Sunday, 29 March 2009

Oven potatoes

Oven potatoes are a staple when cooking for large groups of people. Everyone likes them and it is so much easier to make the whole meal in the oven (ok, I have a huge oven....)! Since I make them nearly every time there is some sort of roast, I tend to add different herbs & spices each time, whatever is available & accompanies the roast (chicken, beef, lamb, pork, game....).

Ex: With the sage & garlic leg of lamb I like to doctor the potatoes with rosemary.

Rosemary & Garlic Put roast into oven first, then prepare the potatoes, as their cooking time is probably not as long. Preferably use small potatoes, leave on peel, cut in half. Add full unpeeled cloves of garlic, a sprig of rosemary, 4 tbsps olive oil, salt & pepper to taste. If you have a bottle of dry white wine open, splash some on as well. Put the potatoes in the oven cook until golden & crisp.

Leg of lamb

Yes yes, a well known family dinner or Sunday lunch dish! Truth is though, that hubby really loves leg of lamb so we eat it at the very least once a month. Which means I have many ways of preparing it.

Given the size of the family, I usually make at least a 4 lb leg.

Cooking time for a nice tender pink is about 20 min per lb.

-marinate ahead of time (preferably 24 hrs before cooking)
-take out of fridge an hour before cooking
-preheat oven to hot
-pierce flesh with carving fork & baste with juices continuously during cooking
-salt half way through cooking, not before (preferrably with sel de Guerande)

A new recipe, given to me by my close friend Jeff, one of the best cooks I know. Since I never put up a recipe I haven't tested, this version of leg of lamb was served as a Sunday dinner (almost the whole family, we were only 7), to universal acclaim. Don't balk at the anchovy, the leg of lamb will neither smell nor taste of fish. Adding anchovy gives it a particular salty flavor, very nice!

5 anchovies (always in oil)
5 cloves of garlic
3 twigs of rosemary
red wine

Mash anchovies. Add crushed garlic. Rub the oily paste into the leg of lamb. Grind pepper to taste. Splash with red wine. Cover if marinating ahead of time. (Careful with the salt, as the anchovies are already pretty strong)

SAGE & GARLIC Simple but delicious. Use fresh sage (mine comes from the garden), about 4 or 5 leaves. With a small knife pierce the leg all over. Stuff each whole with shredded sage & garlic (small cloves or cut in half). Set aside a few leaves & cloves to rub into the skin. Cover leg with a few tbsps of olive oil, rub into skin. Pour a glass of red wine over the leg. Pepper to taste. Put into oven! Oven potatoes are a nice accompaniment.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Tartiflette-French potatoe & cheese gratin

If you're on a diet, don't even read this recipe. Most traditional recipes in the Alpine region are based on cheese, lardons & potatoes. "Low-fat" is not a concept here. Then again winters are cold here, even spring is cold here, so rich heavy food is necessary for survival.

A variation of this dish is croziflette (pictured here), which is made with small square pasta called crozets.

WARNING: I'm not sure you can easily or cheaply find the cheese, Reblochon, in the US. If you do manage to find it, most likely it's been pasteurized, which here in the Savoy regions is anathema. Reblochon is made from raw milk "lait cru", or it cannot be called Reblochon ("fromage pour tartiflette" or Tartiflette cheese is the term for the substitute stuff). Mom has found it at Trader Joe's & she's been known to substitute with another firm cheese that melts easily, so experiment!

1 Reblochon (firm, not too mushy)
5 large potatoes
1 large onion
1 pint crème fraiche (or heavy cream)
2 cups lardons (or bacon) [unless your vegetarian]
1 glass fruity white wine
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to hot temperature.
Slice onions thinly in half rings. Sauté in a bit of butter with the lardons.
Peel potatoes, slice thinly, add to onions & lardons.
Stir occasionaly so it doesn't stick. Season to taste.
When potatoes start to become transparent, add the wine.
Once wine has cooked down, add the crème fraiche. Stir well.
Remove from heat and transfer into a pyrex.
Slice Reblochon in half through middle (you should have two circles). place on top of the potatoe mixture with the crust upwards.
Bake in oven until the cheese is crispy.
Serve with a green salad, as this is too rich a dish to be accompanied by anything else. Usually I serve the same local wine I used to cook with (for example my neighbor's award winning Roussette de Frangy).

