Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spicy Sausage, Cheese and Fresh Basil Lasagna

Want to know the best way to NOT start a food blog? Probably to finally take the plunge and start said food blog and then rarely post on it. In case anyone is wondering, we've been on a wild ride over here at our house! You can read more about it on my personal blog here but essentially we bought a place built in the 90s, we disklike the can imagine where this is going. Before we knew what we were doing (seriously!) we found ourselves in the middle of a major remodel that involved altering every single room in our house. That was winter. Then came spring and my focus shifted to exciting this like my new yard and starting a garden. Spring also included a much-needed week away with just my hubby to BREATHE after taking on something as major as buying a home and gutting a good chunk of it with three kids 5 and under.

And so there you have it. I apologize for my absence and I hope to be more present here. I've been wanting to tell you all about this lasagna for a while now. It's one of my favorites! I don't know about you but I often find hosts apologize and say things like "we're just having lasagna" when they have us over to dinner. But I LOVE LASAGNA and I'm like putty in your hands when I'm served it alongside garlic bread and a good salad. Maybe part of the reason I love it when YOU serve it to ME is because I didn't have to make it. My only hang up with lasagna is the process of getting from not having lasagna to having lasagna. It can be quite tedious but like most delicious Italian dishes, they are a labor of love.

I probably only make it myself once or twice a year. And every time I do, I find myself thinking Why didn't I just make two so I could put one in the freezer for later and only do this process once a year? So, address that little issue by doubling up and making two. I'm a genius, I know. Buuuuuuut, even though it's a process, it's so rewarding when you take that first bite. I love this recipe because it includes a good kick from the Spicy Italian Sausage. And the fresh basil thrown in with the ricotta gives it almost a pesto-like flavor so you get the best of both worlds: a marriage between red and white sauces. The sauce here is homemade but I've "cheated" at times and just purchased store bought pasta sauce to save time. I give you permission to do the same as you see fit. Dig in and enjoy and expect this one to become a regular part of your repertoire.

Spicy Sausage, Cheese and Fresh Basil Lasagna
(adapted slightly from Bon Appetit Magazine)

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound spicy Italian sausages, casings removed (I use Isernio's)
1 cup chopped onion
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes with added puree
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion (do not drain)

1 1/2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
1 (15 oz) container plus 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups (packed) grated mozzarella cheese (about 6 ounces)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

12 no-boil lasagna noodles from one 8-ounce package
3 cups (packed) grated mozzarella cheese (about 12 ounces)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausages, onion, garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and sauté until sausage is cooked through, mashing sausage into small pieces with back of fork, about 10 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with juices. Bring sauce to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes to blend flavors. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill until cold, then cover and keep chilled.) If you are using a pre-made sauce, simply brown sausage (casings removed) in a non stick skillet over medium high heat, breaking up meat using the back of a fork as above for about 10 minutes. Then add 1 jar of pre-made red pasta sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes.

Using on/off turns, chop fresh basil leaves finely in processor. Add ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, egg, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Using on/off turns, process filling until just blended and texture is still chunky.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread 1 1/4 cups sauce in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange 3 noodles on sauce. Drop 1 1/2 cups filling over noodles, then spread evenly to cover. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layering of sauce, noodles, filling and cheeses 2 more times. Top with remaining 3 noodles. Spoon remaining sauce atop noodles. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses. Spray large piece of foil with nonstick olive oil spray. Cover lasagna with foil, sprayed side down.

Bake lasagna 40 minutes. Carefully uncover. Increase oven temperature to 400°F. Bake until noodles are tender, sauce bubbles thickly and edges of lasagna are golden and puffed, about 20 minutes. Transfer to work surface; let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Serves 8

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posted by kelsie