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Lasagna Rosa

I spend time when I can hanging out in internet-based cooking forums, my favorite of which is frequented by many professional chefs and caterers. One of the most knowledgeable and articulate members uses Chiffonade as her handle. Aside from her other admirable qualities she is also very Italian and keeps us all honest when we try to discuss Italian cooking as though we actually know what it is we are talking about. One of the many things I learned from her is the art of constructing a lasagna that holds together well when served. While I always thought my lasagna was pretty good I never understood why it would be runny and fall apart unless it was cooled far too much. The trick is to minimize the sauce used (serve extra on the table) and to use a layering technique that helps the lasagna hold itself together.

1 pound lasagna noodles cooked al dente
1 pound small curd cottage cheese
1 pound Ricotta
1 pound Mozzarella, coarsely shredded
2 pound ground or chopped Italian sausage, browned
1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon basil
1 tablespoon parsley

Your favorite tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ricotta, cottage cheese, Parmesan, pepper, salt, eggs, basil and parsley together with a ladle or two of sauce. Adjust seasoning to the cheese mixture for the desired flavor.

Position the lasagna pan (10"x14") on the counter vertically (14" top to bottom, 10" side to side).

Using two noodles for each row place noodles horizontally so that they are touching in the middle of the pan and their ends are hanging over the side of the pan. Repeat this until the bottom of the pan is covered. Now run another layer of noodles vertically (single noodle per row) on top of the first layer. Trim noodles as necessary to fit pan.

Spread one half of the ricotta mixture over noodles, one half the sausage over the cheese and one half of the mozzarella over the sausage. Cover with layer of noodles layered vertically. Repeat using the remaining cheese and sausage. But before laying on a top (vertical) layer of noodles, fold the noodles hanging over side of the pan back over the last cheese/meat layer. Now run the final vertical row of noodles and ladle on sauce to cover.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees until the lasagna is cooked all the way through, about one hour. Remove foil, top with grated Parmesan and return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes so that the top just begins to brown.

Remove and allow the lasagna to cool and settle for 20 minutes. If you want the lasagna to stay together when you carve it this settling time must not be compromised.

Serve with extra sauce.

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