Tahoe recipe: Ring in 2016 with Sandy’s signature lasagna
December 31, 2015
TAHOE-TRUCKEE, Calif. — Trust me on this — you must be very, very careful when linking yourself to a "signature" dish. Take Sandy Collins' lasagna for instance. Fabulous. She is known for her lasagna. It has, in fact, become her signature dish.
Now comes the bad part. Every time there is a family gathering, holiday get-together, neighborhood pot luck — any potluck! — someone inevitably says, "Oh, Sandy. Could you make your lasagna? I'll do the salad."
Now this would be fine, even flattering, if lasagna was quick and cheap to make. It is not. Sandy really messed up when she started bringing this beauty to parties, thus making it her signature dish. Hey, I'm not judging Sandy's short-sightedness in turning her friends and family onto her lasagna. I almost did it with my beef short ribs. That expensive masterpiece came very, very close to being my potluck staple, but I changed lanes just in time.
Now my signature dish is popcorn. "Simone, could you bring your amazing popcorn?" Yes. Yes I can.
I have to admit, I was very grateful this Christmas Eve at my brother's home when Sandy, his mother-in-law, started to assemble her lasagna, unaware that there is a way out. A way to shake that label of the woman who will bring the expensive pasta dish and spend a solid hour in the kitchen making it. I gotta' say, after trying her lasagna, I'm not going to be the one to tell her.
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2 tbls. olive oil
1 lb. Italian sausage (Spicy or mild. I like it with spicy.)
1/2 lb. ground beef
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
a pinch (one stem) fresh oregano
1 cup red wine
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce
1 14.5-ounce can Italian-style stewed tomatoes
1 large tub (2 lbs.) ricotta cheese
1 six-ounce can of black olives, chopped
2 tbls. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 ounce tub shredded Parmesan
3 8-ounce packs mozzarella slices
1 1-pound box lasagna noodles prepared per package directions and set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Over medium high heat, heat olive oil in very large skillet and brown sausage and ground beef. Drain fat and return pan with meat to burner.
To meat add garlic, oregano, wine, tomato paste and sauce and stewed tomatoes. Simmer until thickened. If it looks like it is starting to thicken too much to spread into your lasagna pan, add a little bit of water.
Stir and watch until all blended and delicious and turn off to make your cheese layer. In large bowl combine ricotta, olives, parsley, pepper, about three-quarters of the Parmesan (save the rest for later) and eggs. Set aside.
Now you are going to begin to layer. Spray bottom and sides of 9×13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. First layer bottom of pan with one half of your noodles, lengthwise along the length of the pan. You will have some extra room at the end there, because the noodles aren't long enough. Cut more noodles to fit, placing them, again, lengthwise. No gaps in noodles!
Next spread half of your ricotta cheese mixture on top of the noodles, then half of your mozzarella slices. No gaps between cheese slices! Then half your meat mixture on top of this. Repeat — noodles (This time bring the layer a little bit up on all sides of the pan. You have plenty of noodles to do this.), cheeses, meat.
Top with remaining shredded Parmesan. Cover lasagna with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10. Let sit about ten minutes before cutting and serving.
Simone Grandmain is an internationally published travel and food writer who currently calls Truckee-Tahoe home. She welcomes your recipes, kitchen "must-haves" and food news at firstname.lastname@example.org.