Finding love has become a much more layered adventure than it used to be – like the lasagna you hate to make, but love to eat.
On some level, we may want to keep our dish simple, but most will find it’s a journey complicated by too many experimental ‘cook ups’ of random ingredients in hopes of finding a recipe we’d like to keep.
These days, creating an intriguing lasagna profile requires everything from patrolling the Internet in search of the best recipes to downloading pictures of the perfect dish, even uploading pictures of what you’ve got to work with. Because it is a bit of work, some will prefer a bit of experimenting.
Don’t experiment with the noodles you select for this entrée. The Creste Di Galli pasta noodles (shaped like an ear) might be tempting to use if you hope your lasagna will subliminally help that special someone to hear you. But these noodles would actually create a very confused and messy-looking plate, one which you would ultimately regret serving to someone you hope to impress. And Tagliatelle might seem a compelling noodle if you hope to inspire your partner to communicate more over dinner, but this type of pasta is hopelessly narrow and really too delicate to bond all of your ingredients together into a cohesive dish. If you’re not using lasagna noodles, straight up make something else.
This lasagna is the Entrée of Love. It must be a great and memorable ensemble. Therefore, the self-titled noodles are to be its only foundation. They are strong, wide and enduring. Worldwide, lasagna recipes require that these noodles overlap. Miss this step, and your whole lasagna will be built upon shaky ground. Remember this, and you can easily create a heart-shaped lasagna without incident.
The ingredients in the middle of this Dish of Love can also be confusing – know what you are shopping for! Not everyone will have the same goal, but when we sit down at the table together we should, more or less, be expecting the same meal. In particular, the cheese variables in this entrée as sex: Ricottas, mozzarellas, cottage and parmesans–useful binding agents, to be sure, but without the other ingredients you’ve only got a snack.
Like the deep, rich flavor of a fabulous love, we recognize that the most crucial ingredient in any great lasagna is its sauce. Within it floats the commonality of what everyone expects to get from the dish – a zesty, velvety, cohesive element that is appreciated in every bite. Without it, the rest of your ingredients would likely be discarded for something ready-made and frozen. The sauce really provides the cohesion for the love you are seeking, and so requires a mindful majority of your preparation and a critical simmering time.
PREPARATION TIPS & FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Preparation-wise, ask yourself the following questions before randomly tossing things in with the meat: Do you really have enough time to invest in bringing out flavors in the sauce you are about to create? Or are you just hungry for something that will taste substantial?
Your sauce is key because it speaks to your true intentions. Whether its protein is hamburger or sausage, this is a dish that relies on the sauce as the vehicle that delivers all the goodness and spices we’d all hope to find in this layered, oozing comfort food. Some may try to serve up this entrée with only a side-dish mentality, skimping on the ingredients, the preparation, the timeline and, ultimately, the flavor. Don’t let anyone convince you that it’s O.K. to be haphazard about what goes into your ideal version of a lasagna.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO DEVELOP A GREAT SAUCE? SHOULD I DRAIN THE FAT FROM THE MEAT? WHAT DO I DO WITH THE NOODLES, EXACTLY?
- Essentially, you could spend 15 minutes or three hours on a sauce, and know that you will certainly be able to taste the difference in the depth of flavor developed. But the time line is exclusively yours.
- Always drain the fat off your meat before adding in other flavor variables. Your lasagna does not need to carry with it the baggage of fat that was not drained off, believe me.
- Do your noodles overlap???
Whether you spend minutes, hours, days or months browsing up potential variations of this entrée online, you’ll discover some immediate, yet persistent truths about what others think a lasagna ought to be about: some don’t want any meat; some don’t want to be able to taste a bunch of healthy vegetables; and some will feel uncomfortable about eating it – no matter how great it looks or how good it tastes – should they become aware of just how much time and effort you put into making just the sauce. Others won’t even want you to know they are hungry.
Truth is, everyone loves lasagna – when it’s good. More than one engagement has certainly followed the great lasagna that leapt from a plate and straight into someone’s heart.
There are thousands of different recipes out there, each with its own set of expectations, actions and reactions. Don’t be overwhelmed, but know that preparing a quiet, dignified and sincere lasagna sauce will no doubt result in a meal that is honest and fortifying. That is the most you can do, so be proud of it. And once you’ve got it, stay true to your own unique recipe and you’ll never regret it.
The secret to keeping the recipe alive and appreciated over time? Well, that happens to be hidden in and channeled through the sauce, as well. Always season to taste until you develop your desired flavor, and don’t forget to stir occasionally.
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for pan
1 pound ground beef, turkey, sausage or non-meat alternative
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, chopped
1 (8-ounce) jar tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (8-ounce) box no-boil lasagna noodles
2 large eggs
2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1 (8-ounce) bag shredded mozzarella
1 (8-ounce) bag shredded Cheddar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. In a large sauté pan, over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil and sauté meat, onion, and garlic until meat is browned, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon. Drain pan of fat and add stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, then mix in cottage cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan, parsley, salt, pepper, and seasoning salt. Spread a little of the meat sauce in the bottom of the prepared pan. Lay half the noodles in the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping by 1/2-inch. Spread half the egg and cottage cheese mixture evenly on top. Sprinkle half the mozzarella and Cheddar evenly over the cottage cheese mixture. Pour half the meat sauce on top. Repeat layering in same order. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan on top. Bake in center of oven 30 to 35 minutes until sauce is bubbling around the edges. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Pairs well with: Sangiovese, a bright, fruity, Italian red wine. (Recipe courtesy of: The Neelys)
Of Hearts & Minds is a sporadic blog about love,
written by someone people tell their secrets to.
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