Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sausage and Cheese Lasagna

My favorite part of this recipe is the fresh basil. I believe I've said that before about the basil in a previous post. It is certainly one of my favorite fresh herbs. Lasagna can be assembled ahead of time and baked a day later making it a great option for a weeknight meal (if you do some prep work the night before).

Sausage and Cheese Lasagna
1/2 pound lasagna noodles (cooked aldente or 'as-is' if you have the ready-to-bake type)
3 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound Italian sausage, casing removed
1 cup water
4 large garlic cloves, minced
your favorite marinara sauce (approx. 3 cups plus extra for serving if desired)
salt and pepper
1/2 pound shredded mozzarella cheese
1 container ricotta
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (plus more for serving)
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves

In a large, deep skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add sausage and cook over moderate heat until browned. Add the garlic, salt & pepper and cook until the garlic is just golden (only about 1 or 2 minutes). Add all but 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce to the skillet and cook until warmed.

In a medium bowl, mix together to ricotta, 1/2 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and the finely chopped basil.

Spray a 9-by-13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Place the 1/2 cup reserved sauce in the bottom of the dish. Place about three lasagna noodles in the dish to cover the sauce. Spoon some of the sausage/sauce mixture onto the noodles. Carefully spoon some of the ricotta/Parmigiano-Reggiano mixture on top and sprinkle with some shredded mozzarella. Add another layer of noodles. Top with the sausage and cheese mixtures in the same manner. Add a final layer of noodles, a bit of the sauce, and sprinkle generously with some mozzarella and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Bake the lasagna for about 20 minutes, until the sauce just starts to bubble. Raise the temperature to 450 degrees and bake for about 7 minutes longer until the top is browned. Let the lasagna rest for about 10 minutes. Scatter the sliced basil on top, cut into squares, and serve with additional sauce and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired.

TIP: If you buy basil with the root ball attached, you can place it in a glass with water just covering the roots (not all the way up the stems). Place it in a spot that will get light, but not direct sun. Snip off the leaves when you need them and it will continue to refresh itself. Just be sure to keep the roots in water.

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