Monday, 23 March 2009

Spinach pie 1- tourte aux épinards

This is a no brainer. Usually if I make a savoury pie, quiche or tourte it's because I want to empty the fridge of bits & pieces. This is one of my cheat recipes (i.e. don't feel like cooking)

1 cup frozen spinach
2 layers puff pastry or filo dough
1 large onion
6 tbsps lardons (or bacon: optional)
1 egg
Crème fraiche or heavy cream
parmesan or any cheese hanging ou in the fridge
salt & pepper
pinch of nutmeg

Preheat oven medium heat
Line pastry dish with wax paper
Sauté onions with lardons or bacon
Zap frozen spinach in microwave. Squeeze out any excess water
Add spinich to onions, cook down any excess liquid.
Add seasonings
Add créme fraiche or heavy cream
Add beaten egg
Sprinkle grated cheese
Place puff pastry on dish
Add filling
Cover with another layer of puff pastry
Zap a few tbsps butter in microwave
Spread over top pastry layer
Make incisions on pastry
Bake about 30 min

Sunday, 22 March 2009

RED CHILE, with a side of decisions

[Roving Frangy reporter's dispatch from l'Ètat Unis] El Toro Market in Santa Ana is the place to shop for Latin American goods in Orange County. "Quien no conoce El Toro no conoce Santa Ana"—it says so right on the market. It's one of the few carnicerías where you can get a suckling pig (lechón—order a day in advance) and you can buy a whole pork leg there pretty much any day of the week. They have great piles of luffa for the shower, too, and mine was getting pretty ratty, so I made the trip into town. Once there, there was no way that I could leave the store without an assortment of dried red chile, which were just beautiful—not the crumbly-dry ones you usually find—these were still a little meaty! I bought a handful of Puyas to go with Pasillas and New Mexicos. Here's a pic (with my new luffa in the background!).

The drive home was time to contemplate what to do with them. My first idea was to work out a new form for "messicani," a thin slice of fatty pork shoulder sprinkled with mixture of grated parmiggiano, peperoncino, and salt and rolled tightly around a wooden skewer and cooked over an open grill. Although it's name means "Mexican," this is a specialty from the Adriatic coast of Puglia in Italy, and it's actually pretty unlikely that there is any real Mexican connection at all for this tasty version of meat on a stick. My thoughts were to re-invent messicani with some authentic Mexican flavors…

…but then I got home, and Adri says, "Oh, you're making chile. That's great! We'll have it tomorrow for lunch."

Okay, I'm making chile, which to us means a stew based on chile and meat. Sounds straightforward enough—but there are decisions to make:
1) Meat or no meat? Don't even think about vegetarian when it comes to chile. Yes, veggie chile can be made, but it's new age and totally lame. And don't even think about improvising with the addition of zucchini, corn (unless it's hominy), bell peppers, carrots, or even tomatoes. Veggies have their place, and it's outside of this stew (onion is the exception).
2) What kind of meat? Red chile is complemented by robust meaty flavors best, so poultry and even pork aren't under consideration. Lamb would be great, as would mutton or venison, but a beef chuck roast is what I can find at the supermarket, and this works great for chile.
3) Ground meat or chunks? If you're making a Texas-style chili (with a final "i"), you'd be starting out with powdered dry chiles, canned tomatoes, and stock, and you'd probably want to use ground beef. In making the chile base from whole dried chiles, the liquid is water (I suppose you could use stock, but I don't see it adding significantly to the flavor), and tomatoes would be kind of an unwelcome guest. This is a different kind of chile (with a final "e"), and meat chunks work best.
4) Beans or no beans? Completely subjective. Classically, the red chile would be beanless and served with a large quantity of beans on the side. That's fine. Feel free to do just that. But I'm putting my beans in my chile. Just because.

