Don't make it wider than your pasta maker. It also helps for the first roll to flatten the end going in first smaller than the 1/2".

Does that make sense?

Now, on the largest setting, roll your dough through. Don't pull on the dough at any time. Don't worry if your first roll through isn't that pretty. It works out eventually. Going through each number til the lowest setting roll your dough through. I did fold mine up in long sheets. It does get longer each time through. Don't skip a number either, that will gum up your machine.

Don't worry about those little folds either. The last two settings does smooth everything out. If your edges are funky like mine it doesn't matter either as you will overlap the noodles. Wrap the noodles in plastic wrap and set aside.

Tired yet?! We got lots more to do.....

Now to make a Bechamel Sauce. Basically a white sauce.

5 T unsalted butter
1/2 c flour
4 c milk
1/2t white pepper
1/2t nutmeg

Melt butter in a sauce pan. Add flour and whisk til smooth on medium heat, about 2 mins. Slowly add milk while whisking. Keep on whisking til sauce is thick, about 10 mins. You definitely will develop your whisking skills with this recipe! Plus give your arms a work out. Once thickened, remove from heat and add pepper and nutmeg. Set aside.

Just a few more parts that we need to make..... we are getting there!

If you want meat in your lasagna, now is the time to cook it. You can either brown 1 lb of hamburger or I browned 1/2 lb hamburger and 1/2 lb of italian sausage. I did remove the sausage from the casing.

You also need spinach for this. You can use 2 packages of frozen, if so thaw and squish out the water. Or, 2 cans of canned spinach, just squish out the liquid. Or do like the psycho me did and use fresh. Just bring some water to a boil, add 2 bags of fresh spinach. Remove from heat and stir til spinach gets limp. Drain and set aside.

Now for a ricotta cheese mixture.

1-1/2 lb ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1/2 t white pepper
1/2 t kosher salt

In medium bowl mix ricotta cheese and eggs. Add salt and pepper. Set aside.

Now, to put it all together!

If you are using box noodles, you want to bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add a bit of olive oil to the water to keep the noodles from sticking. Add your noodles and cook til the noodles are still firm but limp. Lay the noodles out flat on plastic wrap. You can layer the noodles, just use plastic wrap inbetween the layers.

Take a 9 x 13 baking dish and butter the bottom and sides. Add your marinara sauce and bechamel sauce together. Spoon 1/3 of this mix on the bottom of the pan and spread out. Add a layer of noodles overlapping the edges slightly. You want to cover the sauce completely. Spread all the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Spread all the spinach over the ricotta cheese layer. Top with another layer of noodles. You know the drill about the noodles....

And you thought I forgot to take pics!

Spread meat mixture over the noodles. Top with another third of the sauce. Then noodles again. Spread remaining sauce over the noodles. Spread 5 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese over the sauce. My big dumb idea was to use fresh mozzarella cheese that I shredded myself. I was regretting that about now. You can use preshredded cheese though. Sprinkle with 1/2 c fresh grated parmesan cheese. Now after all that mixing, whisking, choppind, slicing and cranking this lasagna does feel like it weighs 85 pounds.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Let cool about 15 minutes and serve.

Wow! That is really sad. I need to take some tablescaping lessons from Yvonne!

What? You too want dessert? Fine....

My fantabulous Carrot Cake!

Actually, I got this from the Joy of Cooking, my fav recipe book.

1 c flour
1t baking soda
1t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1 t salt
1/2 c oil
1 c sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 c shredded carrots
1/2 c chopped nuts (I use cashews)

Sift flour and then measure out one cup. Resift with baking soda, powder, cinnamon and salt. In a small bowl mix together eggs, sugar and oil. Add egg mix to flour mix and blend. Fold in carrots and nuts. Grease and flour an 8" springform pan. Add cake mix to pan and bake at 325 for 1 hour and 25 minutes.

This makes one layer. I have tried doubling this recipe and putting in two pans. For some reason this does not turn out the same. I mix each layer and bake together. For this one, I got lazy and just made one layer and cut it in half.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 bricks of cream cheese room temp
1/2 c milk
1/2 t vanilla
2 c confectioners sugar

In mixer cream together cheese, milk and vanilla. Slowly add confectioners sugar. That's all!

Now go and enjoy dinner!

I'm just going to take a little nap.....


Lori said...

Holy crap Maggie ~ I am tired from just reading this! It looks delish and I could use a piece of lasagna right about now with a piece of bread ~ yummy! The carrot cake is one of my all time favorite desserts ~ OMG it all looks so good.

Delena said...

Oh, I wished I liked to cook. Perhaps I should give these recipes to my husband. Now I am craving lasagna!

Beth said...

You are a cooking machine! Just reading that wore me out. I'm sure everything was delish.

Yvonne @ StoneGable said...

Maggie, I started reading and then I kept saying over and over "Oh, my gosh, Oh,my gosh!" and laughing and kept repeating that senario about 15 times! I am so sorry to laugh at your expense, but YOU ARE SO FUNNY! What a production! My husband calls that the "Lucille Ball Factor" when I do things like that. You have it in spades! No wonder she is your alter ego.
All kidding aside, you tackled a huge culinary undertaking. Just making one thing would have been a lot, but the whole thing????? I have one other question- Where was my invitation? I would have brought the tablescape and a lovely hostess gift!
Thank you dear friend! You make my heart so light, even with an 85 lb lasaGne.
Blessing and hugs,

Miss Mustard Seed said...

I'm seeing all of this amazing food and I got stuck on the painted counter tops. I have perfectly good laminate counters that I hate, but I cook a lot and I have been scared of painting them. I wasn't sure if they would really hold up and look good. So, you're are holding up, well? Which product did you use?

Anita said...

Well this just looks had to be tired when this meal was ready. Love your perseverance for a good meal!! Thanks for your visit and signing up for my giveaway...your question on the measuring spoons, they are great, aren't they. Anyway, Cracker Barrel carries these spoons but, I found them on ebay and got a bid for a lower price. Search on eBay for Ganz rooster measuring spoons.

Marydon Ford said...

G'morn, M ~ Now that you've got it all made, I'm on my way over ... don't sleep too long!!! Chuckle!

Looks wonderful.

Have a beautiful week.
TTFN ~ Marydon

Tracey said...

Ok, when I saw that you made homemade bread I was really impressed...then when we got to the homemade lasa"g"na part I was seriously the time you were cranking your own noodles my jaw hit the floor!!! All I can say is WOW!!!

I have yet to find a lasagna recipe that turns out really good, so I just stick to stuffed shells for now...

:) T