12-1: Lasagna

You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t had lasagna before. It’s not very difficult to make, but often very time-consuming. The first entry in the Pasta & Rice section is the old standby: 12-1: Lasagna. 

This version is different than what I’m used to making: it uses a cheese sauce (similar to a béchamel) in place of a ricotta/egg mixture. It was good, but I think I’d choose the ricotta/egg mixture in terms of what I think of when I think of “lasagna”.

I don’t think my mom ever attempted this version, and even I have an alternate lasagna recipe cut out from a Safeway pasta box and taped inside the cover of this section (directly facing this recipe) that I usually use as my go-to method.

Ingredients. There’s a LOT of them. I opted to use ground turkey instead of beef (it’s what was in the house), and subbed half-and-half for milk.

This was the last recipe I cooked in our interim/summer kitchen, and I had to rescue this ground turkey from the depths of a freezer. The proper way to defrost this would have been to put it in the sink with cold water running on it until it softened up. However, I did it the way my mother taught me to when I was a kid (NOT the right way)–I chopped the metal ends off and stuck it in the microwave for about a minute.

It all turns out the same in the end–browned up in a pan on the stove.

Chopping up onion. In 8-40: Lemony Beef, I mention a good method for chopping onions–here’s Gordon Ramsay to demonstrate it for you as well.

Making the sauce. Make sure you have a BIG saucepan–it’s better to have it be deep, especially when it starts bubbling.

Tomato/meat sauce in the foreground, creamy cheese sauce in the background. Creamy cheese sauce is essentially Alfredo or any white cream sauce–make a roux, add milk & cheese, stir.

Layering–the part of lasagna I always think I struggle with. It usually turns out okay in the end, but while it’s happening I always think I’m just messing the whole thing up. The key is to eyeball or even physically separate your portions before you start–if you put too much at the bottom, there’s no salvaging the top.

Note that I’m using uncooked lasagna noodles here. These noodles that I bought are NOT the no-bake ones, but the recipe doesn’t specify to buy those. It also doesn’t tell you to cook them anywhere in the recipe. FOR SCIENCE, I followed them to the letter on that one.

Spoiler: Cook your damn noodles if they’re not no-bake.

Ready to go in the oven. Looks pretty evenly layered. Noodles are uncooked. Will 20 minutes in the oven be enough to cook them?

The answer was, “not quite”. They were very al dente for the first slice out of the pan. However, on second reheating as leftovers, they were EXCELLENTSo there you go.

Messy, terrible-looking bowl shot. It didn’t come out of the pan well, which I attribute to the cheesy sauce compromising structural integrity. Ricotta-type lasagna slices and holds together better.

Don’t get me wrong–anything with béchamel/Alfredo sauce in it is gonna be aces. But if you’re going for more than “lasagna mess in a bowl”, this one might be one to steer clear of.

Grade: B