As I have mentioned before in this blog, very few things pair better than cheese and smoke. So, when I found my long lost FAVORITE lasagna recipe the other day there was no doubt what was about to take place. I took my lasagna recipe and added the twist of cherry SMOKE to it.
What to expect:
A full flavored traditional Italian lasagna, with a nice smoky background taste that will almost give you that wood fired Italian oven taste.
What you will need:
1 1/2 hours for cold smoking the cheese (this can be done up to 3 days in advance).
1 hour for smoking the Italian sausage (this also can be done up to 3 days in advance).
2 1/2 hours for making and cooking the lasagna (can be assembled 1 day in advance and refrigerated)
Oven at 350F or grill set up for indirect grilling running about 350F
Final cooking time 70-80 minutes.
3oz Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 pounds mozzarella cheese
6 ounces spicy Italian sausage
For the sauce:
1 Tbls olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
1 cup chopped onion
8 ounces lean ground beef
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
For the assembly of the lasagna:
15 lasagna noodles
2 15-ounce containers part-skim ricotta cheese
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, squeezed dry
2 large eggs
Begin by cold smoking your cheese.
Cold smoking cheese is rather easy. Simply use 1-3 lit chunks of charcoal, place a wood chunk on top of them. Place your cheese as far away from the “fire” as possible. Check about every 30 minutes adding charcoal or wood as necessary. Smoke the cheese for 1-2 hours. If you do this a few days ahead of time be sure to wrap the cheese tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator. Wrapping it in plastic wrap not only protects the cheese, but helps hold the smoke in.
Then fire up the grill and smoke your sausage. For this you can use the same technique as you for making a fatty. See my post on Time to make a fatty. omitting the rub. If you do this a few day in advance simply drop in a sandwich bag or wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
With the sausage and cheese smoked it’s time to begin making the lasagna.
To make the sauce.
Finely chop the sausage or place in a food processor and give a few pulses until it looks finely ground.
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic; sauté until softened, about 12 minutes.
Add beef to pan; sauté until cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 5 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients including the sausage. Cover and simmer until flavors blend and sauce measures about 5 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Cool.
For the lasagna.
Finely grate your smoke Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; cover with cold water.
Combine ricotta and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Mix in spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs.
Drain pasta and pat dry.
Spread 1/2 cup sauce over bottom of 13×9-inch glass baking dish.
Place 5 noodles over sauce, overlapping to fit.
Spread half of ricotta-spinach mixture evenly over noodles.
Sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella cheese evenly over ricotta-spinach mixture.
Spoon 1 1/2 cups sauce over cheese, spreading with spatula to cover (sauce will be thick).
Repeat layering with 5 noodles, remaining ricotta-spinach mixture, 2 cups mozzarella and 1 1/2 cups sauce.
Arrange remaining 5 noodles over sauce. Spread remaining sauce over noodles.
Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese evenly over lasagna.
Cover baking dish with aluminum foil.
Decision time: Bake it on the grill? Or in the oven? Either way you’re looking to bake it at 350F
Here it is finishing up on the grill.
*If you decide to use the grill, cook it indirect adding 10 coals per side after the first 40 minutes.
Bake lasagna 40 minutes; uncover and bake until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes.
Let lasagna stand 10 minutes before serving.
There ya go, a wonderful traditional Italian lasagna with a nice little BBQ twist. Try to keep a straight face when the neighbor ask “What ya grilling?” and you say “Lasagna.”