A few months ago assorted food bloggers were sharing posts on kitchen mishaps, some were really funny, some hilarious and each provided a sure laugh to lighten the day. It got me to thinking that except that I’m just plain not that funny and don’t have any really great kitchen mishap stories to share.
Truth is, I hadn’t thought of ever sharing classic tomato and cheese lasagna for a post either, mostly because it’s common and there are likely millions of recipes.
This morning it occurred to me to just go ahead and post what I’m making in my kitchen right now, where plenty has been churning out. The notion actually came to me after receiving a thoughtful inquiry in my inbox this morning from a dear blogger friend, Kelly Rodriguez, of A Lovely Life Indeed. This is the same Kelly who once shared her spectacular Sangria recipe on Spiced Peach Blog.
And as Kelly often does inspire others, her little message and update got me back into post mode and then sparked the recall of a darn good potential kitchen mishap a couple of years back that happened to actually involve simple tomato and cheese Lasagna!
In fact, could well have been a calamity. I should say in part that connecting the memory of that simple tomato and cheese Lasagna was coincidentally linked to a similar scenario at that time, the J-Dude being under the weather and home from school with me as he has been the past couple of days, only back then it surrounded a real time crunch expecting up to fifty people, the team and coaches of the American University field hockey team, along with parents in town for the weekend matches.
Since I’ve already shared that I’m just not that funny of a person, today I will alternatively share one important cooking tip for avoiding one kitchen mishap that could turn to calamity: If you are expecting up to fifty guests, or, hosting your daughter’s college sports team for dinner at your home when they come into town for game weekend, should one of those dishes planned involve preparing a simple tomato and cheese lasagna, never, ever, ever, use anything but dry, boxed LASAGNA noodles.
Freshly made lasagna sheets, if purchased, are much too thin for such an occasion. Looking back now, having a sick child at home is sort of distracting and not conducive to making homemade pasta noodles where one can control the thickness, so what then ever caused me to alternatively purchase fresh lasagna sheets at an Italian market instead of just opting for the dry variety makes me question what in the world I was possibly thinking.
Fresh purchased lasagna noodles are also not sturdy in texture nor are they adaptable to flexible timing.
Hence, after all of the work put forth preparing sauce from fresh tomatoes, grating the finest cheeses, whipping up a beautiful infused béchamel sauce those freshly purchaded lasagna noodles nearly withered beneath breaking down between the layers of its liquid and cheesy contents.
And so while admittedly still nicely flavored, tasty, and colorful, and perhaps the tenderness of these pasta strips mostly went unnoticed but when it comes to entertaining, the fresh lasagna sheets are not a recommended ingredient chance worth taking.
Provided you remember to turn on your oven beforehand, cooking up the standard box of dried lasagne noodles for your simple tomato and cheese lasagna near guarantees your success, and the avoidance of any kitchen mishap eliminating the potential for calamity especially when serving large crowds, which alternatively would be well, sort of like me, just plain out not all that funny.
- 1 pound box San Giorgio lasagna noodles
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a few extra tablespoons for noodles
- 2 1/2- 3 cups tomato sauce
- 2 1/2 cups, infused béchamel sauce (recipe below)
- 2 1/4 cups fresh grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 1/4 cups fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/8 cup fresh basil, stacked, rolled, thinly sliced
- For the Infused Bechamel Sauce:
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 onion, cut in half
- 2 stalks celery quartered
- 10 peppercorns, approximately
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons all- purpose flour
- a few pinches each coarse kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Grease lasagna pan with a tablespoon of olive oil
- Cook Lasagna noodles according to package directions in salted boiling water, drain, toss lightly with a few tablespoons olive oil then lay flat on a baking sheet or long rectangular dish, cover lightly with plastic wrap, set aside
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Make Infused Béchamel Sauce: In a medium sized saucepan bring the milk, onion, celery, peppercorns and bay leaves to a low simmer, cook two to three minutes, turn off heat and let mixture sit for flavors to absorb, around fifteen minutes, strain
- Melt butter in large sauté pan, stir in flour and cook on low heat for bit longer than two minutes turn
- Slowly whisk in the seasoned milk a little at a time, whisking until smooth, sprinkle in a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper, stir in the ground nutmeg, set sauce aside
- Ladle tomato sauce to cover the bottom of the lasagna pan
- Top with a layer of lasagna noodles, just slightly overlapping each other
- Lightly spoon béchamel sauce across the noodles, ladle tomato sauce on top, sprinkle with mozzarella, Parmesan, and basil,
- Repeat, topping with another layer of noodles followed by the béchamel, tomato sauce cheeses and basil
- Finish with remaining lasagna noodles spooning small dollops of tomato sauce and béchamel interspersing down the noodles across the top, sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan cheese all over
- Cover lasagna with aluminum foil and set pan onto a parchment lined baking sheet
- Bake thirty minutes, remove aluminum foil and cook another fifteen minutes or longer for cheese to fully melt and brown slightly
- Assembled, uncooked lasagna may be refrigerated overnight then sitting at room temperature for fifteen minutes before baking at 350 degrees for approximately fifty minutes before removing aluminum foil and further melting and browning cheese slightly, another ten minutes or longer.