Okay, that's settled. Now it's time to roll up the sleeves and get to work. Yes—lunch is tomorrow, but chile is better if it has a chance to flavor-meld. Some dishes need individual ingredients to assert their identities, but not chile. The first phase of work is relaxed, and it concludes with a trip to the gym.

I start by pulling off the stems from the chiles and opening them to give a quick inspection—any moldies should be tossed. Soaking in lots of cold water for about an hour reconstitutes the chiles and softens any dirt clods, which then dislodge and settle out to the bottom. After the chiles are softened they should be opened and relieved of their cores and seeds, which would only add bitterness. The chiles can then go into a pan with almost enough water to cover, and cooked (covered) for a half hour or so with some additional spices—I use whole cumin seed and whole dried oregano. Then I turn off the fire and go for a spin and then to the supermarket to buy the meat and the beans.

Back now, and the work is somewhat more intense because two things are done at the same time. First thing to do (and this doesn't count in the two things) is to pick over the beans (I'm going with small red beans) and get them soaking in cold water.

There's a lot more in a chuck roast than what should be in the chile, but it would be a shame to lose the flavors from the other parts. I maximize and capture those flavors by trimming the fat and rendering it down in a Dutch oven. Then I sauté all the bones and gristle and then remove the bones and crispy bits and pieces but leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Now I can brown up the edible parts of the chuck roast (after a liberal sprinkling with salt) in the fat like (gigantic) steaks. The fire needs to be high enough to keep the moisture seeping out of the meat from building in the pan (then you'll be boiling your food instead of browning it) but not so high to scorch the fond (glaze), which I want to extract for its intensely meaty flavor.

While the rendering/sautéing/browning is going on, the whole stewed chiles need to be converted into a chile base. This involves two kitchen gadgets—perhaps the kind of thing eschewed by Karen, but I'm going to call for them anyways. The general idea here is to spin the chiles with their cooking liquid in a food processor (or a blender) until smooth except for the bits of skin. I'm using the same Regal La Machine that Adri and I have had since our grad school days (and cooking with Karen in our tiny Chicago apartment!), and it takes three batches to process it all. The next part is to remove the chile skin by running it through a food mill. I put the food mill over the deep pot that I'll be using to finish the chile, because from here on it will be just adding stuff to this chile base.

As the meat pieces become fully brown, I pull them from the Dutch oven, cut them into bite-sized chunks, and dump them into the chile pot. Then I pour off all the fat from the Dutch oven and deglaze with just enough water, and after a bit of boiling extraction time, I strain that into the chile pot.

Now that things have calmed down a bit, I put the bones in a pot with plenty of water and bring that to a boil and add the soaked beans. No, they don't have to be fully inflated—they can finish hydrating in the cooking pot. These will have to cook until they are just tender (pull a bean out to taste occasionally), and they (beans, not bones) will go into the chile pot.

Here's something you weren't expecting. I clean two heads of garlic and chop them into a fine mince (that's a lot of garlic), then sauté this in olive oil until just cooked, and this goes into the pot. Then one chopped red onion. And salt—maybe not quite all the way to taste but almost. A nice splash of sherry vinegar adds brightness here and accentuates the salt.

The pot now has chile base, meat (and meat deglazement), beans, garlic, onion, vinegar, and salt. Simple, and yet not a simple dish at all. Nothing else is to be added, although the meat still needs to cook to tenderness. Since lunch is tomorrow, I bring the pot up to a simmer, cover, and turn off the heat. It can stay on the stove overnight.

About an hour before lunch, I bring the pot up to a simmer and leave it there for about 45 minutes and then turn off the fire. It will stay hot throughout lunch. I hope there are leftovers.

Monday, 16 March 2009

POLENTA COI FUNGHI, with chocolate soufflé for dessert

Okay, so the first thing you’re looking for here is some valid justification for yet another recipe for polenta funghi, and all I can do is smirk and try to make you realize that it’s not really about the recipe but rather the process. Karen cooks like that, too. She tries to play nice on her blog with stepwise instructions—but the truth is that the only thing rules and steps do is make your butt pucker. Let me recount the life of a real dinner.

