Thursday, April 5, 2012

Recipe for a Crowd: Sausage & Basil Ricotta Lasagna

The word lasagna originally referred to the pot in which the dish was cooked rather than the food itself as it does today. In fact, it is believed by some that the word is derived from the Greek word for "chamber pot" (lasanon). – from 10 Facts About Lasagna

This is 1/8 of my lasagna. It's a BIG piece. But I ate it all!
(What does that say about me? I wonder...)
OK – so I just I overdid it. Big time. I made a lasagna. A massive one. We’ll be eating it for weeks. Thank goodness lasagna freezes well.

I had purchased some Italian sausage a few days ago and it had to be used. I had in my mind to make a lasagna when I bought it. I hadn't made one for quite some time and obviously forgot how much food it makes...

Ricotta, cottage cheese one egg and basil.
In preparation I had whipped up some homemade ricotta a few days before (very easy, recipe HERE). So I was pretty much stuck. I actually only needed a few more ingredients and I would be fully stocked so why not.

Whenever I make lasagna I never check a recipe – you can with lasagna. There’s only a couple basics: noodles, sauce, meat and cheese in layers. The rest is up to you. For a twist I decided to boost the flavour by incorporating fresh basil (a whole bunch) as opposed to spinach into the ricotta. It certainly added a wonderfully different result.

What I didn’t count on was making enough for 8-12 people! I guess I kind of forgot that’s the whole point of lasagna. It’s a hearty dish that feeds a big group. 

Words to the wise: Buy a tomato sauce that you really like with lots of flavour. If you can't, add herbs and spices to it until it's a little on the over-spiced side. It will really make a difference in your end product.

Pair this with a crisp green salad and you will definitely feed 12. If you’re expecting guests this holiday weekend this may be a recipe to consider. Assembly doesn’t take overly long, and then you get to sit back and enjoy the company of your friends and family while it's bubbling in the oven.

This lasagna was really delicious as well as filling! Judge it by the size of the piece I ate. Some of this will be put in the freezer for sure... unless it all gets eaten.

Place a baking sheet under the pan to prevent a possible mess.
Italian Sausage & Basil Ricotta Lasagna
Prep: 30 min  |  Cook:  45-55 min  |  Serves 8-12
500g package lasagna noodles
1 lb hot Italian sausage, loose
700 ml jar (lg) of tomato sauce (your favourite)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
250g white mushrooms, sliced
3 cups ricotta ( 2 tubs)
250 g cottage cheese
1 egg
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1-1/2 cups grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
salt and pepper
1-1/2 tsp dried oregano

A large, and very full pan.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Prepare the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and cover with cold water.

Heat the oil in a sauté or frying pan and cook until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Add the sausage and break it up as it cooks. Add 1/2 of the jar of tomato sauce and let cook for 4-5 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust. Set aside.

Combine the ricotta, cottage cheese, basil and egg in a bowl. Mix well and add up to 1 tsp of salt. Mix again. Set aside.

Pour about 1 cup of sauce into a 10"x14" oven proof deep dish. Spread it evenly over the bottom.

Place 4 noodles overlapping on the bottom. Distribute 1/2 of the meat sauce over the top. Repeat with four more noodles, and then 1/2 of the ricotta mixture. Repeat once more with meat, noodles, ricotta and then noodles on top.

Pour the remaining sauce over the top. Sprinkle with the cheeses and then some pepper and the oregano.

Place the dish on a cookie sheet to prevent dripping and put both into the oven.

Bake for about 45-55 minutes until bubbling and golden and then call the crew.


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