Cooking

Lasagna bliss

10:54 AM

.Lasagna! That is one of these dishes that just scream comfort back home, one of these that you pop in the oven on a lazy day, or after a hard day at work when you don’t have the energy to do anything else. It’s still far more healthy than running to Mc D or dialling a pizza, and it’s equally easy to pull out.
Back home that is, like all moms, my mom had her stock in the freezer, and like most moms it meant store bought frozen lasagna. Migros (yes still them) has a killer “lasagna verde” with beef filling and green lasagna noodles that I grew up on, it was winter time favourite, and since Lunch time in Switzerland is long enough to allow people to go back home my mom made sure there were some easy stuff for us to put together so that who ever came first from school or work could start lunch so that nobody lost time.
What I liked the most about that lasagna wasn’t the filling, or the green noodles, it was the thick velvety béchamel sauce that went in it and how it bubbled on top in the oven. , For that the Migros lasagne ruled.
Why not home made you may ask? Well my mom tried once, borrowed a recipe from an Italian friend, calling for ricotta cheese, loads of fresh peeled and seeded tomatoes, and a nearly whole afternoon of work because she was new to it. The end result was good of course, but my mom just decided that was far too much work  and mess to be worth repeating, so like most moms she stuck to the store bought variety and I was left with the idea that making lasagna is a pain in the butt.

Of course that was before I moved to India. One of the dish I find myself craving the most around here is lasagna, and believe me I looked online quite a lot for easy recipe, the only ones you find call for ricotta cheese which in India is ridiculously costly, and I just refuse to try substituting it with paneer. There is times when comfort food should not have substitutes in, beside ricotta cheese lasagna is not what I grew up with. There was also the fact that lasagna noodles are costly too, and having about 500 bucks worth of Ingredients on my plate was a repellent. When we were living in Navi Mumbai I found a ready made lasagna brand, and tried it, it’s an Indian brand, with a recipe strongly suited for the Indian palate (spicy filling) has regular pizza cheese in it and is microwavable, it’s not by any mean outstanding in anyway, to be frank it’s edible and that is the highest commendation I can give to that one, but in a desperate moment and a mad craving for lasagna, it will do…somehow.
That is when I decided to get myself some lasagna noodles, I found some that were fairly priced in Bangalore just before leaving for Mumbai, and since pasta is a typical pantry staple that keep fresh for a very long time I kept them until I figured out what to do with them, which was yesterday!

The mad craving for lasagna stroke, I had ground chicken in the freezer, a opened jar of Ragu pasta sauce in the fridge, and enough motivation to give it a try, and that is just then that I remembered, my childhood ones had béchamel sauce in them, not cheese.
That sauce is one of the basics of continental cuisine, so much so that back home you find it in cartons, ready made, but making your own isn’t that difficult, so I googled around, and found this one. It’s easy, all the ingredients for it are easily available in India and it tastes AWSOME, I actually felt so exited when I saw it thicken and smell the way I remembered Béchamel smelled.
The lasagna chicken stuffing was another of these easy bits, in fact you can even cook it in advance, all I used was ground chicken, and “sambar onions” sautéed in a frying pan and then poured the tomato sauce on it and added freshly chopped basil to it. And before you shoot at me for using store bought sauce…the tomato sauce is what takes the longest to make from scratch, if you want quality you need heaps of tomatoes, peel them and seed them as these give a nasty bitter taste to the sauce, and then simmer for nearly an hour to turn the pulp into sauce, my mom used to make Bolognese for the freezer on rainy days when I was a kid, she had the option of buying canned peeled tomatoes I don’t have, so the next best thing is using Ragu sauce, because Dabur’s tomato puree doesn’t cut it (tried making pasta sauce with it in the past).
The only tedious job in making lasagna is boiling the noodles not all the way through, small batches at a time so they don’t stick together, and assemble your lasagna. Then it’s in the oven for about 15 minutes if you are baking them right away.
The end result was….BLISS…I kid you not, despite not being beef and being white noodles it tasted just the same as my childhood lasagna, the béchamel alone took me there. I would have taken a picture of the dish before eating it if the urge to sink my teeth in had been less strong, because I want to once share that recipe on my other blog. 

Lasagna being a very freezer friendly dish, I have one made with the other half of my filling stuffed in there already, ready to pop in the oven on a mad day, the only thing to take into account is that a frozen Lasagna will take 30-40 minutes to bake, but then that is about the time it takes to order a pizza and have it on your table around here, so no biggie.
And now that I found a way to really get something to satisfy my cravings, as soon as the monsoon strike, I’ll buy ground chicken in bulk, and will spend an afternoon preparing them for my freezer stash so that I’ll always have them around, the rainy months are bound to make me long for comforting taste from home, better be ready.

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