You know–it’s good to go back to basics. I’ve undergone some food adventures–searing foie gras, baking bibingka, and making crawfish etouffee. But every now and then, I like to make something like macaroni and cheese or in this case, LASAGNA.
The guys (and one gal, not me) were up car racing in rural Northern California working up appetites this weekend (you know car-racing is a sport). I decided to make them something to eat and drive the food up to our rendezvous point in Tahoe later in the weekend. That meant a dish that could travel well (about 180 mile drive for me) and fit well in one container, and be pleasing and filling to a party of five ravenous people. It also had to be heated up easily. What could that be? Not soup which had a high “slosh” factor, or meat which would be sensitive to reheating… I immediately thought “a casserole!”
Of course, lasagna!
I decided to try a new recipe feeling my own recipe was a little stale in my head. So I tried this lasagna with basil and fennel recipe on epicurious. I tripled the fennel to give the flavor a boost and everyone love this dish! Even our Italian friend gave it a big thumbs up.
LASAGNA WITH BASIL AND FENNEL
No-boil noodles cut down on the prep time.
1 pound mozzarella cheese, grated (about 4 cups packed)
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds (I increased it to 4 teaspoons of fennel seeds)
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
2 1.5-ounce packets spaghetti sauce seasoning with mushroom flavors (I eliminated this item and instead replaced it with a tablespoon of dried oregano, a tablespoon of dried basil, and some salt)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree (I used a 28 ounce can of organic diced tomatoes and then added a cup of Pomi tomato sauce)
1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
9 no-boil lasagna noodles (from one 8-ounce package)
2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves
Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix 1 cup mozzarella cheese, ricotta cheese, egg and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and fennel seeds; sauté 5 minutes. Add beef; sauté 10 minutes, breaking up meat with fork. Mix in seasoning, then tomatoes, broth and wine. Cover and simmer 8 minutes. Season sauce to taste with pepper.
Spoon 1 1/3 cups sauce over bottom of 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place 3 noodles over sauce. Drop half of ricotta cheese mixture by tablespoonfuls evenly over. Top with half of basil leaves, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Continue layering with 3 noodles, 2 cups sauce, remaining ricotta cheese mixture, remaining basil, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Finish with 3 noodles, 2 cups sauce and remaining mozzarella cheese (reserve remaining sauce for another use). Cover with foil; place on baking sheet.
Bake lasagna until heated through, about 1 hour. Uncover; let stand 15 minutes. Cut lasagna into squares.
Makes 8 servings.