Oh Momma Mia!

I know it’s Tuesday, but I’m going to go back a few days to this last weekend, I’m not sure what was going on, but the weather this weekend was awesome!  It really felt like Spring was right around the corner.   We took full advantage of the nice weather on Sunday afternoon, spending most of the day walking around Old Town.    We weren’t alone, whenever the weather is nice it seems like people come out of the woodwork, great for all the local businesses.

Sunday was not only a great day for exploring through town but also a great night to make lasagna.  I feel like the weekends are the perfect time to make those meals that may be a bit too time consuming during the week, not that lasagna takes 5 hours to make, but it does take some time, especially if you like to make your sauce from scratch.    I love lasagna, I probably could eat it all the time, especially if it were carb-free, calorie-free and fat-free…no such luck.  Eric on the other hand isn’t a fan of lasagna, well I should say he wasn’t a fan, I think he’s jumped on the bandwagon after this new recipe.   Lasagna can be made all kinds of ways, my mom always makes it meatless with just cheeses and sauce….so good and probably the best cheese lasagna out there.  My friend Emily makes the best meaty lasagna, it’s definitely a treat when she makes it and you have to fast the whole day because you can’t just eat one piece.    I don’t ever make lasagna….until now, my speciality is Pork and Fennel Lasagna.  I know, we’re pretty fennel obsessed lately, but it’s just so delicious I want to put it in everything.    I found this recipe on Pinterest…shocking I know.  I’ve made a few adjustments as per usual.

Pork and Fennel Lasagna (original recipe from Daily Unadventures in Cooking)

Ingredients
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 lb ground pork
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 heaping tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (less or more is up to you)
1/4 cup finely diced onion
2-3 cloves of garlic (I love garlic so I use a lot, or you can use 1-2)
1/4 cup red wine
1 large  can whole tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bulb fennel
1 package lasagna noodles
2 cups ricotta
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 Tbsp. basil
250g fresh mozzarella
Directions

Heat a large frying pan to medium heat. Add one teaspoon of the olive oil and then the ground pork. Start browning the pork, breaking it apart with a wooden spoon as it cooks. While this is cooking place the fennel seeds and pepper flakes in a mortar and pestle. Grind until all the seeds are broken, but not as fine as dust. Sprinkle over the meat as it cooks along with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and freshly ground pepper. When the meat has started to brown, you likely have a significant amount of fat in the pan. Pour it off and discard. Now stir in the onion and garlic. Continue cooking until onion is soft. Now add the red wine, and allow to cook down for 2 minutes, then add the tomato paste and tomatoes. Stir well to combine and use a spoon to gently break apart the tomatoes (I use a potato masher). Allow to simmer gently for 15 minutes (or more, I simmered mine for almost 2 hours, but I always tend to let sauce simmer a long time) to blend. If your lasagna noodles need cooking, start boiling a pot of water (I used Barilla no cook noodles, worked awesome)

In the meanwhile you want to gently cook the fennel. First off remove any of the fronds of the fennel and discard. Cut the bulb in half and remove the core. Now slice very thin.

For the ricotta, add both eggs, parsley and basil.  Mix to combine.  I like to do this because it adds more flavor and lightens up the ricotta, which can be a little dense and heavy.

Heat a dutch oven to medium with the remaining olive oil. Wash the sliced fennel throughly and add to the pot along with a big pinch of salt. Stir and cover. Checking every 5 minutes and stirring as needed to wilt the fennel.  Softening the fennel should only take 10 minutes. Turn on your oven to 350F.

If your lasagna noodles require cooking, cook them now. Slice the mozzarella thinly or grate it. Prepare a 12″ square dish by placing a few tablespoons of red sauce on the bottom and distributing evenly. Build the lasagna as follows: a layer of noodles, a layer of ricotta, a layer of red sauce, a layer of fennel and then a layer of mozzarella.   Repeat layers until lasagna is complete. Transfer to oven and bake for 35 minutes. Since I used the no boil noodles, I followed the box instructions and cooked it for about 50 minutes.  Allow to cool outside of the oven for 15 minutes before serving.

sausageLasagnaVerdict: Awesome!  I think Eric had like five pieces.  I enjoyed my one hearty piece.  Best thing is we have leftover for the week and you know, lasagna always tastes better the second day.

This truly was a delicious meal to end a great weekend and to start the week off right.  I just hope the weather cooperates, it rained all morning here and I hear we may get snow next week!

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