No-Ricotta Lasagna

This is an evolution of an old family recipe for lasagna.  The key twist is that it skips the typical ricotta-based cheese mixture, and instead uses a bechamel sauce coupled with Fontina and Mozzarella cheeses. The result is a creamier lasagna with nice  sausage slices to add some zing.

This recipe makes 2 large pans of lasagna, enough for many people…

Red Sauce

  • 2 large yellow Onions, diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 2 T salt
  • 1 T cracked pepper
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 28 oz cans Crushed tomatoes (San Marzano)
  • 2 lbs Spicy Italian sausage (Turkey or pork)
  • Dried herbs – Oregano, Basil, Parsley

Brown the sausage, remove and drain, but leave bits on pan bottom.  Saute the onions and garlic in the same pan.  Add tomatoes and herbs, salt, pepper, and sugar.  When sausages have cooled, slice thinly and add to sauce.  Simmer to incorporate flavors for 2 hours or more.

Bechamel Sauce

  • 2 cups Butter
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 1-2 quarts lowfat Milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Make a light roux by melting butter then gradually adding in flour.  After whisking for a few minutes, begin adding milk, continuing to whisk until it is a consistent texture.  Add nutmeg at end to season.

Other components

  • 2 lbs Fontina cheese, grated
  • 1.5 lbs Mozzarella Cheese, grated
  • 2/3 lb Parmesagn-Reggiano, freshly grated
  • Good lasagna noodles – I prefer the square delverde no boil type

Assembly

Spray bottom and sides of pan with Pam to make cleanup easier.  Put a little sauce on bottom, then noodles, then red sauce, a little bechamel, and fontina and mozzarella cheeses. Repeat with noodles, red sauce, béchamel and cheese.  Continue to layer, finishing with cheeses on top.  Sprinkle a little bit of the grated parmesagn to finish.

Cover with aluminum foil sprayed with Pam to keep it from sticking.  It takes a good 45-60 minutes at 375 degrees.  Let sit 15 minutes before serving.

Sausage and Apple Turkey Stuffing

This is a modernized version of a classic turkey stuffing.  The sweetness of the caramelized apples coupled with spicy sausage is a nice combo, and goes great with turkey.  As far as serving goes, some people like to stuff it in the bird and bake, others prefer to just put it in a pan and cook separately — up to you.  This makes enough for 8 people, with leftovers.

  • 4 Apples, cubed
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 cup Bourbon (Jack works fine)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1.5 lbs Spicy Italian Sausage
  • 2 white onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 t Salt
  • 2 t Pepper
  • 1 loaf of stale French bread, cut into cubes
  • 4-6 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten

Caramelize the apples: Melt butter on low heat, then add apples. After 10 minutes add brown sugar and Bourbon. Continue to cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes, until caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook Sausage and vegetables: In a Dutch oven or large pan over medium heat, brown the sausage and break up with a wooden spoon as it is cooking, allowing juices to spill out. When sausage is thoroughly cooked, remove sausage and keep warm, but leave juices in pan. Add onions, garlic, and bell pepper to pan, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until wilted, about 6-8 minutes.

Add stock, bread and combine: Add chicken stock to pan, along with 2/3 of bread cubes, parsley and salt/pepper to taste, mix to absorb and simmer to reduce to a thick, almost gooey consistency, or whatever you like. Cut sausage into bite-size pieces and return to pan. Mix in egg. When stock is absorbed, remove from heat, and mix in apples and remaining bread cubes.

Bake: Place remaining stuffing in ovenproof pan to be baked for 30-45 minutes at 350.

Sausage Pizza with Arugula and Parmesagn

Spicy Sausage Pizza with “Salt and Pepper”

This is a great recipe for several reasons:
1. Homemade pizza is great, cheap, and can feed a crowd.
2. Anything with sausage is always good.
3. The peppery arugula and the sweet salty Parm-Regg make a great combo to begin with, but really comes into its own when you layer it on top of the sausage pizza.

Ingredients

  • Pizza dough – Make it yourself, or buy it from a grocery store, e.g. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, etc. I usually cut their dough into 3 separate pieces for smaller pies with thinner crusts.
  • Red pizza sauce – I like Trader Joe’s pizza sauce.
  • Shredded Fontina Cheese – I almost always use Fontina instead of shredded mozzarella
  • Spicy Italian Sausage, crumbled and cooked
  • Fresh baby arugula leaves
  • ¼ lb fresh Parmesagn-Reggiano – shaved or thinly sliced.

Directions

Heat a pizza stone to 550° for at least 30 minutes. If you don’t have a stone, use a durable cookie sheet, and get the oven to at least 400°.

Stretch out the pizza dough to your desired size and thickness.

Drizzle with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil, spread pizza sauce around to edges.

Top with the Fontina to your liking – don’t over do it on the cheese.

Spread sausage on top of cheese.

Cook on the stone or in the oven for 5-8 minutes, long enough to melt the cheese and brown the crust.

Remove the pie from the oven and top with arugula and shaved Parm-Regg. Slice and serve.

Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

There are a million gumbo recipes out there, but the key to making a good gumbo is to make a good roux, and then use good stock. It’s fun to make a big batch around lunchtime on a football Saturday or Sunday, and refill your bowl throughout the afternoon. The roux is a little time-intensive up-front, but it’s well worth the effort.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 c flour + 1.5 c Oil (for a roux)
  • 1 lb Okra, sliced and sautéed in a little butter on medium heat for 10 minutes
  • 2 white/yellow onions, diced
  • 2 bell peppers (mixed colors of your choice), diced
  • 2-3 quarts shrimp stock (preferred) or chicken stock
  • 1.5 lbs shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1.5 lbs chicken (optional) cubed
  • 1.5 lbs sliced cooked andouille sausagesalt/pepper to taste
  • Cajun Seasoning – as much as you want….I keep a batch of home-made Essence on hand
  • File powder (to taste – 2-4 tablespoons)
  • Sliced green onions and chopped parsley to garnish
  • Cooked white rice (I prefer sushi rice for this)


1. Make the Roux
Heat the oil to medium high, then stir in the flour. Keep the heat at medium high and stir constantly until it becomes a chocolatey brown color. Don’t let it get so hot that it sticks to the bottom of the pot – if that happens, you have to start over again.

2. Add the vegetables
Once the roux is a nice deep brown, add the chopped onions & peppers, and a good dash of Creole seasoning. Most traditional gumbo recipes call for chopped celery at this point, too, but I usually skip it. Stir in the veggies to coat with roux, and let cook 5 minutes or so. Enjoy the sound and smell!

3. Add the stock
Pour in 2+ quarts of stock and stir to incorporate. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium low. After 20 minutes or so, there should be some oil/fat that has risen to the top. Skim this off with a ladle.

4. Add the goodies
Now is when I like to add the sausage and okra. If you are going to use chicken as well, sauté it with some oil and Cajun seasoning. When it is cooked through, add it to the gumbo. Keep heat on low, and skim fat again after 20 minutes. At this point, you can reduce the heat to a minimum and keep it warm or go ahead and serve.

5. Cook shrimp and thicken
Add file powder and shrimp to the gumbo and stir. Increase heat to medium to just cook shrimp through, usually 5 minutes. You’ll want it to get a little thicker from the File Powder. Add more if necessary, but don’t over do it.

6. Serve
Put a scoop of rice in the middle of a large soup bowl. Ladle gumbo around the rice, including plenty of the good stuff. Sprinkle some green onions and parsley for garnish, along with more seasoning if you like. Pass around extra file powder, and hot sauce of your choice.