28 March 2012

Garfield's Meatball Lasagna

I don't remember when I discovered Garfield.  It must have been at my Grandma Leona's place, she always got the Sunday paper and I liked to read the 'funnies' while she read the sales ads (most for stores we didn't have in our tiny little town, strange now that I think about it) .  Garfield was far and above, my favorite.

Later, I worked as a library aide at my middle school and found out that Garfield was just as popular there as it was at my grandma's place.  Almost a third of everything I had to reshelve was Garfield comic books, they far outnumbered the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels or the Sweet Valley High books (remember Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield?).

If you know Garfield at all, then you know he has a deep and abiding love of lasagna.  My son insisted I make lasagna after reading five Garfield books back to back.

I wasn't terribly enthused about it, I'm not a big fan of lasagna.  My mother used to make it when I was a kid;  noodles, layered with ground beef mixed with prego and ricotta, then a pound of mozzarella on top, ugh.

It was filling but bland and I guess my taste in food has changed, because the thought of eating mom's lasagna sounded about as enticing as a bowl of warm milk.

So I cruised online looking for a better recipe.  My son found a pic of a meatball version and I was excited, it looked so different, so textured, dare I say, stylish?

So here it is, cobbled together from several different sources.

Garfield's Meatball Lasagna


1/2 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk

1.  Preheat oven to 400 and cover a baking sheet with parchment or lightly oiled foil.  Mix everything in a large bowl, then form into 1 inch balls and place an inch apart on the baking sheet.

2.  Bake for 12 minutes then remove from oven, allow to cool (they freeze great too) and then set aside while you make the sauces (I put mine in the refrigerator).

The Noodles

Don't read the package instructions.

Simple fill a pan with hot water and layer the noodles into it while you make sauces, open jars and file your nails.  Easy peasy, no colander, no boiling water in a vast cauldron that will fill your house with steam.

Ricotta Cheese Filling

1 lb Ricotta
1 tsp. parsley
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup shredded mozarella cheese

1.  Mix everything together in a medium sized bowl and then set aside.

Bechamel Sauce

For the Roux
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour

2 Cups Milk - I used 1%
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.

2.  Sprinkle the flour on top and stir stir stir so it doesn't burn.  Cook the roux until it is the color of caramel.

3.  Slowly whisk in milk.  bring to a simmer and continue whisking until the sauce begins to thicken.  When it coats the whisk , turn the heat to low and cook for another couple of minutes.  Sprinkle on the nutmeg and set aside.

Red Sauce

One jar of your favorite marinara sauce or make this;

For the Soffritto

one small stalk celery with leaves, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. red pepper flakes - or to taste
1/2 carrot, chopped
1/4 cup raisins or currants 
1/4 cup bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1/4 cup white wine or red (I've liked both in this, use whatever you have, even beer would work, it's a flexible dish)

1.  Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  When the oil is hot enough to sizzle, drop the soffrito, except the wine, garlic and red pepper,  into the pot.  Stir to keep things from sticking, for about five minutes.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for an additional two minutes, stirring constantly.

2.  Pour the wine in and scrape up all the tiny bits, before all the wine burns away add the Sauce ingredients.

For the Sauce

2 14oz cans of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/2  tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
pinch of rosemary

1.  Add everything to the pot and give it a stir.  Bring to a slow simmer and then cover, turn the heat to low and cook for an hour.

2.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool for pureeing (or you could leave it chunky, whatever).  I use my blender for this process, mostly because my food processor is harder to clean, but the processor would make for a nicer grind, so use whatever makes your toes curl.

To assemble the lasagna

In a large pan, 14 x 8 is what I used, spread a thin layer of red sauce.  Top this with the noodles (they should still be crunchy, don't worry, they'll be perfect when the lasagna is done baking).

Cover the noodles with a thin layer of ricotta, then a few meatballs.  Then again with the red sauce and a layer of noodles, till you end with noodles and spoon the bechamel last of all.

Here's where you sprinkle the grated cheese.  I was feeling fancy, so I used a combo of parmesan, fontina and mozzarella.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400 for thirty minutes.

Just a note, making all of this in one day is well, a little bit crazy daunting, I cheated and made the sauce and meatballs ahead of time.

I measured out 32 ounces or about four cups and refroze the rest.
The sauce and meatballs freeze well.