Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bacon Lasagna

Even though I have seriously neglected actively posting to this blog I continue to happily cook and discover new recipes.

Lately I felt that it was worth sharing this recipe because it's actually an invention of my own and I'm it's gonna be one for the books that I'll keep returning back to.

I have been thinking over a bacon lasagna and how to execute it for about a week now. My friend just had a birthday and it was the perfect excuse to try it out. My original thought was frying up bacon and then layering it between tomato/meat sauce, ricotta/mozza cheese and cooked lasagna noodles, and letting it cook just enough in the oven to let the cheese melt. That way the bacon would remain crispy and not get too soggy.

When I was preparing the lasagna components, I added eggs to the ricotta mixture on a whim as suggested in many lasagna recipes. Having never done this before, I didn't immediately realize that it would require the lasagna to be cooked for nearly an hour. This meant that the quick heat in the oven with the layers of bacon was not going to happen. Then after some recipe scouring, I noticed that most people simply add the chopped bacon to the sauce.

I also have heard that adding onions raw and letting them cook down in a sauce rather than sauteing them imparts a lot more flavor to a sauce. I tried it this time by adding a quartered onion and it caramelized nicely.

I had a happy accident of forgetting a layer of noodles in between the second layer of meat and cheese. It made for an extra thick and very decadent layer!

This particular lasagna was extremely meaty with a pound of bacon and pork in a "Meat Flavored" Sauce. I even got to use the Bacon Rub that I bought years back for Christmas.

Overall, this definitely one of the best lasagna recipes. It was so good that hardly anyone spoke during dinner. All you could hear were delicious "Mmmms".

Bacon Lasagna 
Serves four to six people 

1lb ground beef, pork, veal, turkey or chicken
1lb bacon
canned tomatoes or basic marinara/tomato sauce
olive oil
onion (quartered, peel each layer)

4 cups ricotta cheese
dried herbs (basil, marjoram, parsley, or oregano)
1 egg

lasagna noodles
shredded mozzarella cheese
parmesan cheese
pecorino romano cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wrap cloves of garlic, (I would choose about 3-6) in tightly packed tin foil ball and let roast for roughly 25 minutes until soft. Let cool. Peel away skins and mash. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Bring your canned tomatoes or tomato sauce to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Add a generous portion of salt, cayenne and paprika. Cayenne will get hotter the longer you cook it so use sparingly at first if you want a mild heat. Depending on the acidity of the sauce, you may need to add a dash of sugar.

Add ground meat and let simmer until the layer of water on top of the sauce cooks down and you have a thick sauce that remains. Add your quartered onion around the time you add the ground meat so it has time to effectively cook slowly in the sauce. I would add the garlic last when there isn't much more time to cook down.

Remember to keep tasting your sauce as it cooks and adjust your spices as you go to your liking!

While the sauce cooks, fold herbs in with the ricotta. Beat your egg slightly and add to mixture. Set aside.

Boil water for your lasagna noodles.

Fry up half your bacon. Let the cooked bacon cool down on paper towels and then crumble. Once your sauce is cooked, add.

Spoon a thin layer  of sauce onto your casserole dish to prevent sticking. I prefer to keep a little extra tomato sauce aside for this bit. Layer noodles. I like my noodles of lasagna to touch each other without any space between.

Layer third of ricotta mixture
Layer half meat mixture
Layer noodles
Add last layer of ricotta. Sprinkle generously with mozza, parmesan and pecorino.

Cook for about 35 minutes to 45 minutes covered with tin foil. Uncover and broil for about 3 minutes.
Use the time when the lasagna is about to come out to fry up the rest of your bacon so that it is hot and fresh when it comes out of the oven. Layer top with bacon.

Fiona Beckett of "Matching Food and Wine" suggests a  Rioja crianza, medium bodied Cabernet Sauvignon or a Syrah/Malbec to pair with it.

On a side note, I read "Love by the Glass" in a week this month and it's inspired me to take the extra time to try pairing wine with food when cooking a special meal such as this.

I had a magical pairing of my own this past month when I drank a  Brancott Estate Sauvignon Blanc with my first home cooked Carbonara!

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