Monday, September 20, 2010

Mini Ravioli Lasagna

Lasagna! My first attempt at making lasagna was a complete disaster. It was back in 1991, I lived in a loft in Chicago’s Gold Coast. It was a small place with one of those efficiency kitchens, so everything was pint sized two burners and a half sized oven. It was truly a labor of love to cook in that kitchen, but this was a first date so I was going for it anyway! So I proceeded to go grocery shopping to get everything I needed, and I got back to the loft around 5 and started to cook (dinner was scheduled for 8). I of course was making everything from scratch, so first thing first; the sauce without a recipe. Ugh two hours later it was finally simmering, we are now at 7:30 half an hour to go. So I let it simmer for about half an hour, and then I started to put together the Lasagna. Called Mom to see how long I needed to bake it for, her answer one hour and let cool for fifteen minutes. This puts us at 9:15-9:30, more than one hour late. Problem; the oven is really old and does not keep proper temperatures, so it took two hours. Now I’m embarrassed and in a rush, so I dive right into the lasagna when it comes out of the oven, and it proceeds to fall completely apart. It was a mash of noodles and meat sauce, very unappetizing. No salad, no side dishes, no dessert, just my attempt at lasagna and a bottle of wine all two hours late. Results no second date, but a few weeks later I was registered in culinary school, and applied for a job at an Italian restaurant. Everything happens for a reason. After years of fine tuning, this is my recipe now. It’s great for parties; the entire recipe can be made a day ahead, so the only thing you’re putting together at dinner time is the salad. I served it with a Spinach and arugula salad.

Mini Ravioli Lasagna
Meat sauce- 4 cups (recipe to follow)
Basil- ¼ cup (sliced thin)
Mozzarella cheese- 1 cup (shredded)
Ricotta cheese- 1 cup
Egg- 1 (lightly beaten)
Nutmeg- 1 teaspoon
Salt & pepper- to taste
Four cheese ravioli- 1 pound
Chives- ¼ cup (chopped)
Parmesan cheese- to garnish
Method to the Madness
1) Preheat the oven to 400. Combine the mozzarella, chives, ricotta, egg, nutmeg, salt & pepper.
2) Place four large ramekins on a baking sheet. Spread a thin coat of meat sauce on the bottom of the ramekins. Arrange ravioli on top slightly overlapping them, top with some sauce and then the ricotta mix. Add remaining ravioli, and top with more meat sauce. Top with fresh grated parmesan. Bake for 40 minutes, remove and let cool for 15 minutes.
Spinach and Arugula Salad
Baby spinach- 5 ounces
Arugula- 5 ounces
Goat cheese- ½ cup (crumbled)
Pine nuts- ¼ cup (toasted)
Raspberries- 1 pint
White balsamic vinaigrette- 3 tablespoons
Salt & pepper- to taste
1) In a large mixing bowl combine the spinach, arugula, goat cheese, vinaigrette, and salt & pepper and mix well.
2) Garnish with the raspberries and pine nuts.
Olive Oil- 2 tablespoons
Yellow Onion- 2 cups (medium diced)
Garlic- 2 ½ tablespoons (minced)
Tomatoes- 4- 28 oz cans
Tomato paste- 1- 6 oz can
Basil- 1 cup packed tight (2 packages)
Salt & pepper- to taste
1) Heat oil in a sauce pan; add onions and a pinch of Salt & pepper (this is called layering). Sauté for 2-3 minutes until onions become translucent, add garlic and sauté for another minute, until fragrant.
2) Add tomatoes, and bring to a boil for 1 minute turn down heat and let simmer. Add tomato paste, season with salt & pepper. Let the sauce simmer for at least 45 minutes or for best results 2-3 hours.
3) After your desired simmer time. Turn off the heat and let rest for an hour. Then add the basil and puree. I like my sauces smooth if you don’t, just add the basil and you’re ready to serve.
4) To make this into meat sauce; just add 1 pound of ground chuck and 1 pound of Italian sausage. Brown them first in a sauté pan
White Balsamic Vinaigrette
Vegetable Oil- 26 fluid oz
White Balsamic- 6 fluid oz
Dry mustard- 1 teaspoon
Basil- 1 tablespoon (fresh, chopped)
Parsley- 1 tablespoon (fresh, flat, chopped)
Sugar 2 teaspoons
Salt & pepper- to taste
1) In a food processor add the sugar, dry mustard, and white balsamic, pulse to mix.
2) With the food processor running slowly drizzle in the vegetable oil. Then add the basil, parsley, and salt & pepper and mix well.

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