Saturday, October 9, 2010

Best Lasagna and Minestrone Soup

Fall is my favorite time of year and the time for one of my favorite things to make: SOUP! When I was a child, I always asked my mom for some "minestone" soup in the can. She laughed at me and I never understood what was so funny about it until I got older and realized I was leaving out a few letters. This version is much better than the canned kind with bigger chunks of vegetables, a rich tomatoey (word?) broth, and two kinds of beans. You can use different kinds of beans if you choose, but I like kidney beans and garbanzos. Also, if you want to make this completely vegetarian, you can use vegetable broth and leave out the bacon (use olive oil instead to saute the veggies). The best way to serve this soup is with a few splashes of red wine vinegar and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese in each bowl of soup.

Minestrone Soup

4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 slices of bacon, diced
1 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 cups coarsely chopped spinach (fresh or frozen)
1 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper
1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes

1 (15-oz) can dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked small pasta shells
Red wine vinegar, Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large dutch oven over medium heat, saute bacon in the olive oil until it is crispy and the fat is rendered, remove with a slotted spoon to drain on a paper towel. Add carrot, onion, celery, zucchini, and garlic to pot and cook for 5-6 minutes until the veggies begin to cook down. Add in herbs and stir. Add crushed tomatoes, broth, and both cans of beans. Salt and pepper to taste (add a little at a time during cooking process so it will not be over/underseasoned.) Allow soup to come up to a bubble and then cover and turn heat to low. Cook for about 45 minutes-1 hour on low (the longer it cooks the better, just don't cook too long so that the veggies turn to mush). When getting close to serving, add in the cooked pasta to the soup. Spoon into serving bowls and top with a splash of red wine vinger and parmesan cheese.

*If you are not going to serve all of the soup and are saving leftovers, I would recommend adding a small amount of the pasta to the serving bowls and ladeling soup over the noodles. You can store the rest of the cooked noodles tossed with a little olive oil in a tupperware container and add them to servings as you warm them up. This way, the noodles don't get mushy sitting in the soup in the fridge*

Lasagna was never something that we had a lot when I was growing up, we always just got the frozen kind if we ever ate it. A few years ago, someone asked my mom to make some for an event at church and she found this wonderful recipe that was literally titled "World's Best Lasagna". It is so worth the extra effort to make it from scratch. Also, another thing that can make this lasagna even better is to buy fresh mozzarella and slice it to put on top before baking.

World's Best Lasagna

1 pound sweet or hot italian sausage (my husband and I like the hot, but if you don't like a lot of spice go for the sweet)
3/4 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup minced onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
2 (6.5 oz) cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsely
12 lasagna noodles, cooked
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook sausage, ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat until well browned, drain. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, and water. Season with sugar, basil, fennel seeds, Italian seasoning, 1/2 tablespoon salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley. Simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To assemble, spread 1 1/2 cups meat sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish. Arrange 4 noodles lengthwise over meat sauce, top with 1/2 of ricotta mixture, then top with 1/3 of mozzarella slices and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Repeat layers 2 more times, but on the last set of layers instead of topping the ricotta mixture with the mozzarella, add an additional layer of meat sauce and then add the mozzarella and parmesan to the top of the lasagna. Cover the lasagna with foil (spray with cooking spray so cheese won't stick to it) and bake for 25 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 25 minutes.

1 comment:

  1. This is so neat! I found this recipe a year or two ago online labeled "Traditional Lasagna", but I agree that it is the world's best. Sooo good, and totally worth the extra effort! The only thing I change is the fennel seeds. I'm not a fan. :-)