Fresh this and Fresh that.......
Every spare minute I have, I'm searching for recipes, and reading food articles, or watching the Food Network channel.
And over the years, especially most recent, I hear chatter about "Fresh Ingredients".
"Use Fresh whenever possible". "Fresh ingredients make such a difference". "Always buy Fresh".
I use to tilt my head to the side like a dog who's not understanding, and think to myself, "Who the heck would use stale ingredients? Of course you're suppose to use Fresh. Duh."
To me, "Fresh" was going to the grocery store on Monday.........and using the ingredients on Tuesday!
Heck, how much more "Fresh" can you get than that?
It hasn't been until recently that I'm finally starting to get it.
I'm finally starting to appreciate what these Television cooks mean by "Fresh".
Fresh means buying something that's literally made Fresh. Something you have to use pretty quickly because it's not pre-packaged and filled with all sorts of preservatives.
Fresh means, well......Fresh tomatoes instead of canned, Fresh spinach instead of frozen......Fresh mushrooms instead of canned. You get the picture.
I am literally stunned at how incredible this Lasagna recipe is, all from changing my old habits, and using fresh.
If you were a fresh gal like I use to be, where fresh meant buying my groceries on Monday and using them on Tuesday, then do me a favor and please try this.
That light bulb will go on, and you won't believe you've been making lasagna with bagged and boxed ingredients for the past 20 years.
Note: No, I didn't make my own noodles, or make my own fresh Mozzarella and Ricotta. (However, my local Whole Foods Market actually has classes on how to do this - but I had laundry to do, and floors to mop, so instead, I just bought everything fresh. And you know what, it really really really does make a difference.
*All items were purchased from Whole Foods Market. If you do not have a Whole Foods in your area, I'm sure you have a similar style market or Italian market close by. Many large city Farmers Markets have vendors selling fresh pasta and cheeses as well. Take the time and make the extra trip, trust me, you won't believe the difference.
1 package Fresh Lasagna Noodles (four noodles)
8 ounces Fresh Ricotta Cheese
8 ounces Fresh Mozzarella
1/2 C. Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Fresh Baby Spinach (optional)
Spaghetti Sauce (See Below)
Freshly made pasta lasagna noodles come in a package normally containing about 4 wide ribbons.
Fresh pasta only needs to be boiled for about one minute in boiling water.
Do as the directions on the package says. Mine said to drop into salted boiling water for one minute, then place in a bowl of iced water for one minute then strain. I did this separately, four times, with the four ribbons of pasta.
After each was finished, I placed on a cutting board and dabbed it dry with paper towel.
Once this is done, set them aside to dry for a bit.
In a bowl, combine your Ricotta cheese and 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and with your wooden spoon, combine it really well.
You will INSTANTLY notice a difference in the fresh Ricotta.
I have used the regular store-bought Ricotta cheese for over 20 years, and I can't believe what a difference in taste and texture fresh is.
I can't believe what I've been missing all these years. Mama Mia!
Now take your fresh Mozzarella.
Try to get the kind of Mozzarella that's in the little containers of water, not the ball that's wrapped up.
When it's in water like that, it's packed in purified water with no preservatives or additives. Just so ya know.
I got the bite-sized Mozzarella balls and diced them in little round medallions.
Take your lasagna noodles and if they are the extra wide kind, fold them in half to create the normal store bought size.
Now sprinkle the little darlings with some Olive Oil.
Now schmere on the fresh Ricotta and Parmesan mixture.
Now place those yummy little slices of fresh Mozzarella right on top.
Take your baby spinach leaves and lay them real pretty like, on top of your cheeses.
Now is the time I take a little tiny sprinkling of Kosher Salt and spread it like fairy dust on top. But that's totally optional.
Ever so gently, take the noodle with both hands, and fold it like a ribbon, or if you want, you can just roll it like a haystack. No rules here.
Now here is where I refuse to make my own sauce. Please don't judge me.
Kansas City has the best, and I mean the BEST pasta sauce made by the Cascone family.
The Cascone brothers opened their restaurant 40 years ago in Kansas City, and now they sell their pasta sauce in a jar. This stuff is like gold. I kid you not.
I literally refuse to make my own, because it doesn't get any better than this.
This is a "sweet" pasta sauce. It completely compliments the fresh cheeses and the spinach, and really makes this dish incredible.
If you do not live in the Kansas City area and they don't have this in your local grocery store, and you're really feeling adventurous, then here's the link to their online store.
Their ORIGINAL flavor is simply incredible.
Pour some of your sauce of choice, in the bottom of 9 x 9 casserole pan, and place your little ribbons or haystacks on top of the sauce.
Please, give me a moment to compose myself.
Ok, I can't even talk right now.
You get the picture.
Minimal ingredients because when it's fresh, the tastes speaks for itself.
White, ooey gooey cheese that's freshly made (no preservatives).
Tender, melt in your mouth fresh pasta (again no preservatives because it doesn't have to sit on the shelf for 8 months).
Food Network Stars.... NOW I get it.
I guess that's why you're on TV and I'm not.
I think they're onto something.