Betwixt & between researching my family tree (a recently re-discovered ongoing obsession that me & my mother now have), singing Christmas songs obnoxiously loud, eating magic bars & doing even more Christmas baking I somehow managed to make the lasagna today.
Fifth or sixth generation American Western/Eastern Europeans like myself don’t generally have old family lasagna recipes, unless they’re Northern Italians from the areas near the alps, which I certainly am not, and although I do have an Italian uncle (by marriage) whose parents were born in Italy, I never got a recipe from him (which makes me stupid I have just now decided), so this is my recipe I got thanks to the internet from a restaurant in Rhode Island and it worked out pretty dang well. I made two pans of it so I doubled some of the recipe, except for the ground beef. I thought 4 pounds of ground beef was a TAD excessive… even for a carnivore like myself. Two pounds should be plenty.
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
- 2 pounds Ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups homemade or store-bought tomato sauce (Ragu or similar)
- 2 large sheets Pappardelle or dried lasagna sheets (*I just used a regular old box of Ronzoni lasagna… so sue me. But I discovered that with the pans I used I only needed one box, so depending on your pan size you may need two)
- 4 cups Parmesan cheese
- 4 cups Mozzarella cheese
- 1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
- Use a large pan to sauté the olive oil and ground beef. After the meat is browned, drain off the excess fat. Place the beef in a mixing bowl with 1 cup of tomato sauce and 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of the chopped garlic. In a separate mixing bowl, mix ricotta cheese, 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese, 2 lightly beaten eggs, and salt, pepper, and remainder of garlic. Mix until eggs are completely incorporated. Reserve both mixtures for lasagna assembly.
- Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. It is important to start the assembly of the lasagna by spreading a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 10 baking dish. The sauce keeps the pasta from sticking to the dish. (Homemade sauce is recommended, but store-bought will suffice. (**MY NOTE: Store bought will not only “suffice” but is what I recommend unless you seriously have ALL day to make this or have a stash of homemade sauce at the ready)
- The next layer is the pasta. Use fresh pasta if it is available. Pappardelle is a wide strip of pasta, usually 8 x 10 inches, with rippled sides. It can be found at Italian specialty markets. If you are using fresh pasta, do not cook it before assembly. If you are using dried pasta, it must be par-cooked in boiling water until it is just soft enough to bend. Then remove and place on an oiled baking sheet.
- Sauce the first layer of pasta lightly then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Next, spread half of the meat mixture evenly over the pasta, and then layer with half of the ricotta mixture and half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layering, and then press down on the layers to remove any air pockets. Pour the remaining sauce over the top sheet, and then sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella.
- Bake covered with foil for 1 hour. Spray the foil with baking spray to keep the cheese from sticking. Let stand about 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley.
I have not eaten this yet, as its part of the menu for tomorrow. But by the look & smell I am 100% positive that it will be delicious. I don’t have pictures of the cooked product, as its all wrapped in foil for tomorrow. But I’ll take some tomorrow, & edit this post Wednesday with some pictures of it on plates before it was devoured 😉
Now on to the mischievious applesauce cake part. I’m posting this to show that I am not perfect. I know it may be surprising, especially to those who know me, but I’m not. I’ve failed at things. Not many, but still. Not all of my endeavors work out (i.e. my red velvet cupcakes which I made three months ago that weren’t even pink… just pinkish brown… and weren’t all that great… but thats another story for another day… thanks PAULA DEEN!) Almost every Christmas, aside from the last few, my mother has made an Applesauce cake. I never ate it as a kid because I hate applesauce. I love(d) apple juice, but applesauce was too weird for me. Sauce made of apples? Like, WTF? So I never ate this cake let alone tried it. But let me tell you- its awesome. Its like a spice cake, it just tastes like cinnamon and Christmas. Not very apple-y. Not applesauce-y. But anyway the last few years she didn’t make it, probably because I boycotted it for so long in favor of magic bars (which are incredibly awesome and I have posted the recipe for them as well). But this year she said she would make it and I said, “Oh no no, dear mama, I will make it this Christmastide!” (Note: I didn’t actually say it like that… at all..)
It started out fine. The ingredients mixed together well, nothing looked out of the ordinary. I followed the directions exactly, did nothing wrong that I know of. I mean, maybe I did somehow, but I doubt it. I know how to follow a recipe and this is not a difficult one. I know the batter is very loose and watery, and thats how its supposed to be, thats why it takes 60 minutes to cook, so that didn’t bother me. But then we poured it in the bundt pan. It almost overflowed, which I took to seem kinda odd. I wondered if there was enough room accounting for the “rising” of the batter. I shrugged, and put said bundt pan into the oven.
It promptly began to overflow. I’m talking, super overflow. I mean… like… applesauce volcano. All over my oven. It wouldn’t stop.
So I freaked out. My mother calmed me down, having many more years of baking experience than I, by telling me to wait and see. I was about to take it out and just ditch it, because thats how I am. But I listened to her & put a pan under it & waited. It didn’t seem like it was cooking, just overflowing.
But alas, it cooked. I cleaned up the excess and cut off the extraneous parts and when it came out of the pan it was almost perfect. Lesson: use a BIG ass bundt pan or tube pan for this cake, and SERIOUSLY grease it. The recipe says to use a 10″… make sure you listen. Better yet use a 650″ pan. No, I kid. This cake really is delicious, and when its done and sprinkled with the confectioners sugar it looks like something out of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, like plum-pudding or something. But be warned of the overflowing batter, k? I don’t have any pictures of mine, but I stole this cool picture of one from the internet, and thats pretty much what mine looks like. Just a bit darker & a different shape, with no raisins, obviously. And some parts were left stuck to the inside of the pan. Whatever.
And so, here is the recipe for what I have now deemed Mischievious Applesauce Cake:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 2 cups applesauce
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Make a well in the center and pour in the eggs, sugar, oil, applesauce and vanilla. Mix well and pour into prepared pan.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
- Dust with confectioners sugar & enjoy.
Wow… two recipes in one post! Aren’t you all lucky!!
Anyway this is DEFINITELY my last post for Christmas, I swear. So… have a VERY Merry Christmas… & I hope you get everything you all want from Santa Claus.. or your parents… or your wives & husbands or significant others & life partners. I’m a little sad that Jay is working tonight, but I get him all day tomorrow so its okay. Enjoy your families & food! Thats what its all about.