Friday, November 2, 2012

Children's Hospital Lasagna Throwdown

Last week there was a throwdown in the ER of Children's Hospital in St. Paul.  No, there wasn't a fight, but rather a lasagna competition among some of the staff.  Each of the three competitor's were very different.  My mom's was more of a classic lasagna, maybe what you would recognize as a Midwestern lasagna night dinner.  Another was a traditional Italian version with a bechamel sauce.  Suzanne Palmquist's was my second choice only because it didn't set properly; if it had, it would have given my mom a run for her money. Third place was Kathy Quinn's unique twist on lasagna with shredded pork.  This one missed the mark a bit, as it had a traditional tomato sauce and cheeses.  I think maybe a twist of BBQ flavor would have sent this to the top as a contender.

The champion by a blind taste test of administrators and myself was the red toothpick, my mom's recipe.  The people's choice was Kathy's pulled pork!  Congrats to all, as everyone who donated $5 received a sample of each competitor's entry, Caesar salad, and garlic bread.  All the proceeds went to the sunshine fund, which sends cards and giftcards to staff out on extended medical leave.  Feels good and tastes good!

Here's my mom's recipe which is adapted from an old McCall's Cooking School Magazine


1 1/2 lbs mild Italian sausage
1/2 cup chopped onion (plus a bit more, mom eyeballs measurements)
2 cloves of garlic crushed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 can of crushed tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes- no added flavoring
2  (6 ounce) cans of tomato paste
1 tablespoon salt
12 lasagna noodles
1 container of ricotta cheese or 4% cottage cheese (mom uses cottage cheese, I use ricotta)
1 egg
 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lb mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
1 cup Parmesan cheese

Break-up the meat and  cook in a dutch oven with onion and garlic until browned, approximately 20 minutes, drain fat off.  Add sugar 1 tablespoon salt, basil, fennel, pepper and half of the parsley and mix well.  Add tomatoes  tomato paste, and a 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for 1 1/2 hours.  Cook noodles in large stockpot with salt until al dente.  Drain and rinse and dry off noodles.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl combine ricotta/cottage cheese,  egg, parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit salt if using cottage cheese as it is salty enough).

In a 9x13 inch baking dish, spoon 1 1/2 cups of sauce. Layer with 6 lasagna noodles to cover the pan. Spread half of the ricotta mixture over noodle, then top with 1/3 of the mozzarella  Spoon 1/2 cups sauce over cheese, sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Repeat layering with noodles, sauce, mozzarella, then Parmesan again.  Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 25 minutes uncovered, or until bubbly. Cool 15 minutes before serving.