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Food has been the source that binds relationships, forms new ones, introduces new cultures and new people and it is truly one of the best things that mankind has been cherishing for ages, with all cultures having dishes of their own, that mark their uniqueness against the world. One such country where its cuisine has become a world sensation and must-haves mainly for its convenience, easy-to-cook, and of course, deliciousness, is Italy!
Italian cuisines have stormed the world with the introduction of pizza at the very beginning, now with over a million pizzerias all over the world, Italian cuisines have made their mark. One other dish that is also equally famous, if not more than pizza, is lasagna. A pure, all-Italian dish that hails from Naples is what lasagna actually is, long story short. Lasagna (pronounced lə-ˈzän-yə) is a baked dish, containing multiple layers of a blend of cheese, wide pasta noodles, tomato sauce, vegetables, and meat.
Classic Italian Lasagna Recipe
CLASSIC ITALIAN LASAGNA
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 pound ground meat (chicken, turkey,or meat)
- ½ large capsicum/bell pepper(diced)
- ½ onion (medium-sized)
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2.5/3 ounces tomato paste
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 can crushed tomatoes(about 5 nos.)
- 4 tbsp fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 pinch garlic salt
- 9 unbroken lasagnanoodles
- 15 ounces cheese
- 24 ounces mozzarella cheese
- 4 ounces parmesan cheese
- Add water to a large pan with 1 tablespoonof salt and bring it to boil. Add lasagna pasta to it and cook for 8 to 10 minsuntil it's al dente, strain the water and store the strained pasta water. Rinsethe pasta in cool water before using it to prevent it from sticking to eachother
- Add olive oil to a separate pan and cookthe ground meat of choice, onion, garlic, and bell pepper until it is brown.You can also cook the onions and garlic in a separate pan before adding them tothe ground meat which is cooked separately until brown
- Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, andtomato sauce to the pan, along with 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, Italianseasoning or oregano and 2 tablespoons of parsley, adjusting the quantitiesaccording to taste along with a pinch of garlic powder. Bring the sauce tosimmer until the desired saucy consistency is achieved ideally between 15 to 45minutes stirring as and when needed and adding pasta water to deglaze the planand to prevent burning. Remove the heat. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
- Add a pinch of olive oil to the lasagna panand spread it evenly at the bottom before adding the meat sauce as the firstlayer. Arrange the noodles over the meat sauce evenly to cover the entirelayer.
- Add a layer of ricotta cheese to the firsthalf and mozzarella to the second half and sprinkle a layer of parmesan cheeseevenly on top of it.
- Repeat step 4 by adding a layer ofremaining meat sauce, and lasagna noodles and topping it with the remainingricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese. Ladle the remaining sauce as thefinal touch over the layers before adding a sprinkle of cheese as a finaltopping. Cover it with a foil.
- Place the pan in the preheated oven, bakefor about 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 15 minutes. Cool thedish and serve!
Pro tip: When your dish is ready to enjoy it can get very tempting to delve into it immediately but it is a good idea to let it sit and cool for at least 15 minutes for all the layers and flavors to blend together to enjoy your meal at its maximum level.
|Vitamin C||31 mg|
How to layer Lasagna?
Layering lasagna is fairly simple when you have all the ingredients ready to add.
- You begin by adding a thin layer of sauce at the bottom of the lasagna pan, this is mainly to reduce the chances of the bottom layer of the pasta sticking to the pan. It is always better to add a single layer to prevent the lasagna from becoming too runny.
- The next layer is for noodles, so place the noodles in a single layer on top of the sauce and make sure it is covered entirely. There are chances of the noodles getting overlapped in order to cover the entire layer and that is okay.
- The next step is to add a thin layer of toppings (depending on what lasagna you intend to make).
- Then comes the best part – cheese! Add ricotta, mozzarella, and parmesan at this stage. But adding too much cheese can cause the lasagna to break while serving. The ideal proportion would be to add a thin layer to cover the entire bottom and build accordingly.
- And the final step is to add a thin layer of sauce of your choice and repeat the entire process as to how big you want your lasagna to be.
If you are in the mood for a simple homemade lasagna right now, here is the recipe that will get you into cooking mode!
Ideal size of a lasagna pan
While making a lasagna there is no “right” or “wrong” especially when it comes to the size of your pan. Since the size mainly depends on the number of people you would want to serve, the ideal size of a lasagna pan is 13×9 inches with 3 inches depth. It can be around or a rectangular pan that has long and strong handles which help in handling the heat well compared to other pansThe deeper the lasagna pan is the more layers you can add, the many more people you can serve!
Another big advantage of having a lasagna pan with greater depth is that it will avoid spillage while baking avoiding a whole lotta oven cleaning work right after. In stores, we usually have so many options of lasagna pans to choose from but it is ideal to invest in a good quality pan that will help in cooking the dish better and faster and will also come a long way. The internet has some amazing options that you can access at the comfort of your home. Here are some pans that we have shortlisted for you to buy that will save you time:
- SWEEJAR Ceramic Baking Dish
- Sweese 520.104 Porcelain Baking Dish
- Cuisinart 6117-14 Chef’s Classic Pan
- USA Pans Bakeware Lasagna
- Baking Pan Rectangular
How long does it take to layer a lasagna?
While baking a lasagna takes about 45-50 mins, layering it requires much less effort when you have other ingredients like cheese, meat sauce, etc read on hand. Layering a lasagna should take about 5-10 mins depending on the number of layers you wish to add.
