Fusilli, it’s Lasagna. How are you?
Fantastic, I’m just here with my brothers.
I have called to tell you that I will be at dinner tonight, stacked upon layers of tomato sauce and cheese.
Well, la-dee-da. Last week, the Barefoot Contessa tossed me in duck fat with capers for a pasta salad that Jeffrey gobbled right up.
Yea, he ate it up for the cameras so the Barefoot wouldn’t banish him to the couch for eternity. Besides, we both know the people love a slab of toppling lasagna noodles drenched in a hearty red sauce with a crusty layer of cheese on top. We are on a first name basis.
Oh Fusilli, now don’t go throwing yourself into a pot of boiling water.
Yea, no fusilli in any dishes cooked here tonight. And, I know pasta would never speak to each other, but sometimes it’s fun to play with your food (or imagine them in a dialogue).
I have called on lasagna, as he will no doubt brag about. The flat noodle with a generous surface area really does make for a satisfying casserole dish. Plus, the no-boil option is hard to resist when you’re looking for a shortcut. But, I will add that I do like how fusilli rolls off of the tongue – right out of Donnie Brasco. Fusilli. Fuguesi.
For tonight’s lasagna (also, fun to say), I took a gamble with the sausage, basil, cheese version off of epicurious.com, which received a commendable four-fork rating.
I wanted a recipe with a sauce made from scratch, and this one incorporates basil for some added brightness.
When it came time to do the deed, I continuously tweaked the recipe as I assembled my dish. Let me rephrase that, I tweaked it so that it wouldn’t take as long to make. For instance, instead of Italian sausage, I opted for Italian-seasoned ground turkey to save time. (The recipe says to break up the sausage meat from its casings – I eliminated a step.)
For the cheesy mixture, the recipe calls for 1 and ½ packed cups of basil finely chopped in the food processor. I don’t own a food processor, so I knew I would have to manually mince my basil for the ricotta filling. Though, in an effort to save time (and a result of pure laziness), I settled for 15 large-sized leaves. Needless to say, one of the headlining ingredients hardly made a showing in the finished product. In the age of 30-minute meal preparation, I just did not have the desire chop the entire batch of basil by hand. I suppose it’s time to leave frugality at Target’s front door and purchase the 10-cup Black & Decker Power Pro.
But, lack of basil flavor aside, this lasagna is simply sinful. It oozes with a cheesy creaminess that floats on your tongue. The sauce is a perfect balance of herbs and spice. I should have broken up the ground turkey into more miniscule pieces so it’s less noticeable when the lasagna is sliced, but I wasn’t plating this for a panel of Top Chef judges.
And, one of my favorite things about lasagna, including this one, is that it tastes just as sublime cold as it is warm. I find myself cutting slivers of it while I wait for my larger serving to heat up in the microwave. But, to avoid concerned and perplexed looks from neighboring cafeteria patrons, I will reserve this dining behavior for the confines of my kitchen only.
Hurried Homemade Lasagna
It’s worth trying with basil if you own a food processor, but I’ve omitted it from my version since I didn’t think it made much of an impression. And, frankly, I didn’t miss it. I, also, wanted this recipe to be no-kitchen-gadget friendly, and I doubt anyone wants to mince 1 and 1/2 cups packed basil.
I, also, substituted ground turkey and reduced the baking time.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.25 pounds package of Italian seasoned ground turkey
1 cup chopped yellow onion
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion (do not drain)
1 15-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups (packed) grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
12 (or more) no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8-ounce package (Pasta Barilla is one option)
3 cups (packed) grated mozzarella cheese (about 12 ounces)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
Nonstick olive oil spray
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey, onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and sauté until turkey is cooked through, mashing turkey into small pieces with spoon, about 10 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with juices. Bring sauce to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled.)
In a medium bowl, mix ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until blended. Texture should be chunky.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread 1 1/4 cups sauce in 13x9x2-inch (or 13x9x2.5-inch) glass baking dish. Arrange 3 noodles on sauce. Drop 1 1/2 cups filling over noodles, then spread evenly to cover. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layering of sauce, noodles, filling and cheeses 2 more times. Top with remaining 3 noodles. Spoon remaining sauce atop noodles. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Spray large piece of foil with nonstick olive oil spray. Cover lasagna with foil, sprayed side down.
Bake lasagna for 40 minutes. Transfer to work surface, carefully uncover, and let stand 15 minutes before serving.