Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Day 181 - 08/20/2007

I started dealing with Inova Rehabilitation Services for the second time regarding my knee rehab today. Of course, I did not get through to a live being, but a voice mail promising they'd get back to me within 24 hours. Yeah right, they said that last time and it took almost a week to get a live person (and that wasn't because they called me back, but because I got the secret number). I'm glad I kept that secret number (703.279.4376) because now I'll use it to bypass the voice messaging system if they don't call me back today. Or maybe I'll just drive down to 9900 Main Street in Fairfax and give them what-for personally. I wonder why they call it customer service when they do anything but serve the customer?!?

On a completely unrelated subject, I made lasagna for dinner tonight. We had D's relatives from Illinois up for dinner and I wanted to do something simple. Well, simple in that it's a one-dish meal. Anyway, here's the recipe (perfected over eight years of trial and error).

Matt's Lasagna


Meat/Tomato Sauce

1# Spicy Italian sausage (bulk)*

1# Mild or Medium Italian sausage (bulk)*

*If bulk sausage isn’t available, remove the casing from the link and coarsely chop the sausage before cooking it. You may use whichever flavor suits your palate, but two pounds of sausage is recommended. Fake sausage doesn't impart the flavor that the real stuff does. Consider yourself forewarned!

32 oz. Spaghetti sauce (your choice)

28 oz. canned whole Italian tomatoes (coarsely chopped, liquid drained and reserved)

14 oz. Del Monte Italian Seasoned crushed tomatoes

2 tsp. Fennel

2 tsp. Crushed red pepper (more or less, depending on personal taste)

2 tsp. Rosemary

1 tsp. Thyme

1 tbsp. Oregano

1 tsp. Sage

1 tsp. McCormick Italian Seasoning (or equivalent)
1# Portobello mushrooms, coarsely chopped (I think these absorb the flavors best)
1 can tomato paste (optional)

Cheese Layer

2# Ricotta Cheese (low-fat doesn’t work as well as regular)

1# shredded Mozzarella Cheese (add more if you want it “cheesier” – I’ll typically use a pound)

½ bunch of parsley, finely chopped (remove the stems prior to chopping)

2 eggs


1# lasagna noodles (regular – NOT the “No-boil” kind)


Brown the sausage with 1 tsp. fennel and 1 tsp. crushed red pepper. Make sure the sausage is broken up into pea-sized or smaller pieces. While browning the sausage, add the rest of the ingredients (except for the tomato paste) to a large pot and bring to a simmer. Drain off the excess grease from the sausage and it to the tomato sauce.

Simmer over low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. If the sauce gets too thick while simmering, add some of the reserved tomato juice. If the sauce looks too watery after 45 minutes or so, add a bit of tomato paste to thicken it up and keep simmering. You want to reach a thin tomato soup consistency. You don’t want it too thick, however, since the extra liquid in the sauce is the key to “cooking” the noodles while sitting overnight.

While the meat and tomato sauce is simmering, make the cheese layer by combining all the ingredients and mixing well.

Once the sauce is done cooking, it’s time to build the lasagna. Arrange one layer of noodles to the bottom of a 13”x9” pan. Add a layer of meat sauce and then a layer of cheese sauce. Repeat the process until you run out of ingredients or reach the top of the pan. When you reach the top of the pan, any noodles that may be visible MUST be covered with the meat and cheese. If they’re not covered, they’ll dry out while cooking. You’ll probably have leftover noodles: Save them for the next time you make lasagna.

Cover the lasagna with foil and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

You may also freeze the lasagna. If so, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and then cover it with foil. (Don’t forget to remove the plastic wrap prior to cooking or you’ll have unknown results.) Completely thaw it prior to cooking.

To finish it, preheat the oven to 400˚, cook the lasagna for 45 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350˚ and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the center is nice and hot (probably around 160˚ - 175˚). For easier serving, let it sit a few minutes before cutting it.

There you have it. Enjoy!

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