Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Lasagna Pugliese Style

If you grew up Italian and living in the United States or Canada, you know what I am talking about here.  It's just not Thanksgiving or any other Holiday without Lasagna as a first course.   The meat sauce is simple and is nothing but a typical meat sauce you would have on pasta every Sunday growing up.  You can make your meat sauce in advance. You can even double the recipe.  You can either freeze it or refrigerate it for a few days until you are ready to assemble your Lasagna.   The important factor to remember is to invest in a good quality dry pasta, if you can not make your own.  I have never understood, why some people insist on cheap quality pasta.  Spend a few extra dollars.  It is a Holiday afterall. 
I bought mine from William Sonoma Outlet.  
Forget the no boil Lasagna, unless you desire and prefer the taste of rubber.  It's all in the assembly.  Yes, it takes a little extra time but some things in life are worth it.   Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.  
About 5 cup of Meat sauce (If you choose to make the meatballs, crush them before assembly.  I added ground beef to my sauce recipe).  Follow the link for the sauce here.
One 13 inch x 9 inch heavy duty Lasagna tray
One tablespoon of butter to line the tray.
One pound plus half pound Lasagna sheets
One pound fresh mozzarella sliced (place your mozzarella in wax paper and then in the freezer for 30 minutes before slicing). 
8 ounces of Parmigano Reggiano cheese plus extra for the table
12 ounces whole milk ricotta 
pinch of nutmeg
Several cups of starchy water you can collect while the pasta sheets are cooking.
Follow the cooking instructions on your package.   It should be a little bit ahead of al dente.  Do not worry about this.  Keep in mind that the pasta will continue to cook, covered in the oven.   You need not overcook it. 
Drain and cool.  Don't forget to save some of the water. Separate the pasta sheets by draining them and letting them hang off the side of the colander.  
Collect your ingredients and get them ready for assembly.
 Mix your ricotta and Nutmeg.  Add a pinch of salt and set aside.
Cook your pasta in rolling boiling water.  Don't forget to salt your water before adding your pasta to the pot.   Follow package directions.  In the meantime, smear  the bottom of your lasagna pan with butter.  Place a about a cup of sauce mixed with ground beef or smashed meatballs on the bottom of the pan.  Begin lining your pan with the Lasagna sheets, Then sprinkle some cheese, layer some mozzarella across the bottom then add some sauce.   Follow with another layer of pasta going in the opposite direction.   Then, place several dollops of your ricotta mixture across the sheets.  Do not worry if they are uneven.   While the lasagna cooks, everything will melt some and spread evenly.   Just do your best to spread it across the lasagna sheets.  Repeat again with Parmigiano cheese then sauce.   Do not place mozzarella on this layer.   Place the sheets again over your sauce, then add a layer of mozzarella cheese.   Continue with each layer in the opposite direction until you reach the top.  If you layers seem uneven, keep a scissor handy or sharp knife to cut down your pasta sheet to fill in where you need to.  Be sure and keep the ruffled edge uniformed.  When it's cut, it will be prettier in the plate.   

 Cover tightly with aluminum foil.  I have not baked mine yet.  Refrigerate until ready to bake.   Be sure and remove it from the refrigerator one hour before you plan on cooking it.   Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.   Keep it covered and bake for 45 minutes with the cover on.   Remove the cover and cook for 15 minutes more.    Remove from the oven and let cool 15 minutes before serving.   
Buon Appetito!


Pasta con Carne in umido con Polpette (Sunday Pasta Sauce)

Had to place a conference call to Mom in NY today about this recipe.  For almost every Sunday of my life, I can remember this dish being made on Sunday Morning.  My mother's meatballs are so inviting.  You can smell them down the street. You can smell them in the garage. I was craving comfort food today. This was perfect.  I don't now how it happened.  I was was wondering if I had added enough cheese to the recipe and my phone rang.   It was my mother again, in that sweet, authoritative voice, demanding that I add more cheese. How did she know?

3/4 pound veal
3/4 pork (you can omit the pork and use Ground Turkey.  This sauce was traditionally made with whatever was left over from the week).
3/4  beef
2 eggs
Into a bowl place your meat, 2 eggs, one cup of Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup parsley chopped fine
1 clove of garlic chopped fine (optional)
1/2 cup red onion chopped fine
1 cup of fine bread crumbs plain, plus more for dredging~
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon frying oil

In a flat pan, large enough to accommodate your ingredients, heat your oil.  Saute your onion and garlic until fragrant. Remove your onion and garlic in pan and place in bowl with your meat and mix. Then add salt and pepper, eggs, cheese and mix.
Prepare a flat pan and line it with parchment paper.
Assemble your meatballs, using your hands.  Roll about 3  tablespoons into your hand and roll into a ball.  Roll into a ball.  Pass in breadcrumbs and lay on pan covered with parchment.  After you have assemble them all, place in refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.
Heat your oil again, add more if necessary and begin frying your meatballs, in small batches.  Do not crowd them.  Good things need time. Do not rush. Do not worry if they do not seem completely cooed through. As they will continue to coo in the sauce.  They will become more flavorful as they coo in the sauce.  Set them aside to cool.
You can make up to 24 meatballs depending on the size.  I like to keep mine around 2 inches in diameter.

1 large diced white onion
1 clove of garlic chopped
1 cup medium carrots diced
1 cup diced celery (fine)
1 28 ounce can of San Marzano peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon of salt/ plus more to taste
1 teaspoon of pepper/plus more to taste
1/2 cup of milk 
1/2 cup white wine
a pinch of Nutmeg
1 cup water
Several handfuls of fresh basil for sauce and for garnish

Drain your oil from the pan you have fried your meatballs in.  Add some white wine to the pan and de-glaze  away the bottom bits from the pan. Drain the entire pan and wipe out.  It will still have a wonderful flavor to the pan.   (You are cooking your sauce in the same pan you fried our meatballs in or you can just use a mixture of veal, pork and beef and brown).  
 Place your pan back on a low heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to your pan.  Add your meat and brown.  Remove your meat and set aside.  Add your onion, carrots, celery, garlic and saute until fragrant.  Add a little salt to the pan. Put a lid on your pan and let your vegetables sweat for a few minutes.  After 3 minutes remove your lid and mix.  Continue until your vegetables are fragrant.  Add your meat back to the pan. At this point add some of your meatballs.  Be careful not to crowd your pan.  Add your tomatoes, all of your liquids and let reduce on medium. Add your teaspoon of salt and pepper, pinch of Nutmeg.   Simmer your sauce for one hour.  You will notice your sauce will quickly reduce to half. Continue reducing on low.  You will notice your oil will form a ring around the sauce in your pan and your sauce will be thickened.  Turn your heat off and set aside.

Had to chase my family out of the kitchen~lol Meatballs for appetizer too.

Boil your pasta till al dente.   I always serve my pasta first. Mix with some sauce.  Add some Parmesan cheese if you prefer.    In a separate dish serve your meat with plenty of good, crunchy Italian bread~ Buon Appetito.

Special note: My mother would saute various cuts of meat in the pan after frying her meatballs.  Be sure and always drain your pan  and wipe with a paper towel before adding your sauce to the pan.  You can add all of your browned meat back to the pan right before you are ready to add your tomatoes into the pan.

2.  If you wish to bake your meatballs rather than fry, you can do this very easily.   After the meatballs are set on a baking sheet, place them on a low broil for 10 minutes.  Give the pan a shake, low broil 10 minutes more until evenly browned and crisp.  They will taste just like you fried them.  If you use this method your sauce will not be as rich but will still be good.  Enjoy!