Lasagna


I was never a fan of lasagna with lots of ricotta cheese in it. This version uses a white sauce instead, and has a really nice smooth taste. Original recipe from here. It does take a little work and time, but the sauces can be made ahead of time, which makes this dish quick to assemble and bake.

Ingredients
Meat sauce:
100g (1/4 lb) beef (or beef/pork mixture)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp oregano
400g (14oz) canned diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

White sauce:
1 tsp olive oil
480mL (2 cups) milk
1/4 cup flour
salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Other:
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
200g (1/2 lb) shredded mozzarella (in Japan, “mix cheese” is fine)
lasagna noodles (enough to fill your baking dish)

Instructions

First, make the meat sauce. Brown the meat in a skillet and remove. In the same skillet, saute onion and garlic until softened, then add sugar, basil, oregano, canned tomato, and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring, then turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Finally, blend the sauce in a food processor or blender until smooth. Mix the browned meat back into the sauce, taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Next, make the white sauce. Heat olive oil and 360 mL (1-1/2 cups) milk in a saucepan. Whisk the remaining 120 mL (1/2 cup) milk with the flour in a small bowl until free of lumps, and add to the heated milk. Whisk or stir constantly over low heat until the sauce thickens. Add a pinch of nutmeg, plus salt and pepper to taste.

At this point, you can store the sauces in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the lasagna for dinner.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Prepare your lasagna noodles (check the package for instructions on how long to cook them, or use non-boil noodles).

Start by spooning a small amount of the tomato sauce into your pan and spreading it into a thin layer.

Add one layer of lasagna noodles to the pan. Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce over the noodles, followed by 1/3 of the white sauce, 1/3 of the parmesan cheese, and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat in that order until you have three layers, ending with cheese on top.

Bake for 30 minutes.

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Creamy Pasta with White Beans

pasta with white beansThis recipe is quite adaptable. As I’ve written it, this is a vegetarian pasta dish, but you can add chicken as well, and you can change the vegetables to fit what’s in season or on sale. It also includes some protein from the beans.

Ingredients (serves 2 with leftovers)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
700mL (3 cups) vegetable broth (chicken broth is okay too)
200g dry penne pasta (1/2 lb)
1 cup cooked white beans
1-1/2 cups vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, and spinach or a mixture are all great)
125g (4 oz) sun-dried or salted tomatoes
120mL (1/2 cup) cream (in Japan, I use 35% cream)
1 tsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until softened. Add vegetable (or chicken) broth and pasta. Bring to a simmer.

Cook pasta for the time directed on the package, plus 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. If too much liquid evaporates, add a little more water. With five minutes remaining, add the tomatoes, beans, and vegetables and stir.

After the pasta finishes cooking, add the cream. Stir and cook until the cream thickens into a sauce. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Lemon Rosemary Ragu

lemon rosemary raguThis meat sauce comes together very quickly and has a great flavor. There is some tomato in it, but the tomato taste isn’t so strong. It works well for people who aren’t into a very tomato-y pasta sauce. I adapted the recipe from here, which calls for using veal and olives, but those ingredients aren’t so common in Japan, so I’ve made a few changes.

Ingredients
200g (about 1/2 lb) dry pasta (choose a shape with surface area that will hold the sauce)
1 tbsp olive oil
200g ground beef/pork mixture
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary (or 1/4 tsp dried rosemary)
1 tbsp tomato paste
60mL (1/4 cup) white wine
120mL (1/2 cup) beef broth (In Japan, I use a bouillon cube plus 120mL water)
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp grated lemon peel
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (of course fresh is always best, but in Japan I use canned grated cheese and it works fine)

Instructions

Cook pasta according to package directions.

While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the ground meat until it loses its pink color. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes until softened.

Add rosemary and tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for a minute or so. Add the wine and beef broth and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Add parsley, lemon peel, and grated cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Mix cooked pasta with the ragu, and serve, along with extra grated cheese.

Sesame Chicken Pasta Salad

This pasta salad has a really nice Asian flavor, and is really delicious hot, warm, or cold! Original recipe is from allrecipes.com, but I’ve adjusted it to be more healthy (less chicken, more veggies, and less oil).

Japan Note: Bow-tie shaped pasta is not very easily found in my area (though I have found it at an import store). I have substituted rotini or ziti shapes with success. Though spaghetti is definitely the most common Western-style pasta here, I’m not sure how well it would work in this recipe.

Ingredients
1/4 cup sesame seeds
16oz (454g) bow-tie pasta
1/4 cup (60mL) vegetable oil
1/3 cup (80mL) soy sauce
1/3 cup (80mL) rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken
1/3 cup chopped green onion
1-2 cups steamed veggies, cut into bite-size pieces (I like snow peas, broccoli, and carrots)

Instructions

Spread sesame seeds in a dry pan and toast on low heat until fragrant. Be careful not to let them burn.

Cook pasta as directed on package and drain.

Whisk together oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, ginger, and pepper together and pour over pasta. Mix in chicken, green onion, and veggies. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

This pasta salad is good hot or at room temperature. If you can give it a little time to marinate, it’s even better, as the pasta soaks up more of the dressing.