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January 21, 2009

Limber Up for Lasagna


Let us limber up. Everybody, bend your mind to the right. Stretch . . . stretch . . . stretch.


Okay, to the left. Stretch . . . stretch . . . stretch.


Repeat three more times.


That done, are we all nice and limbered up? Very well, it is just the thing that is needed when dealing with one of the most foreboding of foods – the lasagna.


There are good reasons the lasagna has not yet cracked the meat sauce barrier. That is, you may go into a lot of eateries and ask for, say, a goat cheese and broccoli pizza. If you did the same thing with a lasagna, the cook would fall to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably and tearing at his hair.


The reason is simple – a proper lasagna requires that you draw from your entire brain. Typical food requires only that you draw from the abstract, artistic side. A lasagna is both an art and a science. You will need some working familiarity with geometry.


If you are not capable of doing this, if your mind is not limber enough, stop now. This way goes madness. This way goes the chicken alfredo lasagna.


If you are prepared, start with a foundation of a light layer of alfredo sauce on the bottom of the pan. Over the top of that, lay cooked, softened lasagna noodles. Lay over the top of this chopped, cooked chicken and chopped shiitake mushrooms. Spoon over this enough alfredo sauce to cover the chicken and mushrooms. Cover this with a layer of fresh spinach leaves.


We have just constructed two of the three necessary layers for lasagna. There were the noodles, there was the stuff that wasn’t cheese. Now you must attend to cheese.


Mix a raw egg into ricotta cheese, and stir until very smooth and easily spread. Create a layer on top of the spinach and top that with a hefty handful of mozzarella cheese.


You may now take a breather. This has been a difficult few moments putting this together. If you did well, if you drew properly from both sides of your brain, your layers will provide a decent proportion of flavor yet also have a geometric quality to the way it appears. In this, you are fortunately aided by the shape of a typical pan.


Here is the thing. You will now recreate this one master layer, combining the general layers of noodles, stuff that isn’t cheese and cheese. Each of these, in turn, is constructed of sub layers. The cheese layer has ricotta and mozzarella. The stuff that isn’t cheese layer has sub layers of chicken and mushrooms, alfredo sauce, and fresh spinach leaves; the noodle layer has sub layers of noodles and, well, nothing else – you were warned, this way lies madness.


You will want to lay down one final layer of noodles and top that with just one more layer of cheese, with its two resident sub layers.


Bake for about half an hour at 425 degrees. Break out the protractor and subdivide the lasagna itself into pieces for eating.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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