Need to know everything about making Lasagna!
I am planning on making lasagna for a few guests soon and want to do it right! I need to know everything about making lasagna and would love to get a lot of different opinions because I have a lot of questions for what is best to do. First, if I am cooking for 3-4 adults and want some left overs, what size of pan/depth is appropriate? Second, in my research thus far, I have seen a couple recipes mention béchamel sauce. What place does it have in a classic version of lasagna? Is it good/normal to add in addition to the tomato sauce/what recipes would you suggest? Third, I am looking for a great homemade sauce recipe as well. I don't want it to be vegetarian, so is Bolognese the right choice? If so, what recipes do you prefer that go the best in lasagna/what types of meat? Fourth, I love melted cheese (who doesn't?) and know that my mother used to use ricotta and mozzarella (I think), and I think a blend of the traditional cheeses is something that I want to do. Fifth, I have seen several variations of how to prepare the noodles. I have seen people suggesting to leave them raw, boil them or put them in a pan and pour hot water over them and letting them soak. What would be best for a cheesy lasagna? Also I am interested in home-making the noodles (if you're going to cook, why not go all out?). Is this a good idea or even feasible? What kinds of recipes are good for this? Sixth, I want to serve it with crusty garlic bread and salad. I have a great Italian salad recipe that I want to use (and am very happy to share!) , but I would like to see how others prepare their crusty/traditional garlic bread and if you have a favorite recipe to make the crusty bread and garlic topping as well. Seventh, what wines would you choose to serve with this meal? Perhaps one from Italy to stay on theme. Eighth, does anyone have any good ideas for what dessert to serve with this meal as well? Maybe cannoli, gelato (if it is possible to make without an ice cream maker) or tiramisu? What pairs well with it/what recipes do you prefer? And my last question in this VERY long post is to ask if anyone has any other tips about all of this that they think might be helpful to me. I appreciate all of you that took the time to even read this novel of a post. Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated even if you only have insight into one of the topics. Thanks so much!
On the other hand I totally agree with this post.
1) I am on team dried pasta - pick you challenges and don't take them all on the first time
2) sauce - there's no rule that says you can't have both! Why not a tomato layer at the bottom of the pan, then noodles, cheeses and meats (more on that) then béchamel, then noodles then red sauce? Or top with béchamel - something along those lines. One thing I have learned over time is to use more sauce than initially looks necessary - the noodles will soak some up, and you want it to shine through in the dish (well, I like a lot of sauce anyhow)
3) meats: you could use a combination of grounds meat(s) (say beef and veal or pork) and/or - add some loose Italian sausage in with the meat. In any case, cook it in advance, don't put raw meat in the lasagna (this being your first go at it - that bit may not be obvious at the outset)
4) cheese - YES to ricotta and mozzarella, and I will also usually add parmesan, you might also consider asiago, pecorino, etc. Do you have a cheese person that you like at your grocery? I rely heavily on my cheese guy and my wine guy!
5) WINE - well the main answer is yes. Consider having both reds and whites (some folks don't like one or the other no matter what) Villa Anitori is a readily available, not too expensive and reliable producer. But if you have a wine guy or gal - ask them for help!
6) The Other Stuff - garlic bread and salad are sound accompaniments and the idea of a purchased dessert sounds like a good one - again - pick where your efforts will be directed and really shine. I like to make a compound (REALLY compound) butter with garlic, parmesan, fresh parsley, pepper, maybe red pepper flakes, and schmear that on a halved Italian loaf and let it toast up in the oven while the lasagna rests.
Good luck and report back!
Since it's your first time making it, I'd go with a recipe that has lots of explanation included. Nancy Harmon Jenkins' recipe that she linked to in this thread would be a good one, as would Marcella Hazan's.
I'll post my recipe today for you to see
Bolognese sauce with a béchamel sauce is by far the best. I'm not sure when your planning the dinner
Emiko Davies has an Italian-centric recipe column for desserts, mains, sides - you may want to search for her recipes on this site.
There are so many versions of lasagna I enjoy and its hard to pin down one but the one above is tried and true to me and satisfies my lasagna cravings!
Also, search for garlic bread.