Lasagna with Mini-Me Balls
Carnie Wilson Serves With Love
Besides her hit song "Hold On" as a member of the group Wilson Phillips, her rock 'n' roll roots (she is the daughter of Beach Boy Brian Wilson), and her own talk show, Carnie Wilson is also well known for her relationship with food. Her gastric bypass surgery was broadcast live on the Internet in 1999.
Wilson's latest project is a cookbook called "To Serve with Love." It contains recipes so good that she claims they "made me fat." But Wilson writes about enjoying food -- "just have the real thing and eat less."
(Tip: Fresh slices of white bread in a mini food processor make perfect bread crumbs. Try it -- it will add lovely flavor and moisture to your foods.)
Mix together the ground beef and bread crumbs in a medium-size bowl with 1 beaten egg, pepper, and 1/2 tsp. of the salt. Make meatballs the size of a large pearl onion (we're talking approximately 1-1/2" in diameter). Fry in 2 Tbsp. of the olive oil until browned; drain and set aside.
Blanch the noodles. (Huh? Blanching means that you make the noodle water boil and then put each strip of lasagna in it for about a minute. The noodles will become a little bit tender on each side, but won't even come close to cooking through.) Take them out of the water with tongs so that you don't burn yourself, then lay the noodles out on a paper towel to absorb the extra water. While baking, the noodles will also absorb water from the other ingredients and become the perfect, not-at-all-mushy, no-way-gushy, noodles. It's gene. (Or you can save yourself all this trouble and use already-baked noodles. That's what I do.) Now the noodles are ready for the lasagna pan.
Prepare the ricotta filling (while doing so, imagine that you're Carmela Soprano). In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, nutmeg, and parsley with the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and the other beaten egg; mix with a wooden spoon. Take a breath -- you've done a lot so far.
And don't eat the raw-ricotta mix out of the bowl. (That would be gross, although it smells so great.) Preheat the oven to 375. Rub a 13" x 9" baking pan with the remaining olive oil and use a ladle to spoon some meat sauce on top. Place a layer of cooked lasagna noodles over this, overlapping slightly to cover the bottom of the pan. Drop the ricotta filling by the spoonful on top of the noodles; smooth with the back of the spoon or spread it out with your freshly washed fingers. Scatter a layer of meatballs over the ricotta, followed by half of the sausage, and then sprinkle half of the sliced boiled eggs on top of that delicious deal. Top with half of the mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat layers, ending with a layer of noodles, top with the remaining sauce, and finish with the remaining cheese.
Bake covered for 45 minutes until golden brown; uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes. (Tip: Try to clean up the kitchen now -- believe me, you'll hug yourself later.) Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Add fresh chopped parsley on top for garnish. Yes, it does look pretty! Gaze at the pan in awe as you marvel, I actually made this thing!