Saturday, March 5, 2011
Carl Cooks: Mile High Lasagna Pie
It's been said that we eat with our eyes first which easily explains why I immediately snapped up this special edition of Italian recipes published by Better Homes and Gardens magazine off the newsstand. I am a self-confessed lasagna lover like the famous cartoon character, Garfield. Being a staple of pot luck dinners I feel the dish often gets a bad rap as being just another casserole. Lasagna is also fairly inexpensive to make and seldom seen on the menus of trendy restaurants. However, that doesn't mean it cannot taste great and ranks up there with the best of comfort foods in my book.
So when I saw this lasagna in the round I knew it was my calling to create my own version. After all, isn't the natural shape of a pie round? So here's how it all comes together.
WHAT YOU NEED:
14 Lasagna Noodles (I used fresh ones this time)
Marinara Sauce (1 jar of your favorite. Mine is RAO's)
Fresh Baby Spinach (about 1 pound)
Fresh Cremini Mushrooms (about 1 pound)
Fresh Garlic Cloves
Fresh Basil (good handful)
Fresh Italian Parsley
Ricotta Cheese (1 15 oz. container)
Egg (1 whipped)
Parmesan Cheese (1 cup grated)
Italian Cheeses 2-3 cups shredded
WHERE TO START:
Wash Spinach Leaves (or used pre-washed package)
Mince Garlic Cloves
Thoroughly combine egg, Ricotta and Parmesan cheese in mixing bowl
Lasagna is a lot like pizza. If you follow the basic rules, you can stuff it with any of your favorite flavors. I chose sauteed spinach, zucchini and mushrooms for my filling. It is a good idea to put some heat to all your vegetable ingredients before layering instead of using raw ones. I also knew that would be my chance to work in lots of garlic. In a previous post on grilled cheese sandwiches I elaborated on how to get a nice quick saute on baby spinach leaves in garlic oil.
Remove the slightly wilted spinach leaves and place them into a waiting bowl. Then use the same pan for your zucchini which will be nicely seasoned with garlic and olive oil.
Mushrooms vary greatly in size. Whatever type and size you choose make sure you brush them clean and slice/cut into a shape for a good saute.
Mushrooms take on just about any flavor you use to saute them. My favorite things to toss into the mix are butter, white wine, and just a sprinkle of fresh parsley. This part of the party makes your lasagna earthy.
Ricotta is very mild so combining it with the egg, Parmesan cheese and salt/pepper will kick up the flavor in addition to the texture it adds.
HOW TO FINISH:
Layer Layer Layer in a springform pan
Bake at 375 for about one hour
Cool to set
Slice and Serve
Set up an assembly station. The rest of this process is strictly layering.
Begin and end the layering with your marinara sauce. Go slowly and make sure each layer includes some of the cheeses, veggies, sauce, noodles and basil. As you layer use a plate to press down on the layers insuring more stability and less air pockets.
After one hour at 375 let it cool down and set on a cooling rack.
Carefully remove the springfrom pan side and there you have it!
Zooming in for detail on the side this dish just oozes with melted cheese goodness and garlic sauteed veggies. I can't wait to take a bite!
A word about cheese. You can use any combination of the popular Italian varieties like Mozzarella, Provolone, Asiago, Fontina and Romano. I have always been partial to Mozzarella but recently I discovered the joy of Smoked Mozzarella and I might never be able to go back. It is now easy to find at places like Trader Joe's and it adds a whole new flavor dimension to one of the great melting cheeses.
And a word about food styling. To be honest I could not get my Mile High Lasagna Pie to look as good as the magazine cover right out of the oven. It was delicious but obviously made so by the hot and melted cheesy layers. So when sliced it just did not hold its shape like the photo. After sitting my fridge all night it made for a much sturdier model. The take away here is to worry first about how it TASTES for your guests. In this recipe try presenting it on a nice glass cake plate for dazzle. If it slips a bit when slicing, it won't matter at all when it finally hits their mouths.
Simple lasagna but presented in the round like any good pie should be. You will get compliments stacked a mile high. Oh Mamma Mia!