Monday, February 3, 2014

Superbowl Sunday: The Ultimate Lasagna

I'm not a huge sports fan, nor am I a football fanatic, but invariably I always watch the Super Bowl. It's a tradition. Part of that tradition in past years involves my husband making his famous 'Five-Alarm Chile,' which is not for the faint of heart. This year however, we decided to make another comfort food classic, my Classic Beef, Spinach & Cheese Lasagna. Like any Super Bowl Sunday recipes, it's important to be able to prepare everything ahead of time, so nothing interferes with watching the game. As a decadent treat, I do love to serve it with my husbands sensational garlic bread, which is sinfully simple to make and also enormously garlicky. You can taste it for days! The recipe he explains, is easy — "Just mash it all up, slap it on the bread and bung it in the oven. It's not rocket science. Just a lot of garlic!" 

The Ultimate Beef, Spinach & Cheese Lasagna
Serves 8

1/2 lb oven ready no-boil lasagna noodles
1 large bunch fresh spinach, cooked, drained and finely chopped
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Meat Filling:
1 1/2 lb ground beef
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk of celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 pinch hot pepper flakes
1 28 oz can tomatoes, undrained
1 14 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp Kosher salt

Cheese Filling:
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F. In a Dutch oven or large skillet, cook the beef over medium-high heat, breaking it up with the back of wooden spoon for about 5 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate, and discard the fat.

Pour 1 teaspoon of oil to the pan and add the onions, carrot, celery, garlic, oregano, basil and hot pepper flakes, and stir until they become softened, about 6 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms in a small skillet with another teaspoon of oil over medium heat, and cook until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and browned meat to the vegetables, and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, breaking up tomatoes while stirring frequently, for 20 to 25 minutes or until thickened. Add the mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, pepper and nutmeg, then blend in the cottage cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, stirring well then set aside.

Spread 1 cup of the meat filling on the bottom of a greased 13"x 9" baking dish. Top with one-third of the noodles in a single layer, then spread with 1/3 of the remaining meat filling, followed by half of the cheese mixture, then half of the spinach. Alternating the direction of the noodles from one layer to the next, repeat the layering process one more time.

Finish by topping with the remaining noodles, then spread with the remaining meat filling. Sprinkle generously with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. Cover the dish loosely with aluminum foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Then uncover and bake for another 25-35 minutes, until bubbly and heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Guy's Garlic Bread
Serves 8

2 fresh ciabatta or baguette
1 cup butter, at room temperature
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, mash up the butter and minced garlic until it's well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the chopped parsley. Cut the ciabattas in half length-wise, opening them like a book, being careful not to cut all the way through. Liberally spread the garlic butter on the inside of each 'half', then close like a sandwich and wrap snuggly in aluminum foil. Place each loaf in a preheated 375°F oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Just before serving, open the garlic bread up from their foil packages, and allow it to cook open to the heat of the oven for another 5 minutes. To serve, close the bread back to their original loaf shape, and slice into 1-inch pieces. Place in a bread basket and serve with the lasagna.

 "There is no such thing as a little garlic."  
- Arthur Baer -