An annual holiday tradition: Baking and eating ;) lasagna!
Most families are known to have what Jay’s children refer to as his “signature dish.” For instance, Jay’s sister from NY is known for her delicious spaghetti meat sauce. The meat sauce, which she credits to her mother-in-law’s recipe, is so good that people make special requests for her to cook this very simple yet sinfully good entree or main dish. Robert, on the other hand, is getting a lot of requests for his cassava cake, which was featured in a previous blog. The cake is so good that a portion of it was snatched on its way to delivery! His mother, on the other hand, used to cook sugpo (prawns) in catsup/tomato sauce during Christmas but he has yet to try how to cook her signature dish.
For this week, we are featuring Jay’s signature dish, which he usually bakes during the holiday season. The tradition harks back to the 90s, when after studying French at Alliance Francaise, Jay bought different types of cheeses from the annual Christmas cheese bazaar then experimented on using it for lasagna. The story goes that when he tried to impress his future father-in-law with his lasagna, he said that the dish was “too salty” for his palate. And so, to win his future family’s heart, he had to think of a way of making the lasagna ‘palatable’ and acceptable. Apparently, the right kind of cheeses matter so it took a while before Jay found the lasagna recipe which he considers as his signature dish. Mostly culled from Tyler Florence’s Lasagna Al Forno, preparing and cooking/baking the dish is no joke. The entire procedure usually lasts for half a day, which can be taxing especially if one needs to prepare other dishes for the holidays!
Finally, because baking lasagna has become an annual tradition, Daddy Jay offers some tips on how to make delicious lasagna:
1. Always use fresh ingredients. For instance, although dry herbs are okay, the lasagna tastes better when one uses fresh herbs.
2. Drain the fat from the cooked ground beef. This will ensure you that the lasagna will stand (and not soggy).
3. Serve the dish right away. Nothing beats oven-fresh food. You’re assured that there are no left-overs!
4. Don’t substitute the flat parsley with the curly parsley. The former tastes better, giving the cheese sauce a nice flavor.
And so, we feature Daddy Jay’s lasagna for this week’s blog:
Daddy Jay’s Lasagna Al Forno
For the meat mixture:
1-2 kgs. of lean ground beef
5 pcs. of Italian sausage (or approximately 1/2 kg)
1 small can of tomato paste
1 onion chopped
2-3 cloves of sliced garlic
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1. Saute in medium heat the chopped onion and garlic for 3 minutes in a pan with olive oil. Add fresh herbs then continue sauteing for 2-3 minutes until the aroma comes out.
2. Add the meat and Italian sausage and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the meat looses its pink color.
3. Drain the fat from the meat and discard.
For the Cheese sauce:
2 containers of Ricotta cheese (about 30 oz per container)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1-2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 lightly beaten eggs
1. Combine the ricotta cheese, chopped parsley and oregano. Then add the beaten eggs, Parmesan cheese then add salt and pepper is needed.
2. Mix the cheese sauce thoroughly.
For the lasagna:
1. Check if you have enough lasagna noodles by laying the raw noodles on the pan. Follow the directions as indicated in the box. Usually, the noodles are al dente in 10 minutes.
2. Drain and coat the noodles with olive oil to prevent it from sticking.
Assembling and baking:
1. Coat the bottom of the 13 X 9 inch pan with a ladle of tomato sauce.
2. Assemble the noodles lengthwise slightly overlapping on the sauce then line up the sides of the pan with a noodle to form a collar, to hold the lasagna.
3. Spread the meat mixture on the pasta evenly. Then dollop 1/2 of the cheese mixture over the meat, spread to the edges with a spatula.
4. Sprinkle with mozarella cheese on top then top with a ladle full of tomato sauce spreading it evenly.
5. Place lasagna noodles on top then repeat procedures 3-4.
6. To “seal” the lasagna, top the last layer of noodles, tomato sauce, shredded mozarella and Parmesan. Decorate the top with flat-leaf parsley.
7. Tyler Florence recommends that one taps the pan to force out air bubbles trapped in the pan.
8. Bake in a 350 degrees Celsius preheated oven for 50-60 minutes. Remove from oven and let the lasagna cool for 30 minutes to ensure easy cutting and the noodles will settle. Cut into 2-inch squares then serve. Enjoy!