Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day 8: Italian Night

Quick! What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think, “Italian?”


Meatballs (which always reminds me of the Wedding Singer with Adam Sandler).

Al Dente (i.e. undercooked) noodles.

The Tower of Pisa (otherwise known as home to the worlds most original “look ma, I’m holdin’ up the tower of pizza!” photograph).

Shoes (of which I own, not one pair. I mean, yes, I own shoes... I may live in Missouri, but we DO wear shoes… just none of them are of Italian descent).

Maybe you picture the beautiful, dark haired, smouldering eyed men and women of the country (of which I have absolutely NO relation to, evident by my neon white skin, mousy brown hair, and close set eyes).

Or like me, your mind went first, to pumpkin.

Uh-huh. That’s right. I got in touch with my inner-Italian and made myself some Pumpkin Lasagna. Now strap on your apron, crank up Andrea Bocelli, and start crushing some tomatoes… cause we gots to make'a some'a da lasagna!

(Yes, I’m ooooozing sarcasm. In no way, am I assuming that all Italians look beautiful, talk like sitcom New Yorkers, or listen to the Victoria Secret soundtrack .)

Now seriously, strap on that apron… I’m wearing a white t-shirt, that looks like it was in a bar fight, ‘cause I didn’t take my own advice…

What you’ll need:

1 Cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Medium onion, chopped
4 to 6 Cloves garlic, sliced (I used minced)
1 Pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (I used ground turkey sausage)
1/2 Cup red wine
1 28-ounce Can tomato sauce (I didn't have any in the house, so I combined a can of tomato paste and a can of diced tomatoes and threw it in a blender.)
1/4 Cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 Cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 Teaspoon dried oregano
Ground pepper
1 16-ounce Box lasagna noodles
1 Large egg
2 1/2 Cups ricotta cheese
2 Cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 Cup shredded romano cheese
1 Large zucchini, very thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 2 more minutes. Add the sausage/turkey and cook until brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Pour in the wine and cook until reduced by half. Throw back the rest of the bottle and see if you care what comes next. Stir in the tomato sauce and herbs and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Since I'm on this health kick, I used whole wheat noodles. Add the lasagna noodles and cook as the label directs. Drain and toss with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.

Mix the pumpkin puree with the egg in a bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella and the romano. By now, after a bottle of wine, you may just want to sit down to a nice big bowl of cheese. Don't worry, no judgement here.

Build your lasagna in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish: Start with a layer of sauce, then top with a layer of noodles. Evenly spread half of the pumpkin filling, then half of the zucchini, over the noodles. Top with half of the cheese mixture and cover with some of the sauce. Repeat the layers, finishing with noodles and sauce; sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Bake, uncovered, 35 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly. Let cool 15 minutes before slicing.

This was my first hand-made lasagna. And to be honest, I was a little leery... I'm one of those people who actually likes the "28 pounds of meat and cheese we call lasagna" that you can get at Sam's for $9.89. So starting with a lasagna made of pumpkin gave me pause, but....

That thing was GOOOOOOOOOOD! Definitely an A from both the hubby and me...the sweetness of the pumpkin plays off of the spice in the turkey sausage, so that you forget that there's pumpkin in it. A delightful dish from Robert Irvine of the Food Network. Apparently, they know what they're doing over there! Yum!

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