It's a baked lasagna dinner party, complete with garlic rolls and a broccoli arugula salad!Jump to recipe
I don’t make it very often, but I’m obsessed with lasagna. It’s cheesy, it’s saucy, it’s full of noodles, and it’s basically one of my all time favorite foods ever because baked pasta over unbaked pasta any day. I’ve been having lasagna thoughts for a while now. While we were in Tokyo, I kept dreaming about it. Not literally, at night while I was sleeping, but while we were stuffing our faces with all things Japanese and delicious, my mind kept wandering back to those delicious layers of lasagna.
And then it came to me, in a blaze of glory and cheese: we should have a lasagna-off. An all out, no holds barred, lasagna knockout with EIGHT kinds of homemade lasagna. I excitedly told Mike about it and he was in! After some lengthy discussions, I realized that eight lasagnas going head-to-head is actually like, four separate head-to-head competitions where the winners then go up against the other winners, and then on and on until there is only one lasagna standing. This really appealed to me because a.) It seemed scientific, and b.) There would be one lasagna to rule them all.
I loved the idea of a a scientific kind of determination of the best lasagna, a division/conference kind of thing where 8 lasagnas went head-to-head, down to four, down to two, with one ultimate winner. But, because I have no idea how sports play-offs work, Mike and I had to have many, many conversations about how to pull off this lasagna-off, off.
Me, excitedly: So everyone will rank the lasagnas, from 1st place to last, right?
Mike: Uh, that’s not how bracket competitions work.
Me: Bracket competitions?
Mike: Each person faces off in a head-to-head battle and then all the winners go up against each other in the next round.
Me: But what if it’s an unfair lasagna battle? Like, the two best lasagnas out of the eight faced against each other in the first round and then one of the lasagnas lost and didn’t get a chance to go on in the competition?
Mike: It’s doesn’t matter because the best lasagna can beat any other lasagna.
To be honest, it didn’t make sense to me, so Mike drew me a diagram. And when I asked again about how if the two best lasagnas faced head-to-head in the first round, and one lost, Mike patiently explained that the best lasagna would win, whether it was in the first round, or the second, or the third. (By the way, while I was writing this out, I got confused again, but apparently this is how bracket competitions work, so…) It still seems kind of unfair to me because what if the first lasagna that lost got better as time went on and, like, could have beat out the other first lasagna in a later round, but, okay, this is science and I can’t argue with science.
The more we talked about it the more excited I got. I kept talking about it like I was going to make eight lasagnas right away when we go home. But yeah, real life happened and on the Thursday before we were going to do our epic lasagna-off, when Mike asked if we had eight lasagnas ready to go, I said, uh….no?
So, instead of eight lasagnas, we ended up making just one. But, the lasagna-off will happen, if only because I’ve promised my stomach eight homemade lasagnas at once and I don’t like to break promises to my tummy. The one lasagna we did end up making was a pretty fun endeavor and a fun little preview into my lasagna making future. We went with a Mario Batali recipe – I made the sauces, Mike made the noodles, and I got to do the fun part, layering everything together. We made everything the night before, while Chef’s Table played on the TV in the background. It was my favorite kind of Friday night: lots of delicious smells and Mike and I getting cozy in the kitchen.
To be honest, I love having dinner parties where all the prep is done before. Lasagna is a great dish to make because it doesn’t really suffer if it has an overnight chill in the fridge. To go with the lasagna, I made a hearty grilled broccoli and arugula salad and some garlic rolls. I prepped the broccoli and salad dressing the night before, as well as kneaded and proofed the buns. When people arrived, I popped the lasagna buns in the oven, finished off the salad and we ate!
Saturday ended up being the most chill gathering we’ve had in a while because all we did was eat and then laze around our kotatsu and play cards and Heads Up Ellen game. It was chill vibes all the way :)
The lasagna was excellent by the way. Now I’m even more excited for the lasagna-off. May the odds be ever in the lasagna favor!
PS – Do you have any favorite lasagna recipe contenders?!
Mario Batali Lasagna Bolognese al forno Recipe
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 stick celery, finely diced
- 1 clove garlic, sliced
- 1 pound ground veal
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1/4 pound pancetta, chopped
- 1/2 tube tomato paste
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup dry white wine
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Spinach Lasagna Noodles:
- 4 large eggs
- 6 ounces frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
- 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for dusting the work surface
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons flour
- 3 cups milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 8 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating
slightly adapted from Mario Batali
Heat up the olive oil and butter over medium heat in large, heavy bottomed pot. Stir in the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook over medium heat until soft and translucent, but not brown, 10-15 minutes.