It is a good idea to always have all the ingredients pre-made before you begin layering the lasagna as it will save you some time and also prevent it from getting soggy.
How many layers are in lasagna?
Lasagna can be layered anywhere between four to nine depending on the portion size and the number of people you would intend to serve immediately. But you do want to make sure that there is enough room to layer the noodles and all other ingredients in a way that will avoid any kind of spillage while it is cooking.
The best option would be to use a ceramic lasagna pan with a heavy bottom for two reasons, the first one being it will avoid any spilling as the pan is specifically made for lasagna and the heavy bottom will spread the heat evenly across the pan which will avoid burning in the bottom layer.
What to serve with lasagna?
Garnishing a lasagna after it is freshly baked is the easiest tip to make it look pretty and you can make it happen by adding freshly chopped basil leaves or sprinkling oregano on top of it to add an extra depth to the flavour. You can also experiment with red chilli flakes if you like a hint of spiciness, Italian seasonings to give it a tangy taste, or if you are in a mood to experiment with something unique, you can also add tomato or red chilli sauce as well. Lasagnas can be as versatile as pizzas, so the more toppings you add, the better it is. So don’t be afraid to look for unique toppings!
If you have more time or are in the mood to cook a separate side dish that goes well along with it, you can assemble a basic salad, Ceaser salad, or freshly baked garlic bread, as they are known to compliment the dish fairly well as opposed to other options. You can order garlic bread separately if you have time or make them fresh at home as well. Salads are a great option as they are very light and the antioxidants in the vegetables help in faster digestion of food which is a win-win overall.
How to store lasagna?
Storing lasagna is a fairly simple process as it involves refrigeration but one important thing is to note that the sauce that is being used in the lasagna for the purpose of storage must be completely cooled before you layer the lasagna and store it in the fridge to bake it later. This is mainly because adding hot or warm sauce will cause the dish to go bad and spread the bad bacteria in it. So give time for all ingredients to completely cool down before storing. This hack works for storing any dish that is hot in nature. Always cool the ingredients before storing them to retain freshness.
Make sure that you store the lasagna for a maximum of three days as it retains the freshness until then. If at all you want to store it for more than three days, pop it into the freezer and you can then store it for up to one month! Really! Lasagna can also be stored after baking or just by assembling the ingredients together before baking. This works best of you need to prep a ready-to-eat dish ahead of time, so all you have to do is to pop it into the oven for 45 minutes before your lasagna on demand is ready.
What is the best dish to bake lasagna?
For maximum benefit and taste, it is best to use lasagna pans that are easily available in most stores, but if you are in the mood for this savoury dish but do not have a lasagna pan ready, you can use a metal or a glass baking dish. Ceramics work the best as mentioned before which is what casseroles are made of, mainly because of the weight of the pan that helps in distributing the heat evenly throughout the pan which will prevent burning.
You can also use casserole dishes that you already have to use, however, glass is a good option but if you want a brown and crispy dish, it is better to stay away from glass pans as it takes longer to heat up and spread it across. On the other hand, metal works fantastic if you want a crispy and brown lasagna in a short time, so get your hands on a metal dish and cook your lasagna away!
Which is the best option for lasagna – cottage cheese or ricotta cheese?
Honestly, it depends on each individual preference. Ricotta cheese is much rich and creamier in taste and cottage cheese is low in fat and also helps in the chunkiness of the dish mainly due to the curds present in it. So if you love creamy lasagna that melts into your mouth with each bite, load up on ricotta cheese. The best way to cook ricotta cheese is to combine ricotta, quarter cup mozzarella, quarter cup parmesan, one egg, spinach, and Italian seasoning to bring the best out of it for the lasagna.
Or if you want your lasagna to be crispy and chunky and/or if you want a low-fat option, use cottage cheese. While a traditional classic lasagna is a blend of both kinds of cheese, you can either add or subtract them based on your preference or convenience. The best way to cook cottage cheese is to combine it with parmesan, pepper, salt, and parsley and stir it until well combined before you drizzle the mixture on the lasagna.
Why is your lasagna watery?
There are a few reasons why your lasagna can get too runny or watery, first reason is when you do not drain the noodles properly after rinsing it. This is the step that we can miss as we might leave some water in the noodles in a hurry which might cause the lasagna to get runny to it is great if we do not omit this step. If you are using cottage cheese it is better to rinse and drain the water from the cheese at least an hour before using it to avoid excess moisture as cottage cheese takes that long in order to fully drain water. So preparing the cheese way before you start your lasagna prep helps in taking care of this step.
Another tip is to cook your meat sauce uncovered for at least 30 minutes to make sure all the excess water evaporates. Along with water evaporation, cooking meat sauce also helps to bend all the ingredients together and also avoid any raw taste that might be in it. The last trick is to uncover the lasagna during the last 30 minutes to make sure that any excess water that is in it after following the first three steps also evaporates and you are left with a dish that is perfect not only in taste but also inconsistency. Pause the oven during the last 30 minutes and take off the aluminium covering before you pop it back.
Learn more about how to fix watery curry.
Making your very first lasagna can be overwhelming but it is a simple process when you have everything in hand as mentioned before. Some of the things to keep in mind are not to bake too long, overcook the noodles, and drain your meat thoroughly. Also, make sure to include your favourite ingredients as you get better and better and you can also tweak them to your liking. Lasagnas are truly one of the best things Italy has given to the world, and making yours is one step away. Let us know in the comments below how have you tweaked your lasagna to your liking and what worked best for you.