Improving a family recipe

Try This At Home

April 02, 2006

This lasagna, slightly adapted from Joann Simonetti's recipe, uses homemade noodles, which results in a lighter dish, but dried noodles will work fine.

JOANN SIMONETTI'S LASAGNA

Makes 12 servings

SAUCE:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 / 2 sweet onion, chopped

2 pounds ground chuck

1 / 2 teaspoon each: salt, garlic powder

Freshly ground pepper

1 can (29 ounces) tomato puree

2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes

1 tablespoon dried basil

10 sprigs fresh basil or to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons grated Romano cheese

RICOTTA FILLING:

1 container (32 ounces) whole-milk ricotta, drained in colander 1 hour

2 eggs, slightly beaten

3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1 / 4 cup coarsely chopped parsley

1 / 4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Zest of 1 lemon or to taste

Juice of 1 lemon or to taste

1 teaspoon salt

1 / 2 teaspoon sugar

1 / 4 teaspoon cinnamon

Freshly ground pepper

NOODLES AND ASSEMBLY:

1 / 2 teaspoon salt

Fresh lasagna noodles or 1 package (16 ounces) dried noodles

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1 / 4 cup shredded mozzarella

For the sauce, heat the oil and butter in a Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat; add onion. Cook until onion is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the beef, breaking it up with a spoon over medium-low heat, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the salt, garlic powder and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato puree and the crushed tomatoes. Stir in the dried basil. Increase heat to medium-high; heat to a boil. Stir in the basil sprigs and sugar. Stir in the Romano cheese. Lower heat to a simmer; cook 1 hour.

Meanwhile, for the ricotta filling, break up the ricotta into small pieces in a large bowl; mix in the beaten eggs, mozzarella, parsley, Parmesan, lemon zest, juice, salt, sugar, cinnamon and pepper to taste, stirring until smooth (do not over-mix). Taste; add additional salt, sugar and / or lemon, if desired.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. For the noodles, heat a roasting pan or large pan of water to a boil; add salt. Cook noodles until al dente, 3-4 minutes, in batches if necessary (dried will take about 10 minutes). Remove noodles with tongs to a baking pan, keeping them flat; add a bit of the cooking water to keep pasta supple.

Pour 1 / 4 of the sauce on the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch buttered baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan; cover completely with one-third of the noodles (overlapping is fine). Add another one-fourth of the sauce; add half of the ricotta mixture. Add 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan; top with 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella. Cover with one-third of the noodles.

Add another one-fourth of the sauce; top with remaining ricotta mixture, remaining 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan and remaining 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella. Cover with remaining third of the noodles. Cover with remaining sauce. (You may have leftover noodles.)

Cover pan with foil; bake 30 minutes; uncover. Bake until top is bubbly, about 15 minutes. Set aside to rest 20 minutes before cutting.

Per serving: 602 calories, 32 grams fat, 16 grams saturated fat, 219 milligrams cholesterol, 41 grams carbohydrates, 38 grams protein, 1,357 milligrams sodium, 5 grams fiber.

Recipe and analysis provided by the Chicago Tribune.

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