The whole thing starts at just after noon when I attempt to negotiate a no-cook night at the pho joint we like, but Adri doesn’t want to dress to leave the house so I’m told to get groceries after the gym. It’s a brisk March day in San Juan Capistrano and jeez—it might even be 65°F outside. Sweater time. Pho sounded good, but so does polenta to my Milanese spouse. And let there be chocolate soufflé for dessert, since you’re going shopping anyways.

I take stock of what’s already there in the pantry—polenta and dried porcini brought from Italy, and some decent 71% chocolate from Trader Joe’s for the soufflé—plus the staples: flour, oil, butter, sherry, sherry vinegar, sea salt, garlic. Just need whole milk and eggs and fresh mushrooms and I’ll be done. Gym, TJ’s, and I’m back home at 3:45.

Kid #1 is at a friend’s house and Kid #2 won’t eat the polenta or the ‘shrooms, so it’s a bacon and eggs dinner to get him out of the way (Karen doesn’t have this problem with her boyz, or so she says). 4:00 and I’m free to cook. We’re shooting for an early dinner tonight—5-5:30.

A big handful of dried porcini goes into one of the kids’ cereal bowls—hot water from the teakettle covers them, and agitated with a spoon a few times the dirt loosens, dislodges, and settles to the bottom of the bowl. Some olive oil and flour are put on medium heat in a saucepan to make a roux. Cutting garlic into a small dice, inspiration has me taking a Guinness pint from the fridge and drinking all but about a cup. When the moisture is gone from the roux (no more bubbles), the garlic goes in and toasts a bit while the roux starts to take on some color. Then that last cup of Guinness goes into the pan rather than down my throat (this was the hardest part!). Mixing this well it gets really thick and comes off the heat to avoid the scorch. It’s way too thick now, but it will be softened by more liquid to be added shortly.

Okay, the porcini should be fully hydrated by now, and after a couple more agitations they can be extracted from the liquid and set aside. The liquid gets decanted into the pan, leaving the sand in the cereal bowl, and the pan goes back to the fire—low this time. Some whisk action with a splash of sherry vinegar and a dose of sea salt complete a very smooth mushroom base, which should now be about the consistency of a rather thick gravy.

Fresh ‘shrooms today were small brown button-y things--they call ‘em “Cremini” here. I have no idea where that name came from and I don’t want to know. Sliced coarsely, sautéed with olive oil on high heat, they cook quickly and I throw in a splash of Fino sherry (my kid—the one who doesn’t eat the ‘shrooms—loves to watch the pan flame) and then the rehydrated porcini, which I’ve coarsely chopped. A few more tosses in the pan, then all that mushroomy goodness goes into the saucepan with the mushroom/Guinness gravy. This is going to be tasty.

Polenta is simple. It’s a three-to-one ratio of water to corn meal (a good polenta bramata is a good thing to have in the pantry), and for two hungry adults, a cup and a half of polenta will make two good-sized portions with extra for seconds. Not wanting to deal with fractions, I went with two cups of polenta (and six cups of water, plus a little extra water because I prefer too soft over too thick). Lightly salted water comes to a boil, then stirring the water in a circle the polenta gets added in a stream. What happens if you just dump? Serious corn clods, that’s what! The idea is to make every grain of polenta enter the water and be surrounded by water, not by other grains of polenta. Stirring for a minute more the polenta thickens up to about as thick as it will get, but it still needs to cook for about ten minutes over low heat. Stirring vigorously frequently as the polenta cooks will give it that “true polenta” consistency that you can never get with the instant stuff.

While the polenta cooks, a little fire under the ‘shrooms in sauce will bring them up to temperature. At the ten-minute mark polenta and ‘shrooms go to the table. That’s four portions for normal people, two portions for Adri and me. Recommended wine: Guinness.

