I’ve come to accept something about myself… I’m a snob. It’s true, I admit it. Food, wine, beer, spirits, you name it, I’m a snob. Many of my friends and family can attest to this, and will freely admit that there are plenty of times I aggravate them with my holier than thou food and beverage ideas and attitude. I’ve been trying to change my ways, i.e. keep my mouth shut, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Well anyway, I’ve recently come to the realization that my snobbery has been depriving me of some pretty awesome foods because I looked at them as “too simple” or “typical fast food fare” or “if you want that go to a pizzeria!”. Things like tacos, casseroles, pot pies, chicken parmesan, ziti, and most glaringly, lasagna.
What was I thinking!? Let’s face it, lasagna in the traditional sense is one of the best dishes in the world. Meat, cheese, pasta, sauce, all layered and then baked into an ooey-gooey meaty deliciousness… What more could you ask for!? On top of that, it’s also crazy versatile. You can make of it what you will. Seafood, vegetarian, creole, and many more, or what I decided to play with… Southwest Americana.
So here’s my humble, non-food snob, Southwest Lasagna recipe. I hope you enjoy!
I know there are different sized lasagna pans, for this recipe I used a 9.5 x 14″ pan that’s about 4″ deep. If you’re using a different size you’ll have to adjust your ingredient portions accordingly.
1tbsp Olive Oil
1lb Ground Sweet or Hot Sausage (I used hot)
3/4lb Ground Beef
1/2c Pablano Pepper, chopped
1/2c Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1/2c Spanish Onion, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1c Black Beans (I used canned)
40oz Rotel Original
2 1/2tsp Salt, (2) 1tsp portions and (1) 1/2tsp portion
3tsp Ground Black Pepper, (3) 1tsp portions
2tsp Paprika, (2) 1tsp portions
1tsp Onion Powder
1tsp Dried Cilantro
15 Lasagna Noodles
16oz Ricotta Cheese
1 Large Egg
16oz Shredded Mexican Four Cheese Blend
3tbsp Grated Parmesan, (3) 1tbsp portions
Heat your oven to 350F.
Heat the olive oil at medium-high heat in a large pot, add the sausage and ground beef, as well as 1tsp each of salt, pepper and paprika. Cook until lightly browned, then reduce the heat to medium and add the chopped onion and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the chopped pablano and bell pepper, black beans, 30oz of Rotel (the remaining 10oz is to top the final layer) and 1tsp each of salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder and dried cilantro. Increase the heat to high and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove from heat and allow to cool at room temperature.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook off your lasagna noodles in three separate batches of five noodles. Cook them for 3 minutes less than instructed on the packaging. Lay the cooked noodles out on foil or wax paper to keep their shape and so they don’t stick to one another while you are finishing the batches.
In a large bowl combine you ricotta and egg with 1tsp black pepper and 1/2tsp of salt.
Layer half of your meat mixture evenly in the bottom of the lasagna pan. Top the meat mixture with five noodles, four horizontal and one vertical along the bare edge (you’ll have to cut off about 3″ from the end of the vertical noodle to match the width of the pan). Spread 1/3 of your ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles. Layer 1tbsp grated parmesan and 1/3 of the shredded cheese evenly over the ricotta. Spread 1/2 of your remaining meat mixture over the cheeses, then top with another layer of noodles. Repeat the previous layer. Top the final layer of noodles the remainder of your ricotta and parmesan. Spread your remaining 10oz of Rotel over the ricotta and parmesan, then finish the top layer with your remaining shredded cheese. Cover the pan with aluminum foil… The foil shouldn’t be touching the top layer if you’re using the right dish, but if for some reason it is spray the bottom of the foil with baking spray to stop the cheese from sticking.
Bake the lasagna in the oven for 25 minutes covered at 350F, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes at 350F, or until the top layer of cheese is melted and lightly browned along the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.
Now let’s talk wine pairings… With this particular dish I really gravitate towards wines with dark fruit and vegetal/dried herb notes. Think wines from South America, or the Northern Rhone, or Cabernet Franc from just about anywhere. Here are my recommendations.
Clos des Fous Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Cachapoal-Andes, Chile – Clos des Fous was established a handful of years back by four Chilean visionaries, or as they term themselves, fools (fous): viticulturist Paco Leyton, winemaker Francois Massoc, terroir hunter Pedro Parra, and “bringer of wisdom” Albert Cussen. They, along with a handful of other new producers in Chile, have started a movement called “The New Chile”. The New Chile movement is the belief of making wines that are small production and terroir driven, the exact opposite of what Chile winemaking has always been, which was mass production and consistency of flavor. Clos des Fous Cabernet is like nothing I’ve ever tasted. The wine is medium bodied, aged entirely in stainless steel allowing the fruit to shine and giving it lift. On the palate are notes of cherry, dried herbs, jalapeno and crushed rock, with subtle acidic undertones and a sturdy dry tannic backbone. For Chile, this wine is surprisingly complex, and best yet, it lacks that overt “green” characteristic that you’re so used to in wines from this region. PP Score: 91 (Retail $17-21)
Casa Silva Carmenere Cuvee Colchagua 2012, Colchagua Valley, Chile – Casa Silva is one of the oldest and most storied wineries in Chile, having been established in 1892. For years they were guilty of being much like your typical Chilean producer, with a predominance of their vineyards being overly lush valley floor sites, trying to make far too many wines to appeal to the masses (at one point they were growing 26 different varietals) and primarily relying on the inexpensive price point of their product to drive sales, rather than quality. However, when the “New Chile” movement began with young winemakers striving to make world class wines from varying Chilean terroirs, Casa Silva looked in the mirror and realized that it was time for a change. They went from making 26 wines to 5, and focused on quality rather than quantity. Overnight they reinvented themselves. Their Carmenere Cuvee Colchagua is now their entry level bottling (it was once considered their “Reserve”). In the glass you find a medium-full bodied wine with notes of dark cherry, bitter chocolate, dried herbs, subtle bell pepper and hints of charred oak, given depth by moderate tannins, leading into a persistent finish. A very nice wine for the price point. PP Score: 89 (Retail $13-16)
Hermanos Malbec/Tannat Blend 2012, Salta, Argentina – Hermanos is named accordingly as it is the project of three brothers who were raised in the winemaking world of Salta, a high elevation region in the Andes Mountains in Argentina. Their red blend is a mix of 70% Malbec and 30% Tannat, yielded from younger vines (average age of 16 years) located in vineyards with an average elevation of approximately 7,000 feet above sea level. The vineyards see about 340 days per year of unobscured sunlight, leading to rich concentration in the grapes, however, the cool high elevation temperatures lend balance and structure, rather than jammy lushness. In the glass is a full bodied wine with subtle notes of dark cherry, blackberry, bitter chocolate and licorise, and more pronounced notes of green garden vegetable, dried herbs, churned loam and hints of smoke, framed by subtle acidity and firm tannins. A very interesting wine, but not necessarily for everyone. PP Score: 88 (Retail $14-17)
So there you have it, my comfort food Southwest Americana Lasagna recipe, and a few wines I recommend to enjoy with it. I hope you’ve enjoyed the read, and of course I hope you’ll try the recipe and wines! As always, new content is coming soon… In the meantime crack open a bottle of some small production South American vino, sit back, and relax. Life is short, enjoy it!