Thursday, August 1, 2013

lasagna roll-ups

I remember waking up Sunday mornings when I was growing up to the smell of sizzling garlic, onions and sweet tomato sauce on the stove.

If there is a smell that can take me back home, and take me to a moment quickest--it's that. One of my parents would wake up and start the sauce--it needs to cook all day on low heat, being stirred occasionally.

If my dad would start it, my mom would "sneak" in wine or tomato paste, always complaining his sauce was too "thin." Anyone who would walk into the kitchen for anything, at any point during the day, would be ordered to "stir the sauce."

After hours of cooking time, cooking the pasta, assembling the eggplant parm (or other delicious accompaniment) and setting the table, we would sit down as a family, always as a family, and have our Sunday dinner.

This morning before I even got out of bed I decided I was making sauce and using it for lasagna roll-ups. Mike and I would have a traditional Sunday "family" dinner and I spent hours in the kitchen making the sauce and prepping this meal.

He also requested (aka guilted me into making) mini meatballs--you may recall my Aunt Rose's recipe I shared on Easter. Those things are tiny and tedious, but so amazingly delicious!

So homemade tomato sauce with mini meatballs, all added to lasagna with ricotta cream. Seems super quick and easy right?

There are a lot of steps here but when you have a whole day to cook, dedicate the time. You can leave the meatballs out, but if you make them, miniaturize them.

And make your own sauce. You can pre-make it and freeze it but do not buy jarred sauce. If you are going to, just make something else.

I swear, this is easy enough to dedicate the time--not to mention worth it in the end.

tomato sauce
1 can tomatoes (I prefer San Marzano, a little pricier but a sweeter flavor)
1/2 small onion, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, diced
a few drizzles of olive oil
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes for seasoning
a few "glugs" of red wine
fresh basil and parsley if you have (a handful of each) otherwise about 1/2 tbsp of each dried
  • pre-heat a pot on medium-low heat with olive oil and start to cook your diced onions, then add the garlic just as they start to get light brown
  • watch the onion/garlic mixture because it can burn quickly and give the sauce a bitter taste
  • add the canned tomatoes, plus half of the can filled with water
  • if the tomatoes are not pureed, it's fine-they will break down a bit as you cook them and give you a semi-chunky sauce. 
  • if you like a smoother sauce, puree before you put them in the pot with a blender
  • add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and a few glugs of wine and let it come to a boil
  • cook on low heat for 3-4 hours, stirring occasionally adding seasonings and wine as you taste (I end up adding quite a bit of wine by the time I'm done--I would say 1/2 cup)
  • right before serving, add fresh parsley/basil-if using dried, add at any point
 miniature meatballs
1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef
1 egg
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano if you have it--I didn't and used 3 spoonfuls of ricotta instead
1 large handful of fresh parsley, chopped-use 1 tbsp if dried
1 piece of bread, soaked in milk or water with excess liquid squeezed out (you can use white of whole wheat)
a few drizzles of olive oil-save some for cooking
a few splashes of water as needed
salt & pepper for seasoning
  • mix all ingredients together by hand--remember these are all about feel and you want them to be moist but not too moist that you cant form the meatball
  • add water if they are not moist enough, and if they do not come together, use a bit more soaked bread or a half of an egg
  • form the mixture into tiny balls-about the size of a penny
  • make around two dozen, and pre-heat a pan with olive oil and add the meatballs
  • if you are going to put all of them in sauce, you can brown them on each side, but slightly under cook them as they will cook more in the sauce
  • once that batch is done, lower the heat, add more oil, and form a bunch more, adding to the pan as you go
  • with all of that meat, I ended up making around 5 regular sized ones for Mike to snack on because we had a ton of minis and they are a pain to make!
tip: you can also use all beef, but I liked the addition of the pork

lasagna roll-ups & mixture
1/2 lb of lasagna
1 bag of baby spinach, sauteed with olive oil, s&p
1 small container of ricotta--use the full fat version
1 lb of mozz, grated at home (again, buy the full fat version)-put some aside for topping
2 eggs
salt & pepper for seasoning
a half handful of fresh parsley

pre-heat oven to 350
  • put up a pot to boil for the pasta-once the pasta is added, put in some olive oil to keep the sheets from sticking
  • mix all other ingredients together in a bowl, save for some mozz for the top of your roll-ups add a few handfuls of the mini meatballs not in the sauce
  • under cook pasta by about 2-3 minutes (it will cook more in the oven) drain and cool cooked pasta
  • lay out pasta, and spread mixture on the entire sheet, as thin as possible (I ended up breaking up the meatballs a bit--still not small enough!)

  • roll up and place in a 11x9 pan with a bit of olive oil on the bottom
  • continue with all your sheets (I fit 12 roll-ups in one tray)
  • cover the roll-ups with sauce and grated cheese, and pop in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the cheese is bubbly
have a bottle of wine on hand, serve with some fresh salad and maybe garlic bread? (so easy to make, just infuse oil or butter with garlic, spread on both sides of bread with some mozz and bake in tin foil for 15 mins)

Most importantly--have a bottle of wine on hand. Did I say that already??


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