The National Dish of Italy?

Italian Cuisine

So when I looked up online what were the national dishes of Italy, I got three: Lasagna, Pizza and Polenta. Well, I already did a lasagna recipe (it was my first post! Click here for the reference). Pizza?! I could do an entire week on pizza alone! Thin crust, thick crust, deep dish, veggie, cheese-less, oy! The options are endless! And polenta? Personally, I love it. It’s rich and creamy, comforting and yet kinda fancy at the same time. But truth be told, outside of Italian families, not many North Americans know about its wonders. Well, I take that back, some people here do know about polenta, but they call it grits, and it’s a whole other ballgame.

So, to me, when I want to think of a big festive Italian dinner… one where I’m trying to impress someone, I think of Osso Bucco. Traditionally made with veal shanks, it can be done with beef or lamb shanks instead for those that are wary of veal. Heck, truthfully, it can be done with any well muscled piece of meat, as the steps that you are using to prepare it are simple. Sear. Flavour. Braise. That’s it. The benefit of using the shank bone is the amazing marrow that cooks along with the meat, adding delicious flavour, and for those not watching (or not caring about) their cholesterol, spread on a piece of bread, sprinkled with a little salt…. I’m in heaven! So today’s recipe is for the aforementioned dish… from my cucina to yours, mangiare bene and buona notte!

Sneaky Veggie Lasagna

Lasagna

Ingredients:

12 Lasagna noodles
2 cups Tomato sauce
1 Zucchini, medium
1 Eggplant, medium
1 Red Pepper
5 cloves of Garlic
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
2 cups Ricotta Cheese (or low fat creamed cottage cheese)
1 cup Parmesan Cheese
1 cup shredded hard cheese, like Mozzarella
2 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and lightly grease or spray a cookie sheet. Wash all the vegetables, removing the stems from the larger vegetables. Slice the zucchini in half, lengthwise and place cut side down on cookie sheet. Slice the eggplant in half. Leaving the skin intact take a paring knife and gently slice around the rim of the flesh, then criss-cross the flesh of the eggplant. Place cut side down on the cookie sheet. Slice the pepper in half and remove the core and any seeds. Place cut side down on the cookie sheet. Wrap the garlic cloves in tinfoil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and EVOO, then make into a little baseball shaped package and place on the sheet. Sprinkle all the remaining vegetables with EVOO and salt and pepper. Place in the oven for around 15 minutes, checking to see how the vegetables are doing. The skins may blacken (especially on the peppers) this is NORMAL!! TIP: Keep your over door slightly ajar during this, so that you don’t set off your smoke detectors.

While the vegetables are roasting, bring a large pot of water up to a boil on the stove. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, add a heaping tablespoon of salt and drop in the pasta noodles. Cook, minus a minute or two, according the pasta’s directions on the package they came in. Drain the noodles into a colander and allow to cool so that you can handle them to layer.

Remove the roasted veggies from the oven. Allow to cool for a few moments while you reduce the oven temperature to 350 (for baking the lasagna) and while you set up your food processor with the metal chopping blade. In your food processor, add the cloves of garlic, the zucchini, the eggplant, minus the skin (which should just slide out since you scored it). For the pepper, try and remove as much of the pepper skin first before adding it to the mix, but you don’t have to be perfect. Give the vegetables a few whirls to break everything down. Next add the ricotta and parmesan cheeses to the mix. Hit the pulse button to mix it up, then add the eggs and a touch of salt and pepper to taste. Give it once last pulse to fully combine.

Lastly, in a 9×13 baking dish layer the lasagna as follows: Tomato sauce, Noodles, Cheese/Vegetable mixture, grated cheese, repeating until the dish is filled and ending with noodles, sauce and grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until brown and bubbly. Let sit for 15 minutes before cutting into, to allow the cheese to set.

Back From Camp…. And Back to School!

Well, it’s that time of year again; the little ones are back from their summer time adventures and are about to start the new school year! So while you’re busy trying to find where they could have possibly misplaced every single one of their socks, or listening to another story of the “weird kid” from the other bunk, why not have a warm and sneaky lasagna bubbling away in the oven? Match it up with a tossed garden salad and some home-made garlic bread and you’re the “bestest” mom ever! Definitely better than the mom of that “weird kid” :)