Friday-fueled Sunday Supper
On Friday afternoon, my work day was cut short because they were re-wiring our internet connection. Oh, drat!
I wound up hanging out in Michelle’s office with her and Daniel for a while, helping with a sort-of extra-curricular project, and eventually we made some cocktails too. Still, without any real plans for that night, I had some energy to take on a project other than my post-trip laundry when I got home.
So I decided to make the lasagna I’d been imagining a reality. What, you don’t imagine lasagna recipes in your free time?
While I’m a proponent of having a well-stocked kitchen/pantry, I’ve also been trying to work from/with that stock more recently — that includes “staples” like rice or quinoa, and impulse buys like vodka sauce from Trader Joe’s and ricotta cheese.
I’d purchased the vodka sauce because I was craving it, and the ricotta because it was on sale and I had an open box of lasagna noodles in my cabinet for a long time. And when I realized I didn’t have any other pasta around, the destiny of all three items was clear. Lasagna a la vodka!
The only things I needed to buy just to complete this meal were some ground beef (arguably optional) and a ball of fresh mozzarella.
Here’s how I did it:
I sauteed half a red onion and a clove with garlic in a bit of olive oil before adding two slices of chopped bacon, since there is frequently some kind of smokey pork in pasta dishes with vodka sauce. I browned 1/2 a pound or so of ground beef in that mixture. Once it was cooked through, I tossed in half a cup or so of frozen peas (another frequent vodka sauce accompaniment), kept the heat on until they didn’t look frosty any more, and then set the pan aside.
Then I very carefully cooked my lasagna noodles (learning from past disasters where all of the noodles tore and/or stuck together). As you can see from the picture, this was a relatively petite lasagna, so I only needed about 6-7 noodles. I wound up cooking all 10 that were left in the box (silly me) in two batches because my pot wasn’t really big enough to accommodate more than that. Once they were done, I took each noodle out of the pot individually with tongs, and after a quick stop in a strainer, I laid them out on a cutting board, with plastic wrap between the layers. No sticking or tearing!
Then I mixed up about 8oz of ricotta with an egg, and a bunch of grated romano and fresh mozzarella I saved a bit of the mozz for the top, but not much, because fresh mozzarella doesn’t really do the really good melty thing anyway.
When I was finally ready to assemble the dish, I sprayed the bottom of my casserole with some cooking spray, and then put down about half a cup of the vodka sauce. Next came overlapping noodle halves, then about half of the cheese mixture, half of the meat mixture, more sauce. I repeated that with another layer of sauce, noodles, etc. and then a final layer of noodles and the rest of the bottle of sauce, topped with the reserved mozzerella that i cut into strips and then a bunch of grated romano cheese.
The lasagna noodle box had a recipe on it that I consulted for cooking times—which meant that I covered the dish with foil and cooked it for 30 minutes at 375, and then removed the foil and cooked it for another 15.
My house smelled amazing, and when I took it out of the oven, it was appropriately bubbly and slightly crispy around the edges.
When I finally tasted the finished product for dinner last night, I was very pleased with everything about it. Not only did it taste perfect, it felt very good to have invested some time in the kitchen after traveling for more than a week. And even more so because I made up the “recipe” myself.