Lasagna is not a hard thing to make, but that said it’s a hard thing to perfect. It’s often either the simplest or most familiar dishes that are ones that can take a life time to perfect so each time I make headway on a dish I want to make my own I am going to post about it with the header “A Work in Progress”. This by no means is a completed recipe. There are things that still need a lot of work but it’s something for both myself and anyone interested to watch and follow. Feel free to comment with your thoughts or experiences.
Growing up lasagna was always my favorite dish. I mean what’s not to like. Pasta, good. Meat, good. Cheese, good. Tomato sauce, good. Beyond that the options are endless. The one I grew up with was ricotta cheese, boxed pasta, and grated mozzarella. The meat might have been ground turkey but I would have to check with my mom. The sauce was typically something like Prego but I know there was a long time where we would often use the generic version of most anything to cut cost.
Lasagna was a special treat as it was something that my dad had a hard time eating. Something about the meat and cheese combination never would sit right with him. We often joked it was his Jewish up bringing since their dietary customs don’t allow the mixing of meat and dairy but who knows. In any case when we would have it I would devour most of it. It might have taken me a few days but that was even better! I loved having a pan of left over lasagna in the fridge.
The next big shake up in my lasagna world was one of my first trips to visit my mother-in-law. She always insisted on cooking way too much food and it be every “favorite” of her sons. There were lots of things that just didn’t resinate with me but when I had her lasagna I was in heaven. Every chance I got I ate it. Funny thing was there was tons of leftover lasagna since it was just the three of us eating it but she still insisted on cooking a new meal for every meal. As often as I could I stuck with lasagna though. I finally asked what was different. The big thing? Instead of ricotta she used cottage cheese.
The next big change up was two years ago when I was buying up all sorts of new cookbooks I got one called Family Table: Favorite Staff Meals from Our Restaurants to Your Home. In it they had a recipe for lasagna that I tried that used a combination of ricotta and egg in the filling which helped give it more distinct and fluffier layers layers. It was at this time I also added in making my own pasta and began using my canned tomato sauce from our heirloom tomatoes we grew in our garden through the summer.
Before my husband went out of town for two weeks I decided that one the the things to have on hand while he was away would be a lasagna. The change, this time, was that I went to my favorite cheese shop and told them to hook me up. They had me sample some artisan cheese that is great for melting and then some fresh mozzarella and their ricotta.
Now with fresh pasta, which was totally revolutionary to me, homemade tomato sauce, artisan cheese, and ground beef from my butcher, I feel like I am getting closer to making something truly delicious. With this last attempt I did discover that although they had a much better ricotta than what I am used to I still prefer the flavor, texture, and moisture of cottage cheese. I think though I might still have fun with the cheese on top and making a blend of something interesting but that’s an idea for another time.
In the end it’s not perfected yet but I am not afraid to play with one of my favorite dishes. When I do get it to the point that it is something I am proud to call my own I will post a recipe but at this time I have yet to tick all the boxes. I still want a lasagna that has distinct layers, gooey cheese topping, and a maybe even a little lightness brought to it so it’s not so dense.