Monday, October 11, 2010

Chef Symon's Mom's Lasagna

I'd like to think that if I ever met Chef Symon, we would have so much in common and we'd be best foodie friends. As I got to 'know' him more through reading his cookbook, it seemed more and more likely. I found out he loves dogs, as their photos are peppered throughout his cookbook (um, mine too)! It's also clear he loves pickles and pickled things (give me a pickle and call it dinner)! And finally, he is from Ohio, and has a deep love for Cleveland (ok, I'm a Cincinnati girl, but my sister lives in Cleveland and I love the city)! 

Then I read his prologue to this recipe. His mom's lasagna, a Sunday specialty, slow cooking sauce, pasta baked with creamy cheeses, the scent lingering from the oven all day long... he's describing my childhood! My dad's favorite food for as long as I can remember was my mom's lasagna. Since it's labor intensive, she made it from scratch every few weekends, always an all day affair. She would only use Polly-O brand ricotta and mozzarella and grated Parm from the Italian specialty store. The sauce would cook all day, bubbling away, and we'd all fight over the crunchy corners at dinner time.

My mom would add ground beef to the sauce sometimes, but not always. However, Chef Symon's mom doesn't mess around. She uses veal neck bones, beef, sausage and pork. And three pounds of cheese. Though I do love to indulge and have one splurge-type meal each week, I don't eat meat and couldn't use 3 lbs. of cheese. Instead, I added mushrooms for some body and texture, cut the mozzarella, made my 2% ricotta from scratch, and picked up these beautiful lasagna noodles!

While this lasagna isn't exactly the same as Michael Symon's, it still evokes the feeling of Mom's homemade, Sunday specialty. The scent reminds me of being a kid, waiting for Mom to yell, "Dinner time!" And the feeling that perhaps one day, I'll have kids hoping that every Sunday I'll be in the kitchen constructing a lasagna for dinner.

Thank you to Kim of Stirring the Pot for choosing this week's Symon Sundays recipe. This completes Round 5, our selections are up for the next round, check the schedule in the right column!

Tips and Trades:
-I made my ricotta from scratch, which is very simple to do, and it tastes amazing! A 1 lb. tub of organic ricotta is around $5, but I purchased a 1/2 gallon of organic 2% milk for $3 and made 1 lb., almost half price!
-The fresh basil in this dish really brings a nice, fresh burst of flavor. Because the recipe has so much cheese (and meat, if you go with the original), I recommend not skimping on the basil.
-I prefer to make my lasagna with uncooked noodles, make my sauce a little more watery, and bake the lasagna off and have the noodles cook while absorbing the liquid. It keep the lasagna from being wet, and saves the annoying process of cooking the noodles. The noodles will grow though, so make sure there is a bit of space in the pan for them to expand!

Mom's Sunday Lasagna

1/2 lb. lasagna noodles
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 yellow onion
3 garlic cloves
8 oz. cremini mushrooms
Kosher salt and pepper
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/2 c. red wine
1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes (whole)
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning blend
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 c. vegetable stock or tomato juice
1 c. fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn

Heat a pot over medium heat.
Add 1 tbsp. EVOO.
Add onions and garlic to a food processor, pulse until very finely minced, add to the pot.
Add mushrooms to the food processor, pulse to a fine mince, add to the pot.
Season veggies with salt and pepper, sauté for 10 minutes, until liquids are cooked out.
Add tomato paste and red wine, reduce liquid by half.
Add tomatoes, break up with a wooden spoon, add dried seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes and stock.
Stir well, cover, turn to low and simmer for 1 hour. 
Preheat oven to 350*
Turn heat off from sauce, add basil and fold in.
Spoon sauce to cover the bottom of a casserole dish.
Layer the noodles, spoonful of ricotta, sprinkle of Parmesan, and another ladle of sauce. 
Cover with another noodle, and repeat until noodles and cheese are gone.
Ladle the remaining sauce over top noodle layer, cover with foil and place in the oven.
Cook lasagna for 45 minutes, uncover, sprinkle with a layer of Parmesan and place back in the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven, rest for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Please visit the other Symon Sundays Participant's blogs listed here. For the authentic recipe from the book, be sure to check out Kim's blog, Stirrting the Pot!
Joanne at Eats Well with Others (Project Food Blog Star Contender!)


Tasha said...

Those noodles are awesome!

I never make traditional lasagna, because my husband let me know early on that no other lasagna would compare to his mom's, but I think this one just might! Your adaptions sound perfect.

Kelly said...

I agree with you, making fresh cheeses from scratch is definitely the way to go. I make my own mascarpone as well and it really can be MUCH more affordable. I love all the comparisons you draw between yourself and Michael Symon. Do you ever watch Cook Like an Iron Chef on the Cooking Channel? I'm really enjoying it.

I also agree with Tasha, those noodles are quite gorgeous.

Jamie said...

So I've been a long time just reader transitioning from Ash is Fit to your food/recipe blog. I was wondering whether you had particular recipe you use to make your own ricotta? I see there are a bunch of versions only and hoped you had a tried and true!

Ashlee said...

Jamie - I use this kit that my mom got for me:
However, it's much cheaper to not buy the kit. All I did was pour 1/2 gallon 2% milk into a nonreactive pot with 2/4 tsp. citric acid and 3/4 tsp. cheese salt (coarse salt), bring to 195*, then remove from the heat, cover and set aside for 10 minutes. Pour into a cheesecloth (or papertowel) lined colander, drain for 30 minutes, then transfer to a storage container and refrigerate.

Ashlee said...

sorry, that should be 3/4 tsp. citric acid, not 2/4.

Joanne said...

I love your vegetarian version of this and if I made it again, I would probably go veg. Just because.

Man I am SO impressed that you made your own ricotta! I need to get on the ricotta-making bandwagon.

Thanks so much for the PFB shout out!

Natalie said...

hello fun noodles! those are awesome!!!!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

Delicious veggie lasagna! I absolutely love the noodles, too.

Anonymous said...

Yes! The noodles. So cute. Makes me envious I cannot use them. ;P