Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cindy's Kitchen In Brooklyn: Wine and Food Pairing - Italian Ripasso with Four Cheese Lasagna

Week 2 of my (apparently) weekly wine and food pairing column.

This week I made one of my best lasagnas of all time (I'm going to share my secrets below), and paired with a fabulous Ripasso. Ripasso is a wonderful red wine made in the Veneto from Corvina and Rondinella grapes, with complex black fruit flavors and a hint of smokiness. It is typically a higher end wine, generally made by better winemakers, as the process is more intensive. Traditionally, it is made by refermenting the young wine on the skins of the grapes in the early Spring immediately after the first fermentation ends. A more modern - and more expensive - technique is to referment the young wine with dried grapes the next winter after vintage. This gives the wine more body and depth. Producers may blend both techniques, giving the wine a unique freshness and complexity.

The Alpha Zeta Ripasso I drank stood up so well to my big and bold four cheese lasagna, and at the same time, its smooth tannins didn't overwhelm my secret bechamel sauce.

*About the recipe: I hardly ever measure anything, so all measurements are estimates. Just play around and have fun - it's NOT hard to make a good lasagna! For the noodles Barilla seems to be the choice of pastas for professional Italian chefs when they don't have time to make their own pasta; I have started using those "no boil" noodles and I'm impressed - they really help maintain the structure of the lasagna.

1 package lasagna noodles
8-10 ounces good quality tomato sauce (I almost always make my own - it's not that hard! I'll do a follow up post soon with my recipe)
12-16 ounces ricotta cheese (part skim is fine)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cups milk (2% fat or higher, you can also use cream or half and half; when I make lower-fat version of this recipe I like using Land-O-Lakes fat free half and half)
10 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese (can also be part skim) (if you can't get fresh, try Polly-O; it melts quite well)
2-3 wedges of Original Laughing Cow cheese (yes my secret ingredient!)
4 ounces parmesan-reggiano, freshly grated (again if you cant get your hands on a block of it, go ahead and use the Kraft kind)
1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
salt and pepper
garlic powder
red pepper flakes
fresh basil
drizzle of olive oil

  1. Mix together the ricotta, the egg, and all but 2 ounces of the tomato sauce. Mix in some of the defrosted spinach. Make sure the mixture isn't too liquidy. Doing this will make layering easier.
  2. Make a roux with the butter and flour. Melt the butter, then add the flour. Whisk for a minute until integrated - it should be clumpy. Slowly stir in the milk and whisk for another minute. Then add the laughing cow wedges and all but 2 ounces the mozzarella cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until cheese is melted and is thick and creamy. Keep on low heat until use, so that it doesn't harden.
  3. In a lasagna pan, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom; this will help the lasagna stay moist and not stick to the pan.
  4. Layer the noodles in a row, overlapping.
  5. Layer the sauce/ricotta mixture evenly.
  6. Top with the cheesy bechamel sauce. Top with grated parmesan-reggiano, garlic, oregano, chopped basil, rep pepper flakes and salt, all to taste. Just don't go overboard on the spices.
  7. Repeat steps 4,5, and 6 two times.
  8. Place one last layer of noodles on top. Top with tomato sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Add some fresh basil leaves on top. Drizzle with small amount of olive oil.
  9. Bake in a 375 oven for 35-40 minutes, or until golden bubbly on top.
  10. Let rest for at least ten minutes before you cut in.

Check out my other post on Wine and Food Pairing with New Zealand Pinot Noir and Lamb

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