Turkey Sausage Lasagna

When Brent and I lived in California I baked a lasagna that turned out to be a total fail. It was dry, lacked flavor, and the lasagna sheets burnt to a crisp around the edges. Although spaghetti will always be my favorite food, lasagna ranks second. I’ve always had to satisfy my cravings when eating out because I’ve been too intimidated to try making it at home after my first attempt. With a ten mile trail race to carbo-load for this weekend, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to face my fear, and bake a blog-worthy lasagna. This Ina Garten recipe has a beautiful blend of cheeses, and slight kick from the hot turkey sausage.

2 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 cup chopped Yellow Onion
2 Cloves Garlic minced
1 1/2 lb hot Italian turkey sausages casings removed
28-ounce can crushed Tomato in tomato puree
1 6-ounce can Tomato Paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh Flat-leaf parsley divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaf
Salt and Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes
10-12 Lasagna noodles
15 oz Ricotta
4 oz creamy Goat’s Cheese crumbled
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
1 extra large egg lightly beaten
1 lb fresh Mozzarella thinly sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up into pieces until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.
3. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hot tap water. Add the lasagna sheets and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.
4. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes . Set aside.
5. Transfer 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one third of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling. Serves 10.

Adapted from Ina Garten.

Black Rice Risotto

Black Rice, not to be confused with wild rice, was called forbidden rice in ancient China because legend had it only emperors were allowed to eat it. This makes me wonder if the Chinese emperors were selfishly trying to hide the health benefits of this grain. Black rice, often labeled as a superfood, is a whole grain and contains an antioxidant called anthocyanin. This antioxidant, also found in purple and reddish fruits such as blueberries and grapes, has been linked to the development of a stronger memory, decreased risk of cancer and heart disease. When cooked black rice is chewy in texture, has a nutty flavor and develops a beautiful purple color. Although this Ellie Krieger (registered dietitian and Food Network chef) dish is time consuming to prepare, it is delicious, nutritious and unique. Black rice can also be difficult to find, but it is worth the search. In Washington DC I’ve found it at Harris Teeter and Whole Foods.

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups black rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Bring the broth to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat; cover and keep warm. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Reduce the heat to medium low. Stir in the wine until the liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Ladle in 3/4 cup hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed, about 7 minutes. Repeat with the remaining broth, adding 3/4 cup at a time, until the rice is tender but somewhat chewy, about 50 minutes. Stir in 3/4 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Divide among bowls. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and the basil.