Monday, April 4, 2011

La La La Lasagna

This dish will surely give you something to sing about. Once a year I make lasagna. Sometimes I make it with a bechemel sauce, sometimes with a combo of bechemel and tomato sauce and like my most recent venture, with a tomato chicken sausage sauce. The tomato chicken sauce is less taxing than the others and the results always seem to be perfect. Lasagna is a labor of love and you need to set aside a good amount of time to put the dish together, bake it and let it cool a bit before you dive in. So with Dean Martin and Al Martino playing in the background I prepared my ingredient list and began putting this heavenly dish together. There are 3 components that make up my lasagna: the noodles, the meat/tomato sauce and the ricotta cheese mixture.

Chicken Sausage Lasagna

12 lasagna noodles- I use Dreamfields for almost all my pasta dishes. They're low carb and cook up beautifully. Plus they taste like the real thing, which they are

2 tsp canola oil, divided

5 large sweet chicken sausages with casings left on

1/2 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp (or more if you like lotsa heat) crushed red pepper flakes

1 large jar Classico tomato/basil tomato sauce (about 24 oz- I can't find another one in my cupboard so I can't give you the exact weight of the jar- you'll figure it out)

1 8 oz can tomato sauce

1 pound part skim ricotta cheese

2 large eggs lightly beaten

1/2 cup shredded Romano Pecorino cheese (Parmesan works fine too)

1/2 cup low fat shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Another 1/2 cup low fat shredded mozzarella cheese for topping the lasagna

To make the sauce: In large saucepan, on medium low, add the canola oil. Once it's warm add the sausages and brown on all sides (10-15 minutes). Remove from the pan, drain on paper towels and let cool. Set aside. Wipe out the sausage pan, add the remaining canola oil and then the onions and green peppers. Once they've gotten used to the canola bath, add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook on low until vegetables have softened. Meanwhile, slice sausages into 1/4 inch rounds. REMEMBER they're not completely cooked yet, so don't go popping any into your mouth. When the onions and peppers are soft add the Classico sauce and 1/2 the can of tomato sauce. Bring to a low simmer and add the semi-cooked sausages. Cook covered for 10-15 minutes or as long as it takes to make the cheese mixture.

To make the cheese mixture: Combine all ingredients from ricotta through black pepper. Set aside.

While making the cheese mixture, fill a large soup/stew pot with water and bring to a boil. Add salt (optional) to flavor the water and add lasagna noodles. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often to ensure the noodles don't stick to one another. Pour noodles into a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.

I then lay the wet noodles on a clean kitchen towel and allow them to dry a little.

Now it's time to assemble the dish: Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. In a 13 x 9 x 2.5 inch dish (I used glass, but stainless is just fine) place the remaining 1/2 can of tomato sauce and some of the sauce from the sausage mixture, just to cover the bottom of the pan. Lay 4 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce, overlapping them at the edges. Take half the cheese mixture and spread evenly over the noodles. Top with 1/3 of the sausage tomato mixture. The first layer is done.

Continue with another layer of 4 noodles, the rest of the cheese mixture and 1/3 more of the sausage tomato mixture. Second layer is done. Now, one more layer of noodles to go. Top with the rest of the sausage tomato mixture and sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese on top of the whole shebang and you're ready to put this baby in the oven. Cover or tent lightly with aluminum foil and bake 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 20 minutes. Take out of the oven and let stand for 15 minutes. This resting period allows the lasagna to "set up" and not fall apart when you slice it. Slice into 8 large pieces and let those you're sharing with sing your praises. And if you're not feeding an army, sing your own praises and know that the individual portions freeze well and reheat beautifully in the microwave.

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