I took the title quite literally: Your Best Cheap Feast. First, nothing says feast like lasagna, and its slide immediately slotted into view. Next, cheap. That meant working with ingredients I tend to consistently have on hand: carrots because I have bunnies; the same goes for spinach (though I siphon off my share for salads); I couldn't live without mushrooms - plain brown ones, though white will do nicely, too; goat cheese aleays; I discovered a 28-ounce can of roasted yellow peppers in the pantry,pilfered from a booth I'd worked at a food show, as good a money in the bank; and once every couple of years, I order a full ounce of Spanish saffron (let me know if you want my source). I'd intended to make my own pasta, which for lasagna is extremely easy because it just has to be long, thin, and flat; however, when poking through the pantry I found two partial boxes of oven-ready (no pre-cooking required, in other words) lasagna noodles. I know, I know, some are cringing at the very thought, but remember: cheap, and to me that meant working with what I already had. Besides, this is supposed to be a feast, which infers fun, not forced labor. As well, there is always milk in the refrigerator, and vegetable stock in the freezer. And olive oil on the counter. All of which made the whole most certainly mine, and the best I could do under the circumstances.
The one ingredient I needed from the store was mozzarella cheese. As I rode over on my bike (I'm campaigning for sainthood, you see), I scrolled through the layers as I saw them in my mind. When I thought about the mushroom layer, wondering what to sauté along with them, I yelped out loud at the thought of, oh yes!, leeks. But when I got there and saw that two of them would cost four dollars and realized that I'd need at least 4 if not more, I decided to pull from the pile of onions waiting back at the so to speak ranch, and splurged instead on some heavenly fresh mozzarella.
You know how messy lasagna can be to serve, even when it has rested for a while after emerging from the oven? You know, also, how much better it tastes as leftovers, once all the flavors have blended? Well, think about thinking about this as a giant leftover. Bake it at least 24 hours before you plan to serve it. Cool it, cover it with plastic, refrigerate it. Remove it from the refrigerator a couple of hours before you begin reheating it. Set the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the plastic and replace it with a sheet of parchment, followed by foil. Fit about at least an hour of reheating time into your timetable. To be sure, stick a thermometer through the covering layers into the center. It should read 165 degrees. Continue baking until it does. And when it does, remove it from the oven, let it sit for about 15 minutes, then serve your feast with great joy.
You might not use all of both of the sauces. No matter. Stir together the leftovers and refrigerate. In a couple of days, cook some of your favorite pasta, stir isome pesto alla genovese (the green stuff) into the sauce mixture and toss with your pasta and a couple of ladlesful of pasta water. Salute!