Afterthought: the polenta funghi dish I just described is completely vegan—no dead animal parts or products whatsoever. Unless you're one of those militant vegans who drive everyone to homicidal fantasies, this is the best kind of vegan dish, i.e., one that ends up being vegan unintentionally—there's no substituting for butter or eggs anywhere, because there is never any call for them in the first place. [If you are a militant vegan, you want the people who accommodate you to suffer.] Next dish, though, is still "vegetarian" only because I'm not twisted enough to add meat to a dessert.

After cleanup, it’s soufflé time. Oven preheats to 375 F while butter and flour cook lightly together in a saucepan. Kid #2 is interested in the soufflé, so I calculate for an extra portion—the normal two-person soufflé plus a little single unit, both of which are buttered. That means 1 1/3 cups of milk, whisked into the butter and flour to make what amounts to a very heavy béchamel. Fully thickened, it comes off the fire and in goes the chocolate—the whole bar—one dash of salt and a nice dose of sugar. How much sugar? I add, taste, add more, until it’s the right sweetness, and then I add some more sugar to compensate for the other ingredients still to come. This is the “process” I was talking about before. If you overshoot with the sugar and it’s too sweet, no big. Too sweet is better than not sweet enough. One thing I haven’t figured out yet is why the béchamel becomes so much looser when the sugar is added. At this point, a splash of vanilla could be added—or not (maybe better not).

Eggs. Six whites and five yolks, separated. The whites are going to be beaten, so keep them free of yolk or even the slightest speck of butter. The yolks get whisked into the chocolate mixture, and the whites beaten with a bit of sugar to the soft-peak stage. Now, about a quarter of the whites should be folded gently into the chocolate stuff to lighten it, making it runnier and airy. Then the chocolate and the rest of the whites get folded together very gently, but also very thoroughly. Seems like this might be hard, but it’s not. They actually come together rather nicely.

The batters go into the soufflés, filling to just below the widening of the rim, and the soufflés into the oven. About six minutes in, the oven is turned down to 325 and about fifteen minutes later the soufflés go to the table. This could be enough for four in genteel company, but shit—this is seriously fun pig-out food. We finished our soufflés no problem, even though we were already stuffed with the supersize portions of polenta.

This is a goopy, gooey soufflé. If you want something more cake-y go buy yourself a Hostess Ding-Dong.

Gâteau au chocolat fondant-oozing chocolate cake

Melts in your mouth & your plate! Chocolate cake is a birthday favorite, so try this recipe out! The cake must be "undercooked", as the whole point is that when cut the center oozes chocolate all over. We like this with whipped cream or à la mode.
TIP: use good quality dark chocolate, not chocolate chips. Zap in microwave with butter to melt it.

8 0z dark chocolate
5 tbsps flour
6 oz sugar
6 oz butter
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 400°F.
Grease & flour a spring form pan.
Melt chocolate with butter.
Seperate yolks from whites.
Add yolks to chocolate mixture while whisking. Whisk in flour & set aside.
Beat egg whites until stiff, gradually adding sugar.
Fold egg whites into chocolate mixture.
Pour into pan & bake about 30 minutes. Check that the center is not too cooked, it should be solid on the edges but not the center.
Serve right away or just warm.


Classic cheesecake, let the basic recipe inspire you! Usually I serve this with a fruit topping. Sometimes I add chocolate chips, caramel swirls.... inside or on top! When I have it, I also add some aromatic liquor like the French poire or Italian Marsala (about 2 tbsps).

TIP: Make this cake the day before!

1 cup graham crackers
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsps brown sugar
5 tbsps melted butter or margarine

Rind 2 lemons
24 oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
5 egg

1 1/2 cups sour cream
2 tbsps sugar
1/2 tbsps vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease bottom & sides of a spring form pan and/or line with wax paper.
Mix together ingredients for crust. Pat in crumbs on bottom & sides of pan.
For filling, mix cream cheese & grated lemon rinds into a large bowl.
Beat until creamy.
Add sugar, eggs & salt.
Beat until smooth.
Pour into pan.
Bake until set, about 45 min.
Remove from oven to let cool 10 minutes.
Prepare topping by beating ingredients until dissolved.
Spread onto cooled cake.
Return to oven 10 minutes.
Remove & let cool, then refrigerate at least several hours before serving.

