Saturday, 2 January 2010

Grown-up Lasagna

The thing that I love about lasagna is that there are no hard rules on its composition. I'm sure in some family/household traditions there are hard and fast rules, but what I'm referring to is the fact that you won't find a repertoire of common methods on how to make lasagna. The possibilities are endless.

Tonight's lasagna is comprised of a form of a Bolognese sauce (another recipe with countless variations), spinach, cottage cheese (in lieu of ricotta), and of course cheese to top it with. Why on this blog vs. my other one? Because I used the pressure cooker for the sauce.

You see, a good Bolognese sauce, needs at least 45 minutes of simmering for the flavours to meld. Although this is a comforting process, when you want to get on with the rest of the meal it can be daunting. So a speedy approach brings a new form of comfort.

For the sauce, I sautéed a smoky alder bacon in the pressure cooker. This is the grown-up part. The smoky bacon imparts a flavour that is quite distinct from traditional meat sauces. It's obvious and subtle at the same time. After just cooking the bacon (not crisp though) I finished the sauce in the pressure cooker via the instructions below.  

Note, I used an unneccesary amount of mushrooms, only becaue I had to use them up.  The end result was still yummy so I wouldn't deter from using a large amount.

Pre-Pressure Cooking Picture:

10 Minutes Later - a finished sauce!

I assembled the lasagna in usual fashion (again, have a gander at the instructions) and baked for 35 minutes.

This was delicious. A grown-up meal as the smokiness lent a stronger flavour.  

It was kitty-licking good (note we generally don't allow our cat to eat any human food, let alone lick our plates, but this was so funny, we took time out to take a picture).

Grown-up Lasagna
Bolognese Sauce in the Pressure Cooker

6 strips alder smoked bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
8 large mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 large carrot grated
1.5 lbs ground beef
2 cans tomato paste
1 tbsp bouillon powder
1 cup water

Cottage Cheese Filling - mix all together:
2 cups cottage cheese
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

4 cups spinach, steamed and seasoned
Lasagna noodles prepared according to package directions.
Grated cheese (mozzarella, marble, jack or mixture).

Bolognese Sauce:
Heat the pressure cooker over med-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until cooked but not browned. Add the onion and mushroom and cook until softened. Add the grated carrot and mix through. Add the ground beef and stir to mix. Cook until there is no more pink in the beef, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato paste and bouillon powder and stir to mixed. Add the water. The water is important to ensure enough liquid in the pressuer cooker for cooking under pressure.

Secure the pressure cooker and keep on medium-high heat until it reaches pressure. Once at pressure reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pressure reduce on its own.

Assemble the Lasagna, adding layers as follows:
Line the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of the bolognese sauce.
Lasagna noodles.
Bolognese sauce.
Lasagna noodles.
Cottage cheese filling.
Lasagna noodles.
Meat Sauce.
Cheese to top.
Sage leaves to garnish.

Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes until bubbling and browned.