Lasagne, Lasagna, Lasaña: keeping it simple, making it Puerto Rican

14 Jan

No matter how you spell it, lasagne is great food for entertaining and with the SuperBowl coming up, you may want to consider this version as an option for the buffet table!

This is a wonderfully homey dish

This is a wonderfully homey dish

In its original Italian version (which may actually be adapted from a Greek dish) from Emilia Romagna (if Wikipedia is to be believed and on this one I am not really sure), lasagne is pasta layered with ragu, bechamel (creamy white sauce) and parmigiano reggiano. Lasagne has since been adapted and changed and reworked in so many ways that it has as many permutations as there are cooks who make it.

I have to say, I do not love bechamel. It’s okay when someone else makes it, but I would rather not. So, I do what so many do: layer mozzarella and ricotta and grated parmigiano and I am at peace with this shortcut that results in a creamy gooiness, no doubt horrifying to the Emiliani, but they are far away living their Italian lives and are not doing my dishes for me here in New York. And with apologies to the late, great Marcella Hazan, I am not ready to be making my own lasagne noodles, even though she maintains it is heresy to do otherwise.

Layers of gooey goodness

Layers of gooey goodness

My dad and I combined to make this for a recent family visit from my film student cousin, Lorraine, whose mom and grandmother came from Puerto Rico to visit her. In the Dead of Winter (?!). Rosa, Lorraine’s grandmother, is around 90 and this was her first trip outside of Puerto Rico. And of course it had to be during the coldest snap the country has seen in decades…Ah, grandmotherly love…

Anyhoo, I made the sauce a couple of days before based more on picadillo or Puerto Rican seasoned ground beef than anything Italian. My dad boiled the pasta and assembled on the day. And we all ate it up! Think of this for The Big Game or any other entertaining moments. Instructions for making the whole thing ahead are noted at the bottom.

I like to use a glass casserole so I can see how things are doing under the surface.

I like to use a glass casserole so I can see how things are doing under the surface.

Lasagne with less fuss, more Latin flavor

Meat sauce (can be made ahead)

1 Tbs good olive oil

½ Cup onion, chopped fine

1 Tbs garlic, chopped

2 Tbs Italian cooking pepper (cubanelle; pimiento para cocinar)

2 Tbs sofrito (homemade or store-bought)

1 lb. ground beef

1 lb. ground pork

½ lb ground veal

(or 2.5 lbs ground meat, in whichever mix you prefer, keeping pork to 1 lb. as a general rule)

 1 Tbs Adobo powder

1 Tbs oregano

1 Tbs capers, drained

15 green pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced

28 oz can diced or pureed tomatoes

For the construction

1 lb lasagne noodles, prepared according to package directions, drizzled with oil to prevent sticking, and set aside

1 lb. part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated or cut into 1/8”-1/4” slices

½ lb ricotta cheese

Optional: grated parmigiano reggiano

Meat Sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large pot at high until fragrant. Add the onion, stir to coat and lower heat to medium. Cook onion, stirring occasionally for 3-5 minutes until translucent and turning golden. Add garlic, cooking pepper, and sofrito and cook for an additional minute.

Add meat and raise the heat back up to high. Cook meat, stirring frequently and breaking up the clumps with a wooden spoon. When the meat begins to get brown and crumbly, add the Adobo powder and keep cooking until the meat is fully cooked. At this point, you can remove some of the fat with a spoon, if there is a lot. I rarely do, but I am not worrying about fat intake when I make this dish!

Stir in oregano, capers, olives and tomato. Stir to combine, bring to a boil then lower heat to a simmer and cook for as long as you have time for; an hour is great. You want the fat to be separating from the sauce at the sides of the pot. Refrigerate (or freeze) if making ahead. Otherwise you are ready to begin the construction.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and set a rack in the middle. Set yourself up a comfortable assembly line of sauce, noodles, ricotta, and mozzarella and optional parmigiano with a three quart/9”x13”x3” casserole in the center. Start with a bit of sauce on the bottom to prevent sticking. Put down a layer of lasagna noodles; top with a generous layer of sauce. Dot ricotta on top, then overlay with mozzarella and sprinkle with optional parmigiano. Repeat until you fill the casserole, ending with the cheese layer.

Cover the casserole with aluminum foil and place in oven. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until sauce is bubbling in the bottom of the casserole (that’s why I prefer to use glass). Remove the foil and cook for an additional 5 minutes to get a bit of golden-ness on the top. Take the lasagna out of the oven and let rest for at least five minutes before cutting and serving.

(To make this way ahead and freeze it, I recommend an aluminum baking tray (glass can shatter if it is cold and you put it in a hot oven). Assemble the whole thing, but don’t bake it. Cool, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and foil. To cook, thaw as much as possible given your time frame. Heat oven to 350, remove plastic wrap and keep covered with foil. Bake for 1 – 1.5 hours, until heated through. Remove foil and brown the top for at least 5 minutes.)

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8 Responses to “Lasagne, Lasagna, Lasaña: keeping it simple, making it Puerto Rican”

  1. tanaseaurica February 21, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    eat it, eat it, eat it…nothing must not remain from this apetising delicious lasagna..:D

  2. cecilia January 14, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    I am a huge fan of lasagne.. And you are so right about us all making it differently.. yours looks divine, gooey is so delightful to photograph don’t you think?.. c

  3. Mad Dog January 14, 2014 at 10:10 am #

    That’s a very exciting lasagne. I wouldn’t be surprised if it relates to a Greek or other Mediterranean dish – the first time I had moussaka I thought it was an aubergine (eggplant) lasagne ;-)

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy January 14, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      We’ve made it this way since I was a little kid. My brother makes an excellent one, when he can be prevailed upon to do it!

  4. lulu January 14, 2014 at 8:53 am #

    Your Latin twists make this sound like a delicious version of lasagna which I just happen to love.

  5. deliciousdaydreams January 14, 2014 at 8:14 am #

    Wow! This is a diverse lasagna! Yum. I love the addition of veal.

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