Before serving, decorate with chocolate shavings or fruit topping.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Fish cakes

Quick & simple, these can be served as an appetizer or main dish.
I tend to make this when I have left over potatoes or mashed potatoes.

3 boiled potatoes
3 small filets of white fish
1 egg
1 small eschalot
salt & pepper
Oil for frying

Mash potatoes & fish.
Add rest of ingredients.
Pat into palm size paddies then roll in breadcrumbs.
Fry in oil.
Serve hot

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Meatloaf (Italian version)

Meatloaf can often evoke groans, but this recipe, handed down from my grandmother, has the opposite effect. Grandma made this for us kids & would improvise with whatever was in the fridge in terms of the filling (you'll see!).
Usually I serve the sauce from the meatloaf with pasta and the meat seperately, Italian style.
TIP: ALL meat must be taken out of the fridge at least 20 minutes (room temperature) before cooking.

1 lb ground beef
1 egg
4 tbsps bread crumbs
4 tbsps chopped parseley
4 tbsps grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
hard boiled egg
2 slices of ham, salami....
1 small onion
1 medium carrot
1 glass red wine (optional)
12 oz tomato sauce

In a large bowl, mix ground beef, raw egg, breadcrumbs, parsely & parmesan. Salt & pepper to taste.
On a flat surface, make a ball with the mixture, make a hole in the center.
Wrap the hard boiled egg in the cold cut.
Place in the center of the meat mixture then press the ground beef around it & make an oval form.
Cut the onion in four.
Chop carrot.
Sauté onion & carrot in olive oil or butter in a deep pan.

Add meatloaf, lower to a medium heat.
When it browns on one side turn gently with the aide of two utensils.
When the loaf is browned on all sides, add a glass of red wine.
Cook down the wine, then add the tomato sauce.
Simmer about 30 minutes.

Serve the sauce with pasta & parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Split pea soup

In winter it's cold & snowy here in the Alps, so hot & hearty soup is a staple for dinner. Split pea soup is one of the kid's favorites. Traditionally, it's made with ham hock, which is not easy to find in France where cuts of meat are different. I've experimented with different cuts of pork & beef on the bone & have always had excellent results. These cuts are often the cheapest, so it's a good nutritious but cheap meal! Also freezes well (remove the bone first) so I just cook up a batch.

Vegetarians may substitute the meat with potatoe.

TIP: I've substituted lentils (all kinds!) for the split peas.
Always add salt to pulses 1/2 way through cooking time or they will become hard & bitter.

1 cup split peas
1 large carrot
1 medium onion
1 ham hock (or other meat on the bone)
4 cups homemade broth or boullion cube.
Salt & pepper

Chop up carrot & onion.
Sauté in olive oil.
Add ham hock or other meat & brown.
Add split peas, stir.
Add water & bring to boil then lower heat & simmer until thick (usually 1-2 hours).
Salt & pepper to taste.


Purim is a Jewish holiday also known as the Feast of Esther. Jewish holidays follow a lunar calendar, so it usually falls in late February or early March (like this year: 2009 or 5769 by the Jewish calendar). Hamantaschen or the "pockets of Hamam" are one of the traditional treats made for Purim. These cookies are simple & can be made with any number of fillings (including any jam you like). In a hermetically sealed container they keep 5 days (if the kids don't eat them all) & can be frozen.

The basic recipe that follows is the one I've always made with my kids because it's very simple. This can be made in a food processor (metal blade) or by hand.

TIP: Any kind of butter pastry should be as lighltly kneaded as possible or it will harden.
Dough must always be refrigerated. This pastry dough requires at least 3 hours, so I often make it a few days ahead of time.

