Sunday, September 28, 2014

Lasagna for 50+ (Lasaña para 50+)

Sorry for the delay in getting this posted.  I know some of you have been waiting.  I actually had it all entered, including photos, saved and published it, but then the blog wasn't showing the post.  I went back to edit it, and only the introduction had saved.  I don't know what happened, but I AM rather new to this blogging thing.  So here we go again...  :-)

I forgot to take a picture until AFTER everyone had been served.  Oops!

A group of friends and I have been asked to make enough lasagna for 50+ people.  Yes, I'm a little nervous.  And, since I am the only foreigner in the group, they're all looking to me to put together the ingredient list and recipe.  Soooooo...  After researching recipes for vegetable lasagna, I've put together the following recipe:

4 disposable aluminum pans (*see notes below)

8 250-gram (9 oz.) boxes of regular lasagna noodles

For the sauce:
5 500-gram (16 oz.) jars of tomato sauce,
4 500-gram (16 oz.) jars of tomato paste mixed with enough water for a good pasta sauce consistency

2-3 Tbsp olive oil
8 large white onions, diced small
2 whole bulbs of garlic, cloves separated, peeled and crushed
4 pounds crimini or white mushrooms, washed and roughly chopped
4 large or 8 small zucchini, sliced
2-4 Tbsp ground basil, or to taste
2-3 Tbsp dried oregano, or to taste
2 Tbsp ground garlic
1 tsp dried red pepper, or to taste
Salt and black pepper, to taste

For the Filling:
9 pounds (4 kilos) ricotta cheese (the one here has the consistency of dry feta cheese, so I needed to add about 3-4 cups milk to approximate the creaminess of whipped ricotta)
12 eggs (if you are using whipped ricotta, you may only need 6 eggs)
8 pounds (3.5 kilos) mozzarella cheese shredded or thinly sliced
3 cups Parmesan cheese, finely shredded

1.  Prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions.  When al dente, drain and then add some cold water.  This will help to keep the pasta from sticking together.

2.  While the paste is cooking, prepare the sauce.  Put olive oil in one huge pot or two large ones.  When hot, add the onions and cook until translucent, stirring frequently.

3.  Add the mushrooms to the sauce pot and cook until they start releasing their liquid.  Then add the zucchini and cook until they are starting to soften.

4.  Add the crushed garlic and cook until fragrant.  Then add the spices and tomato sauce, OR tomato paste with enough liquid to thin out to the consistency of a good pasta sauce.

5.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes for the flavors to meld.

6.  Preheat the over to 350*F.

7.  Mix the ricotta, milk (only if needed - see note above) and eggs together until well combined.

8.  Now we are going to put the lasagna together:

9.  Ladle about 1 1/2 cups of sauce on the bottom of each pan

10.  Place one layer of noodles over the sauce.

11.  Spoon 1/3 of ricotta mixture over the noodles and spread out evenly.

12.  Sprinkle or place 1/3 of mozzarella cheese over the ricotta layer.

13.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese over the mozzarella.

14.  Ladle 1 1/2 - 2 cups of the sauce over the cheese layers.

15.  Now repeat steps 10-14 two more times, ending with the sauce layer.

16.  Sprinkle the last of the parmesan cheese over the whole thing.

17.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes.

18.  To make sure that the lasagna is hot all the way through, pierce the foil and lasagna with a knife, wait a few seconds and pull it out.  Then feel the knife with your fingers.  If it's hot, it's cooked through.  You can look to see if the top is golden brown.  If it needs a few more minutes, you may remove the foil and bake for another 5-15 minutes.

We served the lasagna with garlic bread (made with butter, crushed garlic and parsley), and a warm veggie salad that someone else in our group made (so I don't have the recipe).

Notes:  We baked all four lasagnas in a large, very unevenly heated oven, so we rotated them about half-way through.  We also found that the aluminum pans were too flimsy with the weight of the lasagna, so ended up adding another aluminum pan under each loaded up pan.  This gave us a little more strength for the moving the lasagna, since they needed to then travel across town in the back of our SUV.  If you do this, please remember to put old towels down first, and then cover the pans with more old towels to keep them warm.

Here's our serving crew.  Several also made parts of the meal.

We were delighted with the results.  Another foreigner told me that this was the best vegetarian lasagna he's had his whole life!  I'm keeping in mind that he and his wife have been in South America for 2 years, so probably haven't had much Italian food, but it was still a nice compliment.  :-)

If you make this, please let me know how it turns out.  Buen provecho!

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