Monday, January 26, 2015

A lasagna for sunny noons and rainy nights

The last time I made a lasagna, I didn't know that lasagna sheets needed to be cooked, like they say al dente, in hot salted water! I put them right in to the oven along with the chicken and what-nots, and what emerged after 20 minutes was, to say the least, not very desirable. So, this time around, I was somewhat apprehensive because it was for the Sunday afternoon shenanigan and friends were coming over. But the box of lasagna sheets had been sitting in my pantry long enough, and the long inviting weekend, thanks to the Indian national day, seemed to be the perfect opportunity to finally layer it up. Thankfully my guest, R, has gradually evolved in to an adventurous non-vegetarian, a far cry from her veg-food-only days when I first  met her in college. After confirming that she does enjoy the occasional sausage/salami/ham, I got down to work. Italian food seems to be the new Chinese in the capital! In the nineties, there were Chinese restaurants everywhere. If you wanted to go out for dinner, Chinese was it. Nowadays, folks have evolved from enjoying Indianized Chinese food to authentic Asian food. But, pastas have taken the place of the chowmein. They are being whipped out at every nook-and-cranny takeaway promising authentic Italian food in the capital, wedding menus must have the 'live' red/white sauce pasta counter today, and of course ready-to-eat packaged pasta is now available at the neighbourhood grocery stores. Maggi Masala almost gave way to Maggie Pazzta! I mean, seriously, how difficult could it be! When I was in Italy, I never ventured to try Italian food at even the so-called bistros because when you convert the Euro into the Rupee, everything is way too expensive, and especially when you are in the continent for a six-week long trip! Instead, I soaked in Venice, Florence, and Rome walking the cobbled streets, enjoying the grand old structures, visiting the occasional museum, but prudently heading to the nearest supermarket for my meals. But that's another story, for another day.

Here is what you need:


1 broccoli head, small to medium size
2 bell peppers, red and yellow
4-5 smoked sausages 
100 gm ham
200 gm lasagna sheets
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, grated 
Olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Tomato sauce:

   3 ripe tomatoes, large size
   1 onion, small, sliced
   4-5 pods garlic, sliced
   1 tbsp tomato ketchup
   1 large pinch baking soda
   1/2 tsp basil
Right out of the oven
   100 ml white wine

Mushroom cream sauce:

   200 gm mushroom, sliced
   50 gm butter
   1 cup milk
   60 gm cheddar cheese
   1 tbsp cornflour
   2 tbsp thick cream
   1 tbsp olive oil
   1/2 tsp parsley
   1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

How to:

  • Chop up the broccoli into small pieces, about an inch or so. Then, de-seed the bell peppers and cut them into chunks. Slice the sausage into 1 cm thick pieces. Now place all these in a baking tray, with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Season well and toss them in olive oil. Preheat your oven to 200 °C, and bake for about 20 minutes. The broccoli should be slightly crunchy but cooked through and the sausages done.
  • While the oven is at work, you can prepare the tomato sauce. I prefer to skin my tomatoes before adding them to the sauce. To do this, insert a fork in the tomato and hold it over the gas stove, turning it from time to time. For the skin to burn and blacken, it takes about a minute for each tomato. The skin will peel off easily. Once the peel is out of the way, roughly slice up the tomatoes and put a pan to heat.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the sliced tomatoes and garlic in olive oil and saute till soft. Now turn up the heat and add the tomato ketchup. After frying this for a minute, pour in the white wine. Once the alcohol from the wine has evaporated, throw into your sliced tomatoes. A trick I learnt while making pizza sauce, which is very similar to this tomato sauce, is to add a pinch or two of baking soda to the pan as the tomatoes are getting cooked. This cuts through the acidity of the tomatoes and ensures that the sauce is not too sauce. I found this tip very helpful because a sour base sauce can mean definite ruin of an otherwise heavenly pizza!
  • Add the parsley and salt and allow the tomato sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes. I prefer to keep the lid on at this time otherwise the sauce tends to thicken too much. Then, turn off the heat.
  • In a dry hot pan, add about two tablespoons of butter. Throw in the mushrooms and fry till browned at the edges. Keep aside.
  • In a bowl, mix the cornflour with a tablespoon of cold milk. (There should be no lumps at all!) Add this to the remaining cup of milk and mix well. In the same pan that was used to fry the mushrooms, add the milk and cornflour mixture. Turn up the heat slightly and keep stirring. After a minute, add the rest of the butter, dried parsley and sir in the cream. You might want to take the pan off the heat before adding the cream; else, stir well after adding cream. If you like to make the sauce richer, you can add grated cheddar cheese. Keep stirring the sauce till cheddar melts away. Now add the mushroom and give it all one good stir.
  • Once both sauces and the roasted vegetables are ready, heat a large sauce of water with about a teaspoon of salt. Once the water boils over, throw in the lasagna sheets. It took me about 5-7 minutes for the pasta to get cooked just right. As I learnt, al dente is the way to go! This means cooking the pasta till its cooked through but still nice and firm when bitten.   
  • Now that all the elements of the lasagna are (finally!) ready, it is time to layer up! In a baking dish (I used a 6 x 10 inch ceramic dish). Layer up the sliced ham at the bottom, after which add a layer of the roasted veggies and sausages. Then spoon a layer of the tomato sauce, followed by one layer of lasagna sheets, topped with some mushroom sauce. Keep layering and top it with a thick layer of the mushroom sauce on top. Finally sprinkle the grated mozzarella and Italian seasoning. I omitted this step, the essential mozzarella (sigh), probably not ideal but Countess Calorie raised her ugly head... and there is really no arguing with her!
  • Bake the lasagna in a preheated oven at 180 °C for 0 minutes or till the cheese turns to a delicious golden colour. Yum! Yum! Yum! 

All plated up



  1. When you are struck by Vanderlust, you have to compromise on Vaanderful food...unless it is company paid.

  2. Lol! I completely agree with you there! I was reminded last night about the fellow at the eatery at Florence who was so caught up in football!

  3. SK GHOSH ( 27, 2015 at 3:51 PM

    Rimi could be the Sanjeeb Kappor in the next episode off "Rannaghar".............perhaps one day she can compile these write-ups in a book............. I somehow kept myself away from Italian food. Back ( way back) in 1973/74 when my Air India flight to Paris made me first travel to Mumbai, overnight stay in The Oberoi and the the giant 747 Mumbai-Beirut-Rome with yet another stay overnight in Rome ( this time a very simple B&B). I was offered some spaghetti or pasta and I still remember the smell of the overdose of cheese and OMG just slept off without dinner. Since then I do have some psychological issue with Italian food. But recently in Paris and in India I did like the 4 course Italian meal ( anti-pasti et al..)food which was very close to French style.....................

    Enfin again very nicely written


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