THIS WEEK: Meat Lasagna, from Luigi’s Restaurant in Johnston, R.I.
With Mother’s Day approaching, the mind starts to turn to some good old-fashioned home-style dishes. And what better than this classic lasagna from chef Ralph Battista, who learned how to make it from his own mother (who learned it from her mother before her)?
Each region of Italy has its own delicious way of making this dish; it is the Neapolitan version that is most popular in America.
About the chef:
Chef Battista’s passion for food and cooking was kindled at an early age, when he helped out in the family business. His parents, Luigi and Antonette Battista, founded Luigi’s Restaurant in Johnston, R.I., in 1971, and he began working in the kitchen at the age of 13.
Battista also learned much from the home cooking of his mother and grandmothers and through extensive travel in Italy. In particular, he came to love bread-making and pastries.
More than 30 years later, Luigi’s Restaurant is an institution on the Rhode Island culinary scene.
(PLEASE NOTE: Ingredient prices are estimates and based on national averages. Amounts listed are enough to serve eight people. Increase proportionately according to number of portions desired.)
($10.95 at Luigi’s for one serving. Cook-at-home cost for the whole lasagna — enough for eight people — is $22.64, and for a single serving is $2.83.)
2 pounds ground beef ($5.50)
2 tablespoons olive oil ($0.28)
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped ($0.02)
2 pounds Ricotta cheese ($2.25)
2 eggs ($0.28)
4 cups homemade or store-bought tomato sauce (Ragu or similar) ($2.25)
2 large sheets Pappardelle or dried lasagna sheets ($1.39)
4 cups Parmesan cheese ($4.25)
4 cups Mozzarella cheese ($5.50)
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley ($0.90)
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. It is important to start the assembly of the lasagna by spreading a layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 10 baking dish. The sauce keeps the pasta from sticking to the dish. (Homemade sauce is recommended, but store-bought will suffice.)
The next layer is the pasta. Use fresh pasta if it is available. Pappardelle is a wide strip of pasta, usually 8 x 10 inches, with rippled sides. It can be found at Italian specialty markets. If you are using fresh pasta, do not cook it before assembly. If you are using dried pasta, it must be par-cooked in boiling water until it is just soft enough to bend. Then remove and place on an oiled baking sheet.
Sauce the first layer of pasta lightly then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Next, spread half of the meat mixture evenly over the pasta, and then layer with half of the ricotta mixture and half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layering, and then press down on the layers to remove any air pockets. Pour the remaining sauce over the top sheet, and then sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella.
Bake covered with foil for 1 hour. Spray the foil with baking spray to keep the cheese from sticking. Let stand about 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh parsley.
1359 Hartford Avenue
Johnston, R.I., 02919
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