Monday, October 16, 2006

Welcome to "The Anal Retentive Chef"! I'm Gene ...

Light Meat and Cheese Lasagna
The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook Copyright 2005

1 onion, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound (93 percent lean) ground turkey
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
½ cup minced fresh basil

15 ounces fat-free ricotta cheese (1 ¾ cups)
12 ounces reduced-fat mozzarella , shredded (3 cups) I used part-skim
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup)
½ cup minced fresh basil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
12 no-boil lasagna noodles (one 8- or 9-ounce package) I used whole-wheat no-boil lasagna noodles

1. For the sauce: Combine the onion, oil, and ½ teaspoon salt in a large Dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in half of the ground turkey and cook, breaking the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the meat loses it’s raw color, about 4 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes with their juice, broth, and bay leaves. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 45 minutes.
2. Stir the remaining turkey into the sauce and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce measures about 6 cups, 20 to 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and stir in the basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. To assemble and bake: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with vegetable oil spray. Mix the ricotta, 2 cups of the mozzarella, Parmesan, basil, egg, salt and pepper together until well combined.
4. Spread ¼ cup of the tomato sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Place 3 noodles on top of the sauce and drop a generous 1/3 cup of the ricotta mixture down the center of each noodle, then spread it to an even thickness. Spoon 1 ½ cups of the sauce evenly over the ricotta. Repeat this layering two more times.
5. For the final layer, place the 3 remaining noodles on top. Spread the remaining 1 ¼ cups sauce evenly over the noodles. Spray a large sheet of foil with vegetable oil spray and cover the lasagna tightly. Bake for 15 minutes.
6. Remove the foil and sprinkle the lasagna with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Continue to bake uncovered, until the cheese is bubbling and slightly brown, about 25 minutes longer. Let set for 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 10 servings. Per serving: 340 cal, 10 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 70 mg chol, 31 g carbs, 29 g pro, 1 g fiber, 1110 mg sodium

I find it hard to read any recipe from America's Test Kitchen without hearing the voice of Phil Hartman's Saturday Night Live character, the Anal-Retentive Chef. But if you can get past the fussiness, their recipes are usually pretty good. This was no exception. Of course, it's hard to make a bad lasagna, but I was a little leery of the fat-free ricotta. No worries, it worked really well in this. In fact, I would have no qualms about using fat-free ricotta in any lasagna recipe from now on.

This was time-consuming but it didn't require a lot of work, just cooking time (mostly for the sauce). I made it a day ahead, which I like to do with lasagna because then it cuts neatly out of the fridge and it can be heated up easily in the microwave (or, you can cover it with foil and reheat it slowly in the oven.)

There's a lot of fresh basil in this, so if you're not a fan of it, adjust appropriately. The basil flavor is definitely prominent in the final product (not a problem for me at all). The pasta texture was slightly gummy, which I find is always the case with no-boil noodles but worth it not to have to deal with handling boiled lasagna noodles.

Blast From the Past: Garlic Bread from October 2005. I wish I had made some garlic bread to go with this but that would have cancelled out the lightmess of the lasagna.

Question of the Day: Are you an 'anal-retentive chef' (do you fuss over the details, clean as you go, etc ) or do you not sweat the details?


MommyProf said...

Definitely don't sweat the details. Probably should do it more!

Annie said...

I don't worry about the mess while I'm cooking (and there is quite a mess), just after I'm done.

I have never used fat-free ricotta because I feared it would not compare with the real thing. I usually use part-skim but now I may just try it for something like a lasagna...Thanks!

Unknown said...

I guess I don't sweat the details. I tend to substitute things. As the the cleaning, it depends on what kind of mood I'm in! Usually, I'll put ingredients away as I go, but the dishes are a different matter!

Anonymous said...

LOL!! Sometimes Cook's Illustrated really gets on my nerves..!

I usually clean-as-I-go, which makes me somewhat a.r.

But... I also have a tendency to fiddle around with recipes & cooking methods... which makes me not a.r.!

The lasagna looks delish, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Ohh, that looks yummy. I will have to try it, but halve the recipe.

And I am a total clean as I go person. I hate my cooking area to be messy.

DancesInGarden said...

I am only anal retentive when it matters. It is more important to fully cream sugar and butter, than it is to have EXACTLY one teaspoon of vanilla, for example. As for cleaning? Well, I am genetically challanged in that department. You can't imagine what it was like to be a germaphobe and not neat at the same time ;)

chrispy said...

I love cook's illustrated, but sometimes get discouraged to try anything because they have so many steps.

Where did you find whole wheat no boil noodles? What brand? I thought they could not be found so that is the only none whole wheat noodle in the house.

Anonymous said...

I love the title...but it is true some of their recipes are written pretty anal.

The Cookbook Junkie said...


The noodles were Gia Russa brand.

Anonymous said...

I'm anally retentive in all areas of my life except cooking. I substitute at will, adjust according to my own beliefs/intuition and generally use a recipe as a guide rather than an edict. I do tend to clean as I go simply because my current kitchen in tiny so I run out of room well before I finish cooking.