1 egg plus 1 yolk
4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsps baking powder
2 sticks of butter plus 4 tbsps
lemon zest

Beat egg & yolk. Set aside
Put dry goods in processor or large bowl.
Cut butter into small cubes & sprinkle over dry mixture. Either process or mix with a fork until the texture is crumbly.
Add beaten egg.
Blend until dough starts to form a ball. If still too dry, add a little lemon juice or water by the tsp.
Add zest.
Blend or knead into a ball.
Remove from bowl & flatten into a disc.
Wrap in plastic. Refrigerate.

Grease cookie sheet.
Roll dough out as lightly & thinly as possible.
Use a round cookie cutter or wine glass to cut out circles.
Put a heaping tsp of filling in the center.
Wet edges with water then pinch them towards the center to form a triangle.
Place on cookie sheet & refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat oven to a medium-hot temperature.
Bake about 10 minutes or until golden.

Prune or dried fig Filling:
Blend the following ingredients in food processor or by hand.

1 cup pitted prunes or dried figs
1/2 cup raisins
4 tbsps walnuts (or other nuts)
4 tbsps jam (I prefer orange marmelade)

Lasagna-Different recipes

Originally lasagna is a Northern Italian dish, a favorite that has travelled with Italian immigrants and adapted to many different tastes. Rather than give seperate recipes for lasagna, it seemed easier to put them all together under one heading that will probably be frequently updated.
The recipes are given with store bought dried lasagna which doesn't need to be pre-cooked.

TIPs: Make the lasagna ahead of time, up to the night before. Therefore the pasta has time to absorb the liquids & will cook quicker & taste better.
Always cover with tin foil until the lasagna is nearly cooked (i.e. if the cooking time is 20 minutes, keep covered 15 minutes) to avoid it getting too dry.
If the lasagna is too liquid, then either remove the foil earlier or prolong cooking time (it's nearly impossible to overcook lasagna!).

Most pasta is sold in 1lb packages: usually half a package is enough, but adapt the number of sheets to the oven dish.

Select a deep square or rectangular oven dish.

Can be frozen once cooked.

Classic lasagna
Follow instructions for meat sauce or ragù.
Follow instructions for white sauce or bechamel recipe.

1/2 package of lasagna (preferably egg pasta)
4 oz grated parmesan cheese
1 mozzarella (optional)

Preheat oven to a medium temperature (check cooking instructions on lasagna package).
Pour a ladle of meat sauce in the bottom of the dish.
Line the dish with the sheets of pasta, avoid overlapping.
Sprinkle on cheeses.
Pour half a ladle of bechamel.
Repeat until dish is filled.
Cover with foil.
See cooking instructions which vary from 20-40 minutes.
Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.

For 10 years I was a strict vegetarian (no meat/fish products). The following are recipes for vegetable lasagna.
TIP: with the exception of Pesto Lasagna, to make the recipe lighter I substitute bechamel with 8 oz liquid heavy cream.

Pesto lasagna
In summer, when I find aromatic fresh basil, I make my own pesto. However this never lasts into winter, when store bought is on the menu! Pesto lasagna was quite the rage in Italy a few years ago & is still popular. A great "last minute" recipe as it's simple & quick!

Follow instructions for white sauce or bechamel recipe.

1/2 package of lasagna (preferably egg pasta)
1 jar of pesto or about 8 oz fresh pesto
4 oz grated parmesan cheese
1 mozzarella (optional)

Prepare bechamel.
Add pesto.
Follow instructions for classic lasagna, alternating layers of lasagna sheets & filling.
Cook like classic lasagna.

Zucchini lasagna
Follow instructions for white sauce or bechamel recipe or use liquid heavy cream.

1/2 package of lasagna (preferably egg pasta)
3 medium zucchini
1 medium onion
18 oz tomato sauce
4 oz grated parmesan cheese
1 mozzarella (optional)

Slice zucchini & onion thinly.
Sauté in oilve oil until golden.
Prepare bechamel.
Follow instructions for classic lasagna, alternating layers of lasagna sheets, tomato, zucchini filling, cheeses & cream.
Cook like classic lasagna.