When that first cold spell recently blew into Austin for a few hours we hit the kitchen like a freight train so we could utilize our oven that had lain dormant for lo these many months.
We wrestled our giant Dutch oven out from the cabinet and went into a flurry of motion so we could get our ragu started before another heatwave settled in that would render our efforts naught.
We have a good history of Italian cooking though it does not stem from genetics. Back when we lived in Alabama we had full access to the kitchen of Agata, a Sicilian granny woman who regularly put out feasts that could make a grown man weep with pleasure.
As is our custom when we are in the presence of superior cooks, we keep our mouths shut, our ears open and pad and pen busy.
We wrote a homage to Agata before when we penned our first lasagna recipe here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2010/1/21 it's the second most popular recipe we've ever published.
But recently we ended up with a 2lb wheel of brie after a catering project so we wrote a recipe to feature it and give our vegetarian readers a good reason to hit the kitchen as well.
Here it is: Our recipe for Vegetarian Spinach Lasagna With Brie and Fried Garlic Ragu
2 each 28 oz Cans Tomatoes, Whole, Peeled, San Marzano
4 lbs Onions, Yellow, Sweet, sliced, 1015's are good
1 each Garlic, bulb, slivered
2 T. Chile, Red, Crushed, Flakes
2. T. Tomato Paste
4 each Spinach, bunches, washed and chopped
2 lb Brie, frozen for 30 minutes, cubed
1 lb Noodles, lasagna
Parmigiano Reggiano as needed
* Heat Dutch oven on high with oil, we use a good, non-virgin
* Add onions, cook on high thirty minutes
* Reduce heat, cook for several hours, we cook ours for approx. 6 hours, yes it seems like a pain but this is how Agata always did it and it coaxes the most amazing flavor from the onions
* Add tomatoes to onions
* Heat separate pan on high with 2 T. peanut oil
* Add garlic slivers and cook til light brown and right at crisp
* Add fried garlic with oil to tomato ragu along with tomato paste and chile flakes simmer 30 minutes more
* Cook lasagna per package instructions, drain, reserve
* Prepare to assemble lasagna
* Coat the interior of an approximately 9" by 14" casserole dish w/olive oil
* Create a skift of the red sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish
* Add a layer of noodles
* Add a layer of spinach
* Add a layer of sauce
* Add a layer of cheeses
* Repeat til task is finished,finishing with a layer of cheeses
* Place in 300 degree oven for 30 minutes
* Pull out, let "set up" for a bit before cutting
* Serve with a bright green salad with your favorite dressing and a big hunk of baguette broiled with butter.
To make this a "true" ragu it needs meat, we recommend adding a 1lb of good quality Italian sausage, chopped, an hour before you finish your sauce cookdown. We like Terranova's over in New Orleans and keep a few pounds of their version in our freezer for just such occasions
Our most recent version of this recipe's yield allowed us to build a second, smaller lasagna in a separate pan which we gave as a gift to a friend. Depending on how plump you make your first pan you may get a second, smaller pan as well.
We normally like to share our foods with a variety of friends, barkeeps and baristas around town but this recipe was so insanely delicious that we ate most of it ourselves
The creamy brie and the bright ragu married very nicely together
Bon Appetit Y'all