Lasagne. A word needing no adjectives to provide a clear visual of tender pasta layers, rich meaty tomato sauce and mountains of gooey cheese oozing on your plate. Sadly, the image might be thick, gummy, curly edged pasta with insipid, heavily oreganoed [not sure if that’s a word] hamburger sauce and watery cottage cheese baked until it’s dry enough to hold its shape when plated. The second description was my introduction to lasagne; spelled lasagna on the chalk board outside my high school cafeteria. Friday’s ‘paste and glue’ lunch special tasted exotic yet somewhat gelatinous.
Years later, I was introduced to fresh, thin layers of pasta. Those lovely, delicate sheets of pasta changed everything. Searching for the perfect harmony between flavours and textures became my holy grail. I experimented with a myriad of sauces, cheeses and pasta flavours. For the most part, as long as the lasagne was balanced, it worked. However, every now and then a lasagne will stop me in my munching tracks.
I’ve been working on Italian by Night’s newest menu over the last three weeks. – This week was my deadline hence my on-line absence. Each season, I create a new lasagne combination. During the warmer months, I concentrate on lighter sauces and cheese. Conversely, the colder months celebrate heartier sauces and cheeses. All that to say, I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about my latest lasagne creation. Creation sounds a bit lofty but I kid you not, last night I struggled not to do a face plant at the dinner table! The recipe I’m sharing today was inspired by the recipe that I created for Liz. The process will seem long at first glance but, once you get the hang of it, you’ll see that things can happen simultaneously.
In honour of full disclosure, I want to explain my short-cuts. I used commercial fresh pasta. It’s not as tender as homemade but, when I’m pressed for time, it’s close enough. I used bocconcini [ small balls of soft mozzarella] instead of shredding my own or buying pre-shredded. I simply prefer the way the thicker, softer mozzarella melts. Finally, I bought pre-ground beef and store-made sausage. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know about my propensity for grinding my own meat. Still, my taste buds will not be held hostage to my time restraints!
The combination of the slow-braised beef and pork tomato sauce, roasted sagey buttercup squash, to-die-for asiago balsamella and lavish amount of fresh mozzarella has made my latest lasagne spelled as the Italians do possibly the most delicious lasagne I’ve ever eaten!
AUTUMN LASAGNE WITH SAUSAGE, BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND SAGE
Preheat oven 400*F
*Have all ingredients ready to assemble
1 quantity Roasted Butternut Squash – recipe follows
1 quantity Asiago Balsamella – recipe follows
1 quantity Sausage Bolognese – recipe follows
500 g bocconcini
360g Fresh pasta
- Prepare a 9 x 13 lasagne pan with a food release spray.
- Cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of Bolognese.
- Cover the sauce with a layer of pasta then spread with a heavier layer of Bolognese.
- Place half of the bocconcini over the Bolognese
- Cover with another layer of pasta
- Cover with all of the roasted squash.
- Pour the asiago balsamella over top [ reserving ½ cup for the top layer] then spread it out evenly.
- Cover with another layer of pasta, the remaining Bolognese, remaining asiago balsamella and bocconcini
- Bake uncovered at 400* – 35 minutes or until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling.
- Allow to cool for 10 minutes then portion.
ROASTED SAGEY BUTTERNUT SQUASH
Preheat oven 400°F
1 butternut squash – peeled, seeded and cut into 1” pieces
freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dried sage leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
- Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
- Pour onto a baking sheet.
- Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until fork tender.
- Remove from oven and set aside.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups heavy/whipping cream
8 oz shredded asiago
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated pepper
- In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, melt butter until it’s foaming.
- Add flour and whisk together
- Cook over for 3 minutes stirring constantly – DO NOT BROWN
- Pour cream in a steady stream into butter/flour mixture, whisking constantly until mixture is smooth.
- Stir often and simmer until thick
- Add shredded asiago and stir until well combined.
- Remove from heat and set aside.
2 lbs ground beef
1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chilli pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 branch fresh rosemary, left whole
1 – 28 oz can of imported Italian plum tomatoes, diced
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup whole milk
- In a large pot, olive oil over a medium high heat
- Add garlic – sauté for 2 minutes stirring constantly
- Add ground beef and sausage then cook until all of the pinkness is gone. Break up the sausage meat and ground beef as it cooks so that it resembles minced meat.
- Add wine, cook until wine is almost gone – stirring often
- Add milk and repeat process.
- When milk has evaporated, add salt, chilli flakes, fresh rosemary and tomatoes
- Lower heat to a simmer and cook until thick – 30 minutes to two hours. It will depend on your tomatoes.
- Remove from heat.
THE LOVE: Make sure you’re working with a low heat so you don’t scorch your sauces.
Thanks for reading.