Lasagna is delicious, true or false? If you answered false you should go cut your tongue out with dull scissors because it's dumb and defective. Lasagna is in fact delicious. It's one of those foods that sticks to your ribs and keeps ya warm all night long. Layers of pasta filled with yummy gooey goodness. I've said it before and I'll say it again. There are lots of ways to make the magical dish and if you ask any grumpy Italian grandmother, their way is the right way. Unless of course you ask the menacing looking Greek guy across the street and you'll get a different point of view on who invented the dish, and by the way, it's called Mousaka not lasagna. Yeah yeah, I hear you both and I agree with both of you. Everybody's got a recipe that's the real authentic thing. There's room for everybody in my culinary world. I make an orzo "risotto" even thought some people would claim there's not such thing. It is what I say it is. I'm pretty sure your name is not Merriam-Webster so shut up. Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, lasagna. I never had it much growing up. My mother just never really made it. Then again, I'm pretty sure most other kids didn't grow up eating ox-tail stew. My Italian godfather (no joke) made it for special occasions along with homemade pizza and Italian wedding soup. On holidays we always had this strange mix of Cuban, 50s Americana, and Italian food. I loved eating during the holidays. Like a schizophrenic world cuisine feast. Sure I'd love another helping of baked ziti and oh I'll also have some tuna noodle casserole and don't forget the Vaca Frita! I love love loved it.
When I lived in St. Louis I frequented a little Italian joint called Mangia. My favorite thing to get there was a spaghetti dish with a cream sauce that was then covered in marinara and then covered with cheesy goodness and baked. Their lasagna was delicious too. The one thing I don't care for in traditional lasagna is that there is usually too much ricotta. The thing I don't like in moussaka is eggplant (yes, the main ingredient). Anyways, I decided to take the best of both and make a Lamb Sausage and Spinach Lasagna with Feta and Artichoke Hearts and I threw in a little Mangia influence by layering in a cream sauce and a red sauce. So delicious, definitely the best of both worlds. Some chefs say fusion equals confusion. Or was it fusion equals blood transfusions. I can't remember, all I do know is that I say fusion equals inclusion when the fusion has no delusions of seclusion. The rule is generally that too many conflicting ingredients spoil the party like a wasted guy peeing on the carpet. No fun. Keep it simple, only invite your close friends and you'll avoid having to get the carpet cleaned (ie: a nasty confusing dish). The flavors you love don't need to have the boundaries of tradition. Sure there's a place and time for cooking something that is tried and true and has history but it's never a bad time to explore. How do you think those traditions got started in the first place. Someone had to be adventurous enough to put the rotten milk in their mouth and say "Yum, delicious, I think I'll call it cheese".
Lamb Sausage and Spinach Lasagna with Feta and Artichoke Hearts
For the Red Sauce:
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 28-oz. can peeled whole san marzano tomatoes, with juice
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepperf
1 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
1/2 tsp ground cinnamin
juice of half a lemon
The Béchamel Cream Sauce:
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp AP flour
4 cups milk
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper tt
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
I lb. lasagna pasta (I like the kind you don't have to pre-cook)
2 lbs. lamb sausage, crumbled with casings removed
2 cups frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 cup feta
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Grease up a 9"x 13" baking dish with a little butter.
2. Start the red sauce. Heat up the olive oil in a sauce pot and saute the garlic for a minute or two until it's fragrant. With your clean hands crush the tomatoes one by one into the pot adding all the juices. Season and simmer on low for 20 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down. Add the basil and lemon juice and set aside
3. While the red sauce is cooking start cooking the sausage filling. In a saute pan over medium high heat brown the sausage in olive oil until cooked through. Add the spinach and season. Add the herbs and set aside.
4. Make the béchamel: Heat 4 tbsp. butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic and cook 3 minutes. Add flour; cook 2 minutes (whisk to make a roux). Slowly whisk in milk and simmer (don't boil). Whisk in the cheese and reduce to medium-low; simmer, whisking, until thick, 10-15 minutes. Add nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
3. Assemble you lasagna. Start out with a little red sauce. Layer of noodles. Layer of sausage filling. Layer of cream sauce. Layer of Noodles. Layer of red sauce. Repeat until all of your ingredients are nicely layered in the baking dish. Top off with the remaining feta and parmesan cheeses and a few dabs of butter.
4. Cover with foil and place in the oven. Cook for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove foil for the last 15 minutes to get a nice brown top. Garnish with fresh dill and have an Italian-Greek party in your mouth! ;)