Add the meats and cook over high heat, until browned, stirring to break up. (Here I recommend scooping out the vegetables before browning the meat so you can really sear your meat, but the original recipe didn’t call for it. If I made this again, I’d definitely cook the meat separately from the vegetables even though it’s technically an unnecessary step). Deglaze with the wine and then add the milk and tomato paste.
Simmer over medium-low for 1 to 1.5 hours. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and then remove from the heat.
While the sauce is cooking, make the noodles. Puree up the spinach in a blender, then use a cheese cloth to squeeze out the excess liquid. Weigh out 6 ounces and place in a small bowl. Whisk in the eggs and oil.
In the center of a large wooden cutting board, mound 3.5 cups of flour. Make a well in the center and add the egg and spinach mixture. Use a fork to beat the spinach mixture, slowly incorporating the flour from the rim of the well until the dough comes together. Knead until the dough comes together and knead for 6 minutes. The dough should be elastic and slightly sticky. Wrap in plastic and rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Divide the dough into 3 portions and roll out to the thinnest setting using a pasta rolling machine, flouring if needed.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and generously salt. Set up an ice bath next to the pot. Cut the pasta into squares and drop into the water and cook for 1 minute. Drain well and pop into the ice bath. Drain (I used paper towels) and set aside.
Make the besciamella: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add in the flour and stir until smooth. Cook, stirring, until light golden brown, 6-7 minutes. Add the milk, 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until smooth. Bring a gentle simmer while stirring, about 8-10 minutes. The sauce will thicken up. Season with salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
Assemble: Heat the oven to 375°F. In a pan, layer in the following order: ragu, grated parmigiano, pasta, besciamella. Repeat until all the noodles and sauce are done. End on pasta topped with besciamella and parmigiano. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until the edges are brown and sauce is bubbly. Remove and cool for 10 minutes until slicing.
Grilled Broccoli and Arugula Salad
- 1 head of broccoli, trimmed into florets
- kosher salt
- 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
- 4-6 cups loosely packed arugula & baby spinach leaves
- sliced almonds, to finish
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons buttermilk
- juice from 1/2 a lemon
- 1 tablespoon stone ground dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup loosely packed dill
- 1 small handful chives (around 12)
- 1 oil-packed anchovy fillet
- 1 garlic clove
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
inspired by Bon Appetit
Notes: For the ease of the dinner party, I blanched the broccoli the night before, dried it and kept it in the fridge overnight in a covered container. I also made the dressing the night before. I assembled right before we ate – it was just a question of searing the broccoli while the buns and lasagna were in the oven.
Bring a large pot of water up to a boil over high heat. Salt generously. Cook the broccoli until bright green, 1-2 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Let cool completely then drain and pat dry.
Make the dressing: in a bender, puree the dressing ingredients until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Assemble the salad: Heat up 1.5 tablespoons of oil in frying pan over medium high-heat and pan fry, turning occasionally, until charred in spots, 5-7 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool.
On a platter, arrange a bed of arugula and baby spinach. Top with the grilled broccoli and drizzle on the dressing. Top with almonds and enjoy!
Mini Pull Apart Garlic Bread
makes 18 rolls
- 225 ml water, warm
- 3.5 g yeast
- 400 g bread flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 bulb of garlic
- 1/2 cup room temperature butter
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- flaky sea salt
slightly adapted from Jamie Oliver
In a liquid measuring cup, sprinkle the yeast onto the water and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the flour and salt. Pour the yeasty water into the centre and stir to combine.
Knead with the dough hook on low for 10 minutes, until smooth, elastic and springy. Place in a clean bowl, covered with plastic wrap and let proof in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
In the meantime, make the butter. Crush the garlic and mix with the butter, lemon zest, chives, and cayenne.
When the dough is proofed, use a bit of the garlic butter to lightly butter an oven safe tray or casserole dish. Divide the dough into 18 equal portions and shape into balls. Place into the tray and then dot the balls with butter, reserving about half for later. At this point, you can cover the tray with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight if you’re serving the buns the next day.
If serving today, cover and let the buns proof for another hour and a half or until doubled again.
If baking the next day, be sure to take the buns out of the fridge for 1 hour to come to room temperature.
Heat the oven 375°F. Brush the buns with some of the remaining butter and sprinkle with salt. Bake, on the bottom shelf of the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Brush the buns with any remaining butter and enjoy!