It's family reunion season, potluck season, feed-the-softball-league season -- in other words, time to learn how to feed a crowd. You can be a short-order cook and stand at the grill flipping burgers and dogs to the hungry hordes.
Or you can make a single dish that is big enough, substantial enough and delicious enough to feed an army.
I've never been good at the cooking-in-large-quantities thing, so I was thrilled when my friend Louie said he would show me how to make his famous lasagna.
This dish feeds 12 to 15 easily. It is so chock-full of veggies and cheeses that it is truly a one-pot meal. It can be assembled a day ahead, covered and refrigerated, and baked the next day.
And, lo and behold, it is way easier to make than I ever would have imagined. The only "fussy" part, really, was roasting the red bell peppers. Buying jars of roasted red bell peppers saves a lot of time. (The peppers sold as "fire-roasted" have a nice, smoky flavor.)
I normally try to be extremely precise when writing recipes, but Louie's lasagna is, by necessity, a departure. The ingredients list is specific; it's the "method" that's a bit fluid.
Louie says you can layer the ingredients any way you want, starting with a thin layer of sauce and ending with a thick layer of cheese. He assembles this dish differently every time he makes it, and it is always delicious. (One time, he says, he forgot the marinara sauce, but it was still tasty.) The lasagna is even more toothsome the second or third day.
Before you start, find a large, deep baking pan; we used a 15-by-10-inch roasting pan that was 5 inches deep. You can assemble this a day ahead of time and refrigerate it, covered, up to 24 hours; bring to room temperature before baking.
Louie calls his dish "2310 Lasagna" after the street number of his childhood home in Baltimore. I call it "legendary."
LOUIE'S LEGENDARY 2310 LASAGNA
Yield: 12 to 15 servings
2 pounds freshly grated whole-milk mozzarella (8 cups)
1 pound freshly grated fontina cheese (4 cups)
2 pounds roasted, jarred red peppers, or 8 to 10 fresh red bell peppers, roasted and blackened skins and seeds removed
2 pounds marinated artichoke hearts, drained
48 ounces marinara sauce, store-bought or homemade (6 cups)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds no-cook lasagna noodles
2 pounds whole-milk ricotta cheese (4 cups)
1 1/2 pounds baby spinach
10 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese (2 1/2 cups)
Position a rack in the oven so that a deep roasting pan can be placed as close to the center of the oven as possible. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together grated mozzarella and fontina in a large bowl. Set aside. Drain roasted peppers of any liquid and lightly pat them dry with a paper towel. Set aside. With the broad side of a chef's knife, lightly flatten the artichoke hearts. Set aside.
Spread a thin layer of marinara sauce (about 1 1/4 cups) in the pan. Top with a layer of noodles, breaking up some noodles if you have to and laying the pieces so that the noodle layer covers the sauce.
Spread a thin layer of ricotta (about 1 cup) over the noodles and top with a layer of spinach (about 6 ounces). Spread a thick layer of the mozzarella mixture (about 3 cups) over the top.
Add a layer of noodles, more sauce (1 1/4 cups), a thin layer of ricotta (1 cup) and a light covering of parmesan (3/4 cup). Layer half of the artichoke hearts (1 pound) over the parmesan.
Top with a layer of the mozzarella mixture (3 cups). Layer with half the roasted peppers, tearing them in half if necessary to spread them around for better coverage.
Add another layer of noodles, sauce (1 1/4 cups), ricotta (1 cup), spinach (6 ounces) and parmesan (3/4 cup).
Add another layer of noodles, sauce (1 1/4 cups), ricotta (1 cup), the remaining peppers (1 pound), mozzarella mixture (3 cups), spinach (6 ounces) and artichokes (1 pound).
Add the final layer of noodles, remaining sauce (about 1 cup), spinach (6 ounces), mozzarella mix (3 cups) and parmesan (1 cup).
Bake at least an hour, or until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown around the edges. The lasagna will look quite soupy. Remove it from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let it sit about 20 minutes -- all of the ingredients will come together. Serve.
Recipe courtesy of Louie Berney, Baltimore, Md.
(c) COPYRIGHT 2012 MARIALISA CALTA
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