The Return

Wow, it has been a while since I worked on the old blog.  To my loyal readers, I should properly explain my sudden and extended absence.  I had been looking for a new job, so I upon the advice of some friends, I decided to make all my blog entries private, just in case anything I wrote was a bit too…  Incendiary  for a prospective employer.  

That being said, my good friend Christine (who was also a recent dinner guest) suggested I get a food blog started.  I thought hard about it, and ultimately it sounded like a good non-threatening idea, especially in light of the fact I found a good job at a new firm.  As such, I’m rebooting Irresistible Impulse to express my ideas on cooking and eating as a thirty-something professional.

Anyone who knows me reasonably well, knows I love cooking.  I’m constantly tinkering in the kitchen making dishes.  While I constantly look for recipes, I also do like to improvise and make up my own dishes.   Last Sunday I was making breakfast and I found two boxes of Barilla ready to bake lasagna sheets.  I thought it would be an excellent time to tinker with my lasagna recipe.

Lasagna has been one of those dishes that has been a challenge for me over the years.  While I love it, it’s a little trickier to make than one would expect.  Often lasagna is too dry or too wet.  Or not seasoned well at every layer.  It is really tough to make all the parts of the dish to come together to become one delicious taste, as opposed to stratified layers of bland and separate flavors.

Recently to solve my lack of lasagna unification I decided to make the sauce myself and combine it with whatever meat product I desired to use.  In the past I had used a high quality pre-made marinara sauce and layered it with my other ingredients, but I couldn’t get that cohesiveness that is a sign of really good lasagna. It just tasted like meat, cheese, and sauce to me.  So enough talking.  Here is what I did, with very good results I believe.

Lasagne with Swiss chard and portobella mushrooms:

For the Ragu:
1lb of ground beef
1lb of ground pork
2 medium onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
5-6 tbs of fresh oregano, rough chopped 
1 tbs dried thyme
1-2 tbs dried parsley
garlic powder to taste
crushed red pepper flake to taste
2 28oz cans of muir glenn organic tomatoes (1 crushed, 1 whole, both with basil added)
2 tbs tomato paste
1.5 cups of red wine
1.5 cups of chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for sauteing

Ricotta mixture:
1 30oz container of ricotta cheese
1/2 cup – 2/3 cup of grated parmesan or romano cheese
3 tbs dried parsley
2 eggs
grated nutmeg to taste
salt and pepper to taste

swiss chard, 1 bunch, chopped
1 8 oz package Portobello mushroom, chopped
(saute both in olive oil and garlic and reserve)

topping:
2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese (or you can use fresh mozzarella and slice it to cover the lasagna)
grated parmesan cheese to taste
reserved chopped parsley and oregano for sprinkling

No bake lasagna sheets

Method:

Heat pan to medium high heat.  Add olive oil and in batches, brown the ground meat in large sauce pan. Be sure to season with salt and pepper (in fact to get that “lasagna unification” you need to season every step of he dish).  Reserve the browned meat.  Add 1 tbs more of oil to the pan and add chopped onions and pepper and saute until lightly brown (2-3 minutes), making sure to scrape any brown bits that might have collected to the bottom of the pan.  Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds until fragrant and season with salt and pepper.  Add tomato paste to pan and saute to cook some of the rawness out.  Add canned tomatoes and chicken stock and meat and herbs.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer uncovered for about 2 hours.  Taste and adjust seasoning (I found I wanted a little extra garlic powder and salt and pepper).  Allow to cool to room tempature.  Hopefully it looks like this (or better):

Sauce after two hours of simmering

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the ricotta mixture.  In a large bowl, add ricotta, parmesan, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper, and nutmeg.

Ricotta Mixture

After Ricotta mixture is assembled

Time to assemble the lasagna. In a 9 X 13 glass pan dollop two ladles of ragu at bottom of dish. Place lasagna sheets on bottom layer.  Add 1/2 cheese mixture and add more sauce to cover.  Add another layer of lasagna sheets and more cheese and sauce. Top with swiss chard/Portobello mixture.  Add another layer of lasagna sheets to form top layer.  Add more sauce and top with grated mozzarella, parmesan, and herbs.   Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Remove cover after 30 minutes and bake uncovered for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and bubbling.  After removing from oven, be sure to let it rest for about 20 minutes.  It should be served hot, but not molten.

Lasagna in assembly stage with swiss chard and mushroom layer

Lasagna assembled prior to baking.

Baked

This dish really turned out well for me.  It was flavorful and had a great texture (not too wet or dry). Also all the flavors melded together.  I think it’s a perfect lazy sunday dish.  Ok, I have to get ready for bed.  Hope you guys enjoy it.

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