Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mama's Lasagna

Warning – this may be my longest ever post and italicized is the recipe from the cookbook - I put it in here as I don't know if it's available otherwise.

Bev has said she wanted a couple of meals before we tried anything else new and one of them is called Mama’s Lasagna from the “Jackson Hole A La Carte” cookbook that we’ve had for 15 or 20 years. It was published in 1986 by the Jackson Hole Alliance – a group of citizens who recognize the need for careful management of Jackson Hole’s resources. The recipes are from the group’s members and their friends from around the country.

We’ve only had this dish once and it was 10 years ago in Heidelberg, Germany. We were visiting our son and family who were stationed there with the U.S. Army. The women went off to a wives luncheon and left me at home with a 2 year old, a newborn and this lasagna to make. When they told the other ladies at the social event about it, I moved into hero status in their minds by looking after two small kids and cooking – I didn’t see the big deal as my mom, and many others, did that everyday. While the dish has several steps, it worked fine as I just put the kids down for their afternoon nap and put it together, then baked it when everyone got home for dinner. So anyway, I remember how good it was, but haven’t been inspired to make it due to the effort involved – I’m lazier than I was back then or maybe just older – but probably both.

Bev requested it and we decided to make it a joint effort for dinner on Saturday and invite a couple of friends over – the recipe says it makes two 9” square pans full. Basically, it involves making a marinara sauce, a white sauce, the noodle stuffing and assembly.

Marinara Sauce
1 cup Chopped onion
½ cup Finely chopped carrot (we did onion and carrot in food processor)
1 clv Garlic, minced
¼ cup Butter
1 can Italian style tomatoes & juice (28 oz)
½ cup Dry red wine
2 tbsp Chopped parsley
1 tbsp Dried basil
1 ea Bay leaf
1 tsp Dried oregano
1/8 tsp Dried thyme
½ tsp Sugar
To taste Salt and pepper
1 lb Ground chuck
½ lb Mushrooms, sliced
1 lb Italian sausage, cooked and thinly sliced

1. In a heavy 3 qt saucepan, sauté the onion, carrot, and garlic until tender. Stir in the tomatoes, wine, herbs, and seasonings. Simmer for 1 ½ hours, partially covered until sauce is thick.
2. Meanwhile, brown the chuck in a large skillet, add mushrooms and sauté until tender. Stir into the completed sauce along with the cooked sausage. Set aside.

We used some bulk homemade Italian sausage from the freezer and cooked it with the beef, then drained the grease. It didn’t specify so we used cremini mushrooms. This is the finished sauce - note it's pretty dry.

White Sauce
6 tbsp Butter
6 tbsp Flour
1 cup Milk
1 cup Whipping cream
½ tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Cayenne

Make a roux from the butter and flour, remove from heat and gradually whisk in the milk and cream. When smooth, add the spices, return to heat and bring to a boil for a minute. Remove from heat and set aside with plastic wrap directly on the surface for skim prevention.

Lasagna Filling
2 cups Ricotta or cottage cheese
½ cup Shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup Shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup Grated parmesan
4 ea Egg yolks
2 tbsp Chopped green onion
1 tbsp Chopped parsley
1 clv Garlic, minced
½ tsp Salt
¼ tsp Pepper
1 lb Lasagna noodles, cooked al dente, drained and patted dry

I was proud of my normal anal-recipe-following-self by using 2 garlic cloves because I wanted more and deciding I had about the right amount of chopped parsley and green onion without measuring.

Combine all ingredients, except noodles, spread about 2 Tbsp of filling on each noodle and roll up jelly roll style – 18 rolls needed. I used a slightly rounded Tbsp measure for the filling and had enough for 20 noodles, so don’t overfill or you may run out. I found the best tool to spread the filling on the noodle was my index finger. Don’t spread it clear to the noodle edge and about ½” from the outside end, then roll them just tight enough to force it almost to the edges. Here’s the finished filling.

This is the stuffing process of my first one. I tried spreading the filling with the bottom of the measuring spoon, then discovered my finger and did a much more even job.

