Neither Alfonso nor I are of any Italian heritage, but we love Italian food. All of it. From the authentic (like you can get at some of our favorite local Italian restaurants like Pane e Vino or Indaco) to the cheesy (as in lots-o-cheese) Americanized Italian stuff like lasagnas and stuffed pastas (like you can get in our kitchen!). What’s fun about Italian food is that a lot of people from a lot of different places find something comforting in it. There are a million ways to dress up all kinds of pasta shapes and dishes and people with a variety of food lifestyles can find something they enjoy. In short- Italian food is the greatest!
Around here we always have a couple of boxes of pastas and cans of tomatoes for pasta on the fly. We like to rotate shapes and styles. This week- it was lasagna’s turn. We do a combo of lasagna methods.
Let me explain.
I grew up with the ricotta cheese plus other mixed cheeses layered in with veggies and meat, topped with cheese version. In Spain, making Italian food at home wasn’t that popular when Alfonso was growing up (they focused more on delicious, traditional Spanish platos), but by the time he was a teenager there were some pre-made versions available at popular supermarkets. These lasagnas used a béchamel sauce in place of some or all of the ricotta and mixed cheese combo used in the American version. At casa Castejón we like béchamel sauce AND some extra mozzarella cheese. We like to add some peppers like I always had, but do them in a Spanish piquillo style. It was Alfonso’s genius to use Italian sausage instead of ground beef. He’s the smart one. 😉
This lasagna has baby bella mushrooms in addition to the sausage. Its a good way to get that meaty texture while eating less meat. We are not vegetarians, but we do like to moderate meat consumption and mushrooms of all varieties fit the bill! Go entirely vegetarian and use a mix of different kinds of mushrooms in place of the sausage- it will be scrumptious.
Lasagna is better after sitting a day or two and it keeps and delivers (for all your casserole-sending needs) really well! Make ahead and impress dinner guests without having to be shackled to the stove for the whole party. You’ll have time to be chatty, look the bomb, and send everyone home happy and full. There’s nothing a lasagna can’t make better! Try this one, but as with (almost) all of our recipes, you can make it your own by changing out veggies and meats and cheeses to suite your tastes. Deliciousness follows.
Roasted Peppers and Italian Sausage Lasagna
Half a box of lasagna noodles
2 T olive oil
1 cup marinara sauce (homemade if possible)
1 lb. ground Italian sausage
1 large onion, diced
5 baby bella mushrooms, diced
1 large clove of garlic, minced
3/4 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 bottle of dark beer
3 red, yellow or orange bell peppers, roasted and cut into strips *see roasting instructions below
10 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
3/4 cup parmesan reggiano cheese, grated
*For the tomato béchamel sauce
2.5 T butter
1/4 cup flour
2.5 cups whole milk, warmed
1/2 t salt
sprinkling of pepper
3/4 cup parmesan reggiano cheese, grated
1.5 cups marinara sauce (homemade if possible)
To roast the peppers
Pre-heat the oven to 425. Put the unseasoned and un-oiled peppers in the oven on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, turn over and roast another 15 minutes. They should have black char on the outside. Put into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, split in half and remove seeds and stems. Turn the peppers over and peel off the skin- the plastic wrap trick should make this super easy to do. Cut in to strips. Set aside.
To make the tomato béchamel sauce
To make a béchamel sauce we first start with a roux. To make this, first, melt the butter in a medium sized, deep pan on medium-low heat. When the butter is melted add the flour a little bit at a time, while whisking. It will begin to make a paste. Constantly stir around this paste to toast a bit, but do not let burn. Next, add the milk bit by bit, whisking constantly. Don’t worry if it is slightly lumpy- it will come together! Make sure the milk is warm. Cold milk will cause a broken up, lumpy sauce. Continue to whisk on medium-low heat until the sauce is thick. When you run your finger through the sauce on the back of a spoon it should not drip. Take the sauce off the heat and add the parmesan cheese and the marinara sauce and mix together. Set aside.
To make the lasagna
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, adding salt and olive oil to the water to flavor the pasta. When done, drizzle with oil and set aside. While the pasta is cooking, brown the sausage over medium heat. When the sausage is done scoop it out with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onions to the fat in the pan rendered from the sausage. Cook the onions for about 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add the baby bellas and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms are tender and the onions are tender and a bit golden, stirring occasionally. Add the salt and pepper. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Deglaze with a few splashes of beer and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Drink the rest of the beer in the bottle. The veggies should be moist, but there should not be a “sauce”. Take off the heat and set aside.
Mix 2/3 of the mozzarella cheese with the egg and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside. We will use the remaining mozzarella later.
Now to layer it up! Spread 1/2 of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a greased 12 inch long x 2-3 inch deep casserole dish. Put in a layer of noodles (this should be about half of them). Spread half the béchamel sauce over the noodles. Then, add a layer each of the cooked sausage, onion/bella mixture, and bell pepper strips (half the amount you have of each). Spread half of the egg and cheese mixture and half of the parmesan cheese over the meat and veggies. Repeat the layers, starting with the noodle layer. Finally, add the other half of the marinara sauce and top with the remaining mozzarella. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Take the foil off and bake for another 25 minutes until golden and bubbly.
Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
With Halloween this weekend and lots of festivities coming up, its nice to have something waiting to eat when you get home after a day (or night!) of spooky activities. Make the lasagna and you’ll be set!
As always, thanks for visiting!