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  1. Lasagna with Homemade Ricotta

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    I want to start off by apologizing for not posting all that regularly as of late. 
    I am super busy these days because I am in the midst of planning and preparing for my wedding at the end of June! I'm basically doing everything myself to keep it extremely low-budget, so that means a lot of work and planning on my end. Whew. And on top of that, I have Aria to keep an eye on. PLUS, my cousin and I are in the planning stages of starting a small business which I'll tell you more about as we get further along.
    So. A lot going on as you can see. With all that said, here is a new recipe!

    This meal started off as being Jhony's job. He offered to make a lasagna meal (which doesn't happen that often despite the fact that he can cook). But I ended up taking over because I had found a recipe for homemade ricotta that I wanted to try out, plus I wanted to make the sauce from scratch, and at that point I was basically already doing most of the work, so I just did everything. Not that I minded terribly. I love to cook. And it was the fact that he offered to do it that counts. :)


    Lasagna with Homemade Ricotta
    serves 4-8

    (recipe adapted from here)
    - 4 cups whole milk
    - 1 cup buttermilk
    - 1/3 cup heavy cream
    - salt
    - candy thermometer (optional)

    (recipe adapted from here)
    - 1 lb. ground beef
    - 1/2 medium onion, diced
    - 1/4 cup sugar
    - 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
    - 1 15 oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
    - 3 oz. tomato paste
    - 2 tsp garlic powder
    - 1 tsp onion powder
    - 1 tsp dried oregano
    - 1 tsp dried basil
    - 1 TB apple cider vinegar
    - pinch of dried red pepper flakes
    - salt and pepper
    - 1/2 lb. dry lasagna noodles
    - 1 1/2 lbs. grated mozzarella cheese
    - 3/4 lb. Parmesan cheese, grated or shredded

    Line a fine mesh strainer with a cheesecloth (folded over several times) and set it in your sink.
    Combine milk, buttermilk and cream in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
    Bring to a boil until thermometer registers 185. If you don't have a thermometer, keep an eye on it to see when the curds are mostly separated from the whey. This will take about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    Remove from heat and using a slotted spoon, scoop spoonfuls of curd into the cheesecloth-lined strainer; sprinkling it with a little salt every 3-4 spoonfuls.
    Let the ricotta drain for 5 minutes, then taste to check consistency. If you like it drier, let it drain more. If you like it wetter, add a tablespoon or so of milk. 
    (It's best used right away but can keep for a couple days in the fridge.)

    This ricotta tastes so fresh and delicious  I had to keep myself from eating it all before I finished making the lasagna. This recipe made enough for the lasagna with about a half cup left over.

    Brown ground beef in dutch oven or large saucepan until cooked through. Remove to paper towel lined plate to drain excess fat. Add in diced onions and pinch of dried red pepper flakes. Cook until browned and softened and then add the ground beef back in. Season with salt and pepper.
    Add tomato paste and stir to release the flavors, cook one minute. Add in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, and dried basil. Add apple cider vinegar. Then add the sugar a tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired level of sweetness -- no more than a 1/4 cup.
    Stir and allowed to simmer for 20-35 minutes to thicken. Stir frequently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I like lots of black pepper.)
    Cook lasagna noodles to al dente according to the package directions (this may be done in advance). Stir often to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other. Add in 1 TB of salt to the boiling water for more flavorful pasta. Drain noodles in a colander and keep in a cool water-filled pan or bowl to keep the noodles from drying out and sticking together.
    In a 9x13 baking dish (I used parchment paper that has aluminum foil on the other side to line the pan to make the lasagna easier to remove) ladle in one cup of sauce and spread along the bottom of the pan. Apply a layer of noodles 3 length wise (edges overlapping). Apply spoonfuls of sauce sparingly over the noodles. Spread a layer of mozzarella cheese over the sauce and place ricotta cheese dollops every 2 inches on top of mozzarella layer, sprinkle a thin, even layer of parmesan on top of the ricotta. 
    Apply second layer of noodles, topped again with sauce and cheese.
    Finish with another layer of noodles, topped with extra sauce and cheese. Tent lasagna with aluminum foil (not touching noodles/cheese/sauce).
    Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. 
    Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

    Flavor improves if made ahead of time and reheated in the oven. Leave aluminum tent on for storage - do not allow to touch the lasagna.

    I served the lasagna with fresh salad (I like to grate my carrots for salad) with homemade dijon vinaigrette.



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