Toby's lasagna heaven for frugal gourmets who cook from scratch
(Salt Spring Island, BC Canada)
First of all, I'm going to give you the method and suggestions for ingredients and baking information. You will be able to decide how large a lasagna to make. However, you have to begin with your own pasta which will require a pasta machine like the one shown on this site. You won't regret the purchase.
Make the dough the day before.
This is Gina's dough recipe:
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- 3 whole eggs at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- half teaspoon salt.
It helps to have a processor -- mix this until a ball forms, and then knead it for a couple of minutes. If a ball won't form, add a very small amount of water up to a tablespoon.
Make a rectangle and wrap it in plastic wrap. Leave it at room temperature for a few hours. After that you can refrigerate it or freeze it for later.
Make the tomato sauce the day before or long before and freeze it and then thaw it the day before.
You need the following for a the cheesy layer and b the tomato sauce layer and c the topping.
Make a tomato sauce using whatever veggies you want -- sauteed chopped onions, mushrooms, celery, red and green peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots. You can include whatever you want. I like lots of black pepper. You can use the herbs of your choice - all the Italian herbs are great. Tomato paste and canned tomatoes are helpful.
(Matt, site editor - if you don't know where to start sauce-wise, see the first tomato sauce recipe on this page.)
When the sauce cools process it enough that veggie pieces are small. If you want it to have meat in it then saute the meat definitely get lean meat -- you could use beef or turkey even and onions and then add the tomato sauce. In that case I'd omit the broccoli. I like some zing so I add some chili peppers for heat.
Cook so that it's thick enough that it's not runny. Put in as much meat as you want -- or none at all.
The cheese layer: This is where I'm frugal. I use cottage cheese which I buy on sale and freeze.
Thaw it, and set it in a strainer so that excess liquid comes out. There's lots of salt in cottage cheese so you don't need to add any to the recipe.
You can blend in an egg if you want I didn't and blend in some grated mozzarella if you have it. I did. I've seen recipes that call for ricotta but cottage cheese costs a lot less.
Putting it together: In a rectangular baking pan Pyrex is easier to clean I brush surfaces lightly with olive oil, and then put a very small amount of sauce on the bottom.
Now divide the pasta dough into small sections, and with a regular rolling pin flatten each part so that it can go through the widest opening of the roller. Then put it through a medium size opening and then a smaller size opening.
With a pizza wheel or a sharp knife cut it for length, and place it over the bottom of the baking pan. I went the short way because it's easier to manage.
Put a thicker layer of sauce and on top of that a layer of the cheese. Place more of the rolled pasta on top of that, and then repeat. It's up to you how many layers you will do. Top it with a layer of the pasta, and on top of that you will want to put something.
There are choices:
- One choice is to just put a small amount of the cheese and a little grated mozzarella.
- Another choice is to make a bechamel sauce with grated mozzarella added.
I have never made a lasagna that didn't have something on top. I saw on the internet that some people use buttered crumbs. That would be really good too. When you have bread getting stale, process it with a bit of soft butter and freeze it for times like this.
Bake at 375F - about 20 minutes covered with foil and 20 minutes not covered. Watch at about 30 minutes to make sure it doesn't get over-baked.
Cool a bit before cutting if you are going to serve right away. If not, cool it and then refrigerate it. You can cut it into large squares -- place a square on a sheet of aluminum foil and then refrigerate or freeze. The square should hold its shape and not be runny.
I don't think lasagna gets better than this! The pasta is what makes the difference although a great sauce doesn't hurt.
If you have extra pasta then you can freeze it for another time, or you can use the cutting blades to make spaghetti or linguine. If you do that you need to flour them lightly. You can dry them really well and store them or save yourself the trouble and boil some and top them with the extra meat sauce for another meal. In fact you can boil them all, put them in containers, and freeze them so they are ready for when you have some sauce or want to add them to a soup.
Once you've had this pasta you are not going to buy store bought again. It just does not compare in any way.