Here they are all rolled up.

To Assemble
1. Preheat oven to 350 and butter two 9”x9’x2” baking pans.
2. Spread ½ cup white sauce in bottom of each pan.
3. Place nine filled noodle rolls on end in each pan.
4. Top each pan of rolls with half the marinara, half the remaining white sauce, ¼ cup mozzarella, ¼ cup parmesan and 1 tbsp parsley.
5. Bake for about 35 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

I actually made it in one 9”x 9” pan and it all fit, although I should have probably used a 9”x 12”. I don’t remember what I used the first time, but there just isn’t enough stuff to fill two 9”x 9” pans. I put half the white sauce in the bottom, added the stuffed noodles and topped with the red sauce.

I then added the remainder of the white sauce, the mozzarella, and parsley and it was ready to bake. I held off on the top parmesan and grated it fresh on each serving.

The 35 minute baking time might be enough if it’s assembled and baked while everything is still warm, but starting out cold, it took over a hour and I baked it covered for about 30 minutes, but should have left it covered longer or waited to put the cheese on the top. Next time I'll time it to assemble and bake while everything is warm.

Each part or the entire dish can be made a day in advance as can the entire dish. I cooked the noodles and stuffed them, then made the white sauce while Bev was making the red sauce. I just covered everything while her sauce cooked. Then we assembled the dish and set it out in the cold garage until baking time.

While I’m sure these ingredients can be made into a lasagna dish without the effort of making the rolls, it would loose the uniqueness of the dish.

For sides, Bev decided to make up an antipasto type salad with lettuce, veggies, olives, meats and cheeses, but since our friends are southern, she offered it undressed with both homemade Italian and Thousand Island dressings. For mine it was Italian plus some anchovies and shredded Parmigiano Reggiano. She also made up a batch of garlic/cheese biscuits.

Here’s a couple of salad shots and it was outstanding. I haven’t had anchovies on a salad in a while.

The lasagna was very good, but different in that it is not as tomatoey as the traditional dish. One of our guests is not a big fan of tomato sauce so she loved it – I would have preferred more tomatoes, but it was a meat lovers delight. Here’s a shot of my plate – I couldn’t get them to stand on end.

It's gorgeous here again today, so have a great one where ever you are.



  1. All I can say about this is WOW. And hats off to you for tackling this feat or a recipe. Those little rolled up pasta sheets look gorgeous and it all looks delicious. Sure you don't want to move to Colorado? :-)

  2. My salad with salmon was good. Hm. No, that just doesn't sound quite as tempting as the lasagna. It smelled great and was quite pretty. :)

  3. Lee Ann - 25 years ago, I used to dream of retiring early, moving to Summit County, Co, getting a part time job as a lift operator, shuttle driver, etc (so I couldn't be called a ski bum), and skiing all the rest of the time. I retired early, but the rest of the plan got lost along the way, but I love the time I've spent in Colorado.

  4. Larry, Mama would be proud of your presentation of her great looking lasagna. It sounds like all the work is well worth the effort. I need to give this a try.

    It looks like Bev is a 'master" at antipastos. That is one beautiful salad.

  5. I've never seen lasagna noodles rolled up like that. My grammy made a killer lasagna, and I made one once, decades ago. But it's just too much work for me, given that I feed 11 people, including a whole herd of large men!

  6. Woooo--that is one long recipe, Larry.... I will tell you what I'll do.... IF you make it again, "I" will be glad to come and help you eat it. I love a meat-lovers lasagna -so I would love this one. BUT--you'd have to hold the anchovies for me please!!!! ha

    All I can say is YUM...

  7. It's been beautiful here too the past couple of days but just heard the weatherman say more rain & cold on the way, ugh. I'm just now beginning to get over the bug I've had the last 4 days or so.

    This lasagna and salad look amazing!

  8. Beautiful post, Larry! I love the rolled lasagna smothered with meat sauce. That salad looks pretty great, too. I'm a big anchovy fan.


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