I’m going to let you in on a secret, this lasagna isn’t that bad for you. Don’t worry it isn’t the skinny version. Substituting low fat cottage cheese for real cheese is a sin in this house. This lasagna isn’t lasagne alla bolognese and it’s not trying to be. There is a rich earthy sauce, fresh pasta noodles (don’t worry you can substitute dried) and cheese but in an effort to make this more seasonal I actually made it healthier. Love when that happens. Win. Win.
Tonight I drank soap water. No, I wasn’t getting my mouth washed out for swearing. Matt was doing dishes and filled a dirty water bottle with a soapy mixture to soak. I walked up the stairs after working out, super thirsty, and chugged for a solid couple seconds before the taste registered. Despite several iterations of gurgling and a couple glasses of milk everything still tastes a little bit like soup.
It’s really a shame because I was gearing up for my third (ok…actually fourth, there was small 1/2 piece for a “snack” between lunch and dinner) of this lasagna in two days.
This is a Sunday meal. I tasted the sauce after 1 hr of simmering and it was good but it only improved over the next ~5 hours I had it going. I’d highly recommend cooking it longer if you have the time. I also recommend doubling the recipe or at least the sauce to freeze.
If you are anything like me, then you’ll be highly skeptical of the chopped eggs in this recipe. I was there too, just trust me it will work out perfectly. They act a little bit like ricotta, a little bit like hard cheese but help minimize the wetness and gooeyness of the layers while keeping this dish rich and fresh. Also don’t worry, the mozzarella still creates a perfect amount of gooeyness.
The artichokes, leeks, and porcini were all spring inspirations. Although I used canned artichokes. The ones for sale at my grocery store were $4/artichoke. Frozen would also work well, use what works for you! The artichokes do add a bite of freshness and acidity that make this recipe extra special and spring appropriate, frozen, canned or fresh.
Dried porcini mushrooms are a major flavor boosters. You can find them in the produce section of your grocery store and they provide this deep meaty, earthy flavor you can’t get from other mushrooms, fresh or dried.
Spring Vegetable and Meat Lasagna
Special Equipment Needed: Pasta roller if making fresh pasta
2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP butter
2 oz pancetta
1 leek, minced
1 onion, minced
1 lb ground beef or veal
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (preferably, San Marzano tomatoes)
For the lasagna:
2 14 oz cans artichoke hearts
1 1/2 lb fresh pasta dough or 9 oz dried noodles
16 oz fresh mozzarella, shredded or sliced very thin
5 eggs, crumbled
2-3 oz pecorino romano, grated
Place porcini mushrooms in a bowl and pour hot water over to cover. Allow to soak at least 20 minutes until the mushrooms are reconstituted. Give the mushrooms a couple stirs to ensure they are covered and help any grit or dirt separate to the bottom.
Meanwhile heat olive oil and butter over medium heat in large Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot. Add the pancetta and cook for ~5 minutes until the fat is rendered and the pancetta is beginning to crisp. I processed the leek and onion in a food processor to a fine mince but this can be done by hand with a lot of chopping. Add the leek and onion to the pancetta and cook 7-9 minutes, turning over a couple times, to sweat the vegetables but do not brown. Add the meat, salt, and pepper to the pot and stir until the meat is completely browned. Remove mushrooms from the soaking liquid and reserve liquid for later. Add tomatoes and mushrooms to the pot and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for 1+ hours (more is better). As the sauce thickens add the mushroom broth to thin and salt to taste. You’ll want to finish with a fairly thick sauce but prevent burning along the way.
While the pasta is cooking prepare noodles. We made fresh egg noodles from scratch but dried noodles or store bought fresh noodles are fine substitutes. The flavor of fresh egg noodles is incredible if you have the time and equipment to make them. I didn’t feel it necessary to post a tutorial as the internet already has 100s. We used 3 1/2 cups and 5 eggs and it made more than enough. I use this method but several exist for the food processor, I’ve just always enjoyed getting my hands dirty and doing it the old fashioned way.
Bring a pot to boil and cook the noodles according to package directions. Fresh noodles will only need 1-2 minutes. I boiled the noodles in batches in my very large pot and fished them out for each layer individually but do whatever works for you. Some noodles will stick together so throw some olive oil on them if needed.
Put a ladle of sauce on the bottom of a casserole or baking dish. The size of the dish doesn’t especially matter as you can just change the number of layers. Layer on top noodles, sauce, egg and cheese, artichokes and repeat until all ingredients are used up. I shredded the artichokes apart with my hands.