Thursday, December 22, 2011

Lasagna Roll-Ups

Last week I was craving Italian food,
but not the usual spaghetti and meat sauce.
No, I wanted something a bit different.
I wanted lasagna roll-ups,
with homemade ricotta cheese.
Of course I did.

Now before you panic,
ricotta is very simple to make.
An added bonus is that it can be made in 
the afternoon and be ready for that evening's meal.
What could be better?

I started with Ina Garten's recipe, but I halved the amounts.

These are the amounts I used:
2 cups vitamin D milk (otherwise known as whole milk?)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons good white wine vinegar

Pour the milk and the heavy cream into a heavy stainless steel pot.  Add the kosher salt.  Stir and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Watch carefully so that the mixture does not boil over.  Stir occasionally.  Once the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat.

Add the vinegar and stir.

The vinegar will curdle the mixture, forming curds and whey.*

*Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey...

You can see it happening here.

Strain the mixture through two layers of dampened cheesecloth in a strainer over a tall bowl.

Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 20 to 25 minutes.  The longer it sits, the thicker the ricotta will be.

The whey has drained out.  This will be tossed.

And now on to the homemade pasta sauce for the dish.
I am winging it this time. so this is my recipe.
The ingredients are:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 small carrot, finely grated
1 clove garlic, grated
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 (15 ounce can) tomato sauce**
Fill 3/4 of that 15-ounce can full of dry red wine
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
salt and sugar to taste***

**My favorite is Red Gold, but I realize that this is a regional brand and may not be available in your area.  This brand has no added salt and no added preservatives.  Test drive different brands before you decide upon your favorite brand.  Then use it faithfully like a groupie.

***I am not the boss of you.  Only you know how much salt and sugar you like.  Plus, each brand and batch of tomato sauce will be different and require different amounts of salt and sugar.  Taste, taste, taste!

Now here is the interesting thing: if you find that you have gone too far one way and the sauce is too salty, just add more sugar.  Or if it is too sweet, then add more salt.  Sugar and salt are the perfect yin and yang.

That is the one fact that I forgot to mention in my salt post the last time.  So now you know: if you have inadvertently over-salted something; just add in some sugar to counteract the salt.  It works every time.

Heat a sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil and onion and grated carrot to the sauce pan.  Saute for several minutes, or until the brown bits just begin to form on the bottom of the pan.  Stir every few minutes.  There is a huge difference between caramelization and burning!

Add the grated garlic, the oregano and the pepper.  Heat for one minute, stirring constantly.  Do not let the garlic burn.  Add the tomato sauce and the wine.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Add salt and sugar to taste.

And now on to the ricotta filling.  Here I have about one cup of homemade ricotta.  To that I add one egg, about 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, 1/2 cup grated mozzarella and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.  Mix well.

Like so.

Meanwhile, soak several lasagna sheets in a baking pan in boiling hot water.  I heated the water in the microwave before pouring over the sheets of pasta.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about ten minutes, or until the pasta is pliable.

Then, take the pasta out and spread out some of the cheese mixture on top.  Carefully roll up the pasta.

Lay the rolled pasta out in a baking dish that has first been coated with the tomato sauce.  Unlike this dish.  Note the lack of sauce on the bottom of the dish.

Now it's been fixed.  Ladle more pasta sauce over the top and grate Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses on top.  Bake in a 350 degree oven until the cheeses are nice and bubbly.

Meanwhile, cut a French baguette in half and then in half lengthwise.  Grate one clove of garlic and microwave that with four tablespoons  of unsalted butter.  Brush that over the top of the cut sides of the bread.  Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.  If desired, grate Parmigiano Reggiano over the top before baking. 

Dinner is served.  Easy Peasy.  And sodalicious.

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