Monday, 11 April 2016
Not quite Barefoot Contessa - Lasagne with Chicken Sausage
My admiration for the Barefoot Contessa knows absolutely no bounds. Ever since that hot June afternoon when I sat down with a tiny Lola and flicked through the TV channels trying to find something to stare absentmindedly at whilst it was bottle time, I have been a fan. There she appeared, on my TV screen, looking all smiley and homely, with her lovely house and her Kitchen Aid and those cute American measuring cups, putting her ‘good vanilla’ and half a pound of butter into a bowl, and I thought, ‘Oh yes, this could be me.’ Unfortunately, instead of ‘habitating’ in The Hamptons, I was lounging somewhere near Liverpool, half asleep, not yet totally dressed, with a little bit of baby dribble adorning my left shoulder but all that was mere detail. This was going to happen. I could breeze in and out in my Mercedes/BMW, the odd dinner party here, the trip to the speciality food store for some mozzarella from the happiest buffalo in the whole world there. Bring it on.
Fast forward 10 years and I have the nice house (though it’s not what you’d call ‘tidy’ – I need at least two hours warning of any visit so I can shift the dogs, children, washing, yesterday’s plates, clothes, etc.) Phill bought me a Kenwood for my birthday instead of a Kitchen Aid (I am very grateful; I know that sounds like I am not…) and I bought my own measuring cups. Not much going on on the old Mercedes/BMW front but I like to zip about in my little Fiesta up to the farm shop for some carrots… I think the point I am trying to make is that sometimes it’s nice to take an idea and put a twist on it and kind of make it yours, and that is what I did with my ‘I am going to be like the Barefoot Contessa fixation’ and the Barefoot Contessa’s Turkey Sausage Lasagne recipe. I used chicken sausage. And it was fabulous.
Lasagne is a very important dish in our house. I’d like to say it is because of our Italian roots but collectively we’re not that interesting. However, it was a lasagne that wooed Phill (along with, I hope, my stunning wit and repartee, my jolly personality and what I am going to call my ‘allure’) and if I happen to think out loud about what to cook for dinner, I know what the answer is. How would my brood take to this lasagne craziness? The answer, thankfully, was a general thumbs up, though for the reasons above, Phill said he preferred the real thing. This, however, is a tasty, ramped up humdinger of a dish that epitomises Barefoot Contessa recipes. They’re never bland.
Lasagne with chicken sausage, adapted from ‘Barefoot Contessa Family Style’ by Ina Garten, or you can find the original recipe here
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 lb chicken sausages, casings removed
1 ½ tins chopped tomatoes
5 – 6 tbsp tomato puree
Large handful chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
pack of fresh basil leaves, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound no cook lasagne sheets
15 oz ricotta cheese
3 to 4 oz creamy goat cheese, crumbled
10oz Parmesan cheese, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1lb fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in a large (10- to 12-inch) pan. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 x 12 x 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one third of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.
I served this with salad and garlic bread.