What is your favorite comfort food? Pot roast? Macaroni and cheese? Mine is definitely Lasagna. It took me 3 different times of making this lasagna to get the final picture. Between the Norovirus and family parties, to say the least, it’s been crazy in the Beeson house. This dish is just so good that everyone digs in before I can do anything!
I remember the first time I made Lasagna. We were living in Roseburg, Oregon at the time (my most favorite place!) and I had just really gotten into this whole cooking thing and I thought, why not? My family always made good lasagna’s when I was young, but growing up in a Northern Italian family, we never had a red sauce. Northern Italian dishes are deep brown and rich sauces, you’ll find a red sauce in Southern Italy and Sicily.
But honestly, there is nothing better, in my opinion, than a homemade red sauce made with fresh tomatoes and lots of garlic and olive oil.
And if you make your own pasta…. OMG. I can’t even.
Here’s what you’ll need:
For The Sauce (this sauce needs to sit at least 4 hours to let all flavors combine)
- 2 carrots
- 3 celery stalks
- 1 large white or yellow onion
- 4-5 garlic cloves
- 4 tablespoons good olive oil- divided
- 8 fresh basil leaves- divided
- 10 vine ripened tomatoes
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano-divided
- 1 big or 2 small cheese rinds (optional)
- 3 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil (can be substituted for regular olive oil)
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1/2 pound ground beef
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- Salt and pepper
For The Pasta (if making fresh):
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-2 tablespoons water
For The Lasagna:
- Pasta sheets
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- fresh or freeze dried chives
- salt and pepper
- 4 cups mozzerella cheese
- 1 cup parmesano reggiano
Here’s what you need to do:
For The Sauce:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut tomatoes width wise and place on a baking sheet. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and make sure tomatoes are cut side up. Sprinkle with 3 chopped basil leaves, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, salt and pepper. Roast until soft but beginning to brown, 45 minutes to an hour. Cool on baking sheet.
When tomatoes are cool enough to touch, peel off the skin. It should slide right off with little tugs. Set aside.
Roughly chop carrots and celery and process them in a food processor. I do this because I like to add extra nutrients but I don’t like seeing big chunks of carrots and celery in my sauce. I also think that having the veggies minced gives the final sauce a nice texture. If you don’t have a food processor, just dice them up as small as you can. Dice up onions and mince garlic.
Heat a large dutch oven or heavy pot over medium heat then add olive oil. Once olive oil is hot add the processed veggies and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add onion and cook for another 3-4 minutes until soft then add garlic. I don’t like to add garlic with the onions because it burns so easily! I hate the taste of burnt garlic.
Add tomato paste and stir constantly for about 2 minutes to cook out the raw tomato flavor.
Add the tomatoes and mash with the back of a wooden spoon. You’ll see the tomatoes start to break down beautifully, and once you start seeing a sauce add the cheese rinds, if using. Cheese rinds give the sauce a delicious nutty richness, and you’ll take out the cheese rinds once you’re ready to build the lasagna.
Add in the remaining basil, dried oregano, sugar and salt to taste. Stir and add the garlic olive oil, or just regular olive oil if using. If you want to infuse your own oil, all you have to do is peel 5 cloves of garlic. Transfer to a medium pot, add olive oil, and heat over medium-low until bubbles form around garlic, about 3 minutes. Let cook 10 minutes, reduce heat to low if garlic begins to brown, once again you don’t want the burnt garlic taste. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Bring sauce to a low boil, cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer all day, preferably at least 4 hours. About 20 minutes before you’re ready to build your lasagna, cook up the ground beef and pork and add into sauce. You can also use ground turkey or whatever you like really. Even just cheese!
For The Pasta:
In the Kitchenaid mixing bowl, add flour, eggs and salt. Attach the kneader attachment on the Kitchenaid and turn on speed 2 then 4. Add in water teaspoon at a time until a nice dough is forming around the kneader, stopping to scrape off the sides when needed.
For this next step you’ll need the pasta attachment for the Kitchenaid.
Take your dough and on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough into a ball with your hands. Cut dough ball into three semi-equal parts. Sprinkle each ball with flour and roll them out one at a time to about 1/8″ thickness.
Put pasta through the roller starting on level 6. You will need to support the pasta every time it goes through the machine from both the top and bottom. When it comes out of the roller the first few times it will probably look like swiss cheese, and that’s okay. Fold it over a few times while its coming out and run it through again to 5, then 4 then lastly 3. Before you put it through 3, do not fold it. When it comes out after level 3 it should be beautifully smooth, if not, run it through again on 3.
Cut pasta with a sharp knife down to size. If you have a pasta hanger, you can hang your pasta until you’re ready to use it. If not, flour some parchment paper and have it sit, turning occasionally so it doesn’t stick. If you don’t want to make your own pasta (totally okay!) I recommend using no boil lasagna sheets or the fresh pasta you can buy in the grocery store next to the cheese.
To Build Lasagna:
Take cheese rinds out of the sauce.
This next step is important for building the lasagna, it’s putting together a mixture for the ricotta cheese.
Mix together ricotta cheese, eggs, chives, salt and pepper and whisk together until smooth. This makes the ricotta easy to spread over pasta sheets, and it’s delicious.
In a 9×13 baking pan, ladle in some sauce on the bottom so the pasta doesn’t stick. Put a layer of pasta down then a layer of ricotta cheese, spread with a rubber spatula. Top that with mozzerella cheese and a big ladle of sauce. Repeat and on the very top, 1 cup parmesano reggiano.
Cover with foil and bake in oven at 375F for 55 minutes, then take off foil and let cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until cheese on top in bubbly and browning.
This dish is so incredibly rich and delicious, you may not have any leftovers!