Lasagna, dammit.

Do I curse too much for someone writing a blog about food?  Fuck if I know.

Let’s make lasagna.

For the sauce, you’ll need:

  • an onion
  • a few cloves of garlic
  • a 28-oz can of tomatoes (whole peeled)
  • olive oil
  • a splash of red wine
  • spices (salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage, cayenne, fennel seed)

Alternatively, if you don’t have time to make sauce or you’re a big turd (or both), you can just buy a jar at the store.  You’ll need about 3 cups of sauce.

For the rest of the dish, you’ll need:

  • a package of lasagna noodles (I use brands that don’t require precooking, but maybe you’re more of a purist than I am.  But if you’re gonna be a purist, you should just make the lasagna noodles from scratch, right?  Or, what, are you some kinda coward?)
  • a 16 oz container of ricotta cheese
  • 32 oz of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese for grating
  • about 8-10 oz of spinach
  • an eggplant

You can swap out the eggplant for other veggies, of course – zucchini would probably be good, maybe peppers if you want a little crunch, sweet potato if you want your lasagna a little thicker and starchier – use your imagination.  Just, for fuck’s sake, don’t use mushrooms.

Ok, first the sauce.

  1. Before you do anything, slice your eggplant into thin (1/4-inch or thinner) slices, salt them well, and put them in a colander.  Set the eggplant to the side.  You won’t need it for the sauce, but if you’re making the whole lasagna in one go (as opposed to making the sauce in advance), you’ll want to salt the eggplant now to save time.
  2. Chop up your onion and garlic.  Doesn’t have to be finely minced (it won’t matter later).  Sauté them in a saucepan with olive oil and salt.
  3. Let the onions and garlic caramelize a bit.  Once they’ve browned, pour in a splash of red wine.  I used a Malbec when I was making my sauce.
  4. Throw in your can of tomatoes, including the water/juice in the can.  Stir that shit around and throw in your herbs and spices.  As always, you don’t need much cayenne, but use plenty of everything else – you don’t want weak sauce!
  5. Let the concoction simmer, stirring occasionally, for as long as it takes for the sauce to thicken up.  You shouldn’t reduce it to sludge (that would take forever anyway), but you don’t want it to feel watery.
  6. Be sure to taste the sauce every now and then, too, and add herbs and spices as you see fit.
  7. Turn off the heat and let the sauce cool for a few minutes.  Then get out your

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…and blend it until it’s the consistency you want.

(Alternatively, you can pour the sauce in a regular blender and do your dirty work there, but why would you do that if you have an

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?)

Now:

  1. Remember the eggplant that you salted and let sit off to the side?  Get it and rinse it and press the slices dry with paper towels.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350-375 degrees.
  3. Heat up a frying pan/skillet and pour in some oil.  You don’t need a lot, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.
  4. Sauté the eggplant, cooking as many slices at a time as will fit in the pan.  Make sure the oil is hot – if it’s not hot enough, the eggplant will just absorb oil and it will look sad and you will feel sad.  Flip the slices over to make sure both sides get cooked, and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  5. Once the eggplant is nice and golden brown on both sides, remove the slices and let them rest on paper towels.  Repeat with the remaining slices, adding a little oil between batches, until the eggplant is all cooked.

Quick note on timing – the sauce will take a while to simmer to the right consistency, so you’ll probably want to start cooking your eggplant while the sauce is still chugging away.

Once your sauce and eggplant are ready, it’s time for the assembly.

  1. You’ve got everything, right?  Your noodles, your sauce, your eggplant, your ricotta, your mozzarella, and your Parmesan?
  2. GOTCHA!  Don’t forget the spinach!  It’s the only green thing in the whole dish, you’ll feel guilty if you forget it.
  3. Layer as follows (you may need to press down on the whole thing every now and then to compress it):
    • A cup of sauce, spread evenly around the bottom of the pan
    • Noodles (break some if you have to, to fill out the pan)
    • A third of the ricotta, in dollops around the pan
    • A few fistfuls of spinach (it’ll cook down when it’s in the oven, don’t worry if it looks too voluminous)
    • Noodles
    • Another cup of sauce (spread it as best you can; it may be tricky on an uneven noodle floor)
    • Eggplant slices (cut as necessary to fill out the pan)
    • About half the mozzarella (you want a thick blanket across the whole pan)
    • Noodles
    • Another third of the ricotta
    • The rest of the eggplant (it may not take up the whole pan)
    • Another few fistfuls of spinach
    • Noodles
    • The rest of the sauce
    • The rest of the ricotta
    • As much mozzarella as you can fit on top
    • Grated Parmesan over the whole thing
  4. Hopefully now you have a weighty behemoth that rises above the rim of the pan a little (not too much, of course, that would be unwieldy).  If that is the case, and there’s cheese in contact with the sides of the pan, you might just rub a little olive oil along the edge to prevent sticking.
  5. Cover the pan in aluminum foil and stick it in the oven for 50 minutes.
  6. After 50 minutes, check if it’s done — if a knife slides effortlessly through the fray, it’s done.  If the noodles still feel undercooked, give it a few more minutes.
  7. DON’T EAT IT YET.
  8. Let the lasagna sit, under the foil, for at least 10 minutes or so.  That’ll help it set and finish cooking the noodles.

Now hoist a big slab onto your plate and eat it!

LEFTOVER TIPS

This is the rare dish that actually comes out pretty close to its original form when you microwave it.  Just sprinkle some water on it before you nuke it so it doesn’t dehydrate.

 

 

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