One of my favorite things about cooking is the element of surprise when you stop to use ingredients in a less that obvious way. Now I realize Italian sausage lasagna isn’t anything ground breaking but, for my dinner table, it’s enough variety to make the blog.
For some time now, I’ve made my own sauces. They taste better with fresh herbs and I like the chunkier texture from sautéed fresh tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery. It can be slightly more time consuming but is really an easy Sunday project with doing other chores around the house. This particular batch included roasted red peppers to help balance some the spicier flavors in the sausage.
Large dice an onion, 2-3 red bell peppers, and then depending on what tomatoes I have around from the market, the rest of those. The trick here is to cook the vegetables on a medium heat until softened but not boiled as the tomatoes start to shed their liquids. Depending on what I’ve thrown in the pan this can be a quick 15 minutes and as long as 45. It’s fine if everything isn’t broken down as the blender will take care of the rest. While I love my Vitamix for things like this, I’ve also used a Magic Bullet, a stick blender and a food processor with a lot more mess but successful regardless. Season the sauce with salt, pepper, basil, parsley, paprika, oregano, rosemary or whatever other favorite Italian herbs you have. Blend to your preferred consistency. Depending on the kind of tomato, you may need to cook the blended sauce down a little more. I do this step regardless to help the flavors marry, about 15 min on low. If you need a more exact and scientific process– this is where I started learning.
Cut the sausage out of the casing and cook thoroughly. We had a package that needed to be cooked so I did all 6. The lasagna actually only needs 3, so I ended up making a full 9×13 pan for two adults. What can I say, I mean you’re not reading “Exact Recipe Cooking” now are you?
You’ll need a cheese mixture of at a bare minimum: ricotta and mozzarella or cottage cheese and mozzarella, with herbs. It’s much better if you have: one 15 oz container of either ricotta or cottage cheese with one pound of shredded mozzarella, one cup of grated parmesan, 2 eggs, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1/4 cup chopped basil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, pinch of pepper.
Add two cups of the sauce to the cooked meat incorporating the two. As you prepare to assemble, add a cup of the sauce to the bottom of the pan to assist with cooking the noodles. “Paint” the noodled with about a table spoon of your cheese mixture and then scoop another cup of the meat sauce. Repeat the layers until the pan is about 3/4ths filled. I forget this part and then wonder why my lasagna explodes in the oven… Top with mozzarella and cover with foil, baking at 375 for about an hour. Remove the foil and bake until top is golden to your liking. I prefer my cheese to be pretty browned so this is at a minimum another 20 minutes in my house. When done, allow the lasagna to cool for about 10 minutes.
This particular lasagna was a great combination of sweet, smoky and spicy from the sausage and sauce. What’s great is that its a creative change each time!