Last month, I was so busy with KwanzaaCulinarians.com, I barely noticed PBS Food recognized MyLifeRunsOnFood.com as one of the top 10 food blogs of 2012. It was a brief ‘WOW’ moment, then I was back to work. Then, the congratulatory emails came forward. They were returned with humbled thank you’s. Then, I went back to work. A few days later, my food world friend, Nicole, host of the online radio show, Hot Grease, made a striking comment, “[Non-ethnic] media lists rarely mentioned food bloggers of color. And, you’re listed with a few well-known food bloggers.” Oh. Double. Wow. She caught my attention.
Being one of the many food bloggers of color listed in a major media list, I feel truly honored. When Courtney of Coco-Cooks.com emailed a congratulatory note, I told her, “Let’s hope more of us get recognized.” Ironically, her recipes are crazy creative, and she should have been listed as one of the best a long time ago. I could mention more food bloggers of color, but the list will fill a whole page (Visit DuoDishes.com’s Blogroll for recommendations). So, thank you, again, PBS Food for being one of the few non-ethnic media outlets to recognize a food blogger of color. I’m hoping to see more of my friends being recognized for their creativity in the kitchen. Also, in addition to cooking our favorite soul and Latin dishes, rely on us for other types of cuisines, too.
Which brings me to this soulful Italian-American dish: Lasagna. It’s a classic dish when correctly done, goes straight for anyone’s heart. This version is kept simple without hard to find ingredients (Well… extra time to shop around the city might be needed, but it’s worth the effort). What’s the difference? If you’re new to the food world, the difference is in the quality of the ingredients. It starts with freshly made egg pasta from an Italian store. It’s made with layers of artisan Brooklyn made mozzarella cheese. Whole milk ricotta cheese is mixed with fresh basil and a hint of nutmeg. The bolognese sauce is made with a mix of ground turkey breast and thigh meat, instead of traditional pork. Towards the end of its extremely slow cooking time, a touch of organic cream is added for a rich taste. In between the ricotta and bolognese sauce are fresh mushrooms and winter grown swiss chard. It’s an authentic Italian-American style dish.
Everyone has an impressive lasagna recipe in their files, some handwritten with food stains from their grandmothers. Others have committed the recipe to memory. These days, it’s saved in computer files, visually colored labeled under “favorites.” I remember my Dad’s version had hints of fennel seeds. Leave a comment below to share your secret technique or ingredient to making an excellent lasagna dish. For newbies making lasagna, begin with this one. Here’s a hint: The first layer is usually pasta and the second is a third of the bolognese sauce. Afterwards, the order of the layers as directed in the recipe below shouldn’t be precisely followed (make it your own!) and substitute ingredients with others, such as blanched winter squash and other types of winter greens. When I posted pictures of the lasagna on the Facebook page, one fan said he would love to try it without the mushrooms. If you have questions about substitutions, leave it in the comment section below.
What a way to start off New Year’s 2013 (Thank you, again PBS Food). And, welcome and hello to new visitors and fans. I’m looking forward to hearing how food runs your life.
Turkey Bolognese Sauce Lasagna with Ricotta Cheese, Swiss Chard and Mushrooms
- 6 to 10 sheets fresh pasta to fit a 9 x 13 inch baking dish*
- Warmed Turkey Bolognese Sauce (recipe below)
- Basil Ricotta Cheese (recipe below)
- 2 cups sliced bella mushrooms
- Swiss chard leaves; stems removed
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper; taste
- Olive oil; as needed
- 2 cups grated parmesan cheese
- 1 lb. mozzarella cheese (homemade from an Italian store), thinly sliced
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Place a foil lined baking sheet in the oven.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add 2 to 3 pasta sheets. When the pasta floats to the top, gently remove to a strainer. Run cold water over the pasta to stop them from cooking. Repeat with the other pasta sheets. Very gently toss pasta with olive oil. Set aside.
- To layer lasagna: Place one sheet of pasta on the bottom of the greased baking dish. Using spatula, smear the first-third of the Bolognese Sauce over the pasta. Sparingly add mozzarella slices over the sauce. Do not overlap. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Add a little sea salt and fresh black pepper. Add another layer of pasta over the meat sauce and mozzarella cheese. Smear first half the basil ricotta sauce over the pasta. Top with one cup of sliced mushrooms. Adjust seasoning. Add a little shredded parmesan cheese. Top with another layer of pasta. Spread the second-third of the meat sauce over the pasta. Sparingly add mozzarella slices. Lightly drizzle with olive oil. Add sea salt and fresh black pepper. Top with another layer of pasta. Smear second half of basil ricotta cheese over pasta. Add mushrooms. Again, add olive oil, sea salt, fresh black pepper and a little parmesan cheese. Top with pasta. Spread last third of the meat sauce. Top with second cup of mushroom slices. Season with sea salt and fresh black pepper. Top with pasta. Add the rest of the mozzarella cheese (this time it’s okay to overlap slices), the rest of the parmesan cheese, a generous drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle a little sea salt and fresh black pepper.
- The layers might pile up about a good inch above the rim of the baking dish because of the swiss chard. Don’t worry it will cook down.
- Place lasagna in the oven to bake for at least 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is bubbly. If the top becomes too dry, cover with foil.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
- Note: Purchase fresh pasta for lasagna from Italian stores. It’s usually large sheets fitting a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, but it occasionally needs to be trimmed to fit. If using dried pasta sized about 2 to 3 inches wide, cook al dente according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Turkey Mushroom Bolognese Sauce
- For the ingredients and recipe to the Turkey Bolognese Sauce, visit here.
- Exceptions to the recipe:
- Before step one: Boil chicken stock and pour over 10 oz. of dried mushrooms. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain chicken stock into a bowl. Roughly chop dehydrated mushrooms. Set both chicken stock and dehydrated mushrooms separately aside.
- After step one, add 2 cups of chopped fresh mushrooms and the dehydrated mushrooms. Adjust seasoning.
- In step two, add 1 cup of fresh, minced herbs (rosemary, marjoram/oregano, etc.), a few twigs of fresh thyme tied together with twine and a bay leaf with the chicken-mushroom stock.
- If making the Turkey Bolognese Sauce one day ahead, place in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat sauce before assembling the lasagna.
Basil Ricotta Cheese
- 12 to 16 oz. whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup minced, fresh basil
- ¼ tsp. nutmeg
- A pinch of crushed red pepper
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- Mix all ingredients together. Set aside.