I’ve written before about my love for Lasagna. With its glorious balance of noodle, sauce and cheese it easily makes my list of favorite foods. The problem is I almost always end up with leftover sheets of lasagna noodles but there aren’t quite enough to make another lasagna.
I usually just break them up and add them to soups, but this time, I decided to try turning lasagna into a stew. It was a good call. This simple stew takes far less effort than making a lasagna yet it has the same soul warming texture and enough umami to make a smile blossom on your face, even on the dreariest of winter days.
The first key to building a stew with great flavor is to use a mixture of pork and beef. In this case I’ve used some bacon, which not only adds a subtle smoky flavor it also releases enough fat to saute the aromatics.
This leads me to the second trick, which is to take advantage of the Maillard reaction by browning both the meat and the vegetables. To make this process go faster, it’s important to chop the vegetables as small as possible, this increases the total surface area exposed to the heat source, thus speeding up the browning. For the onions a fine dice of about 1/8 inch should get them to caramelize in about 10 minutes instead of the 30 minutes a medium dice might take.
The last trick is actually more of a secret ingredient. It’s not the easiest thing to find, but porcini powder has an almost magical ability to instantly add bold meaty flavor to any dish and it does wonders for this stew. If you can’t find it, you can make your own by putting dried porcinis into a clean coffee grinder and running it until there are no chunks left.
To finish off the stew, I add some fresh bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls) and cook them just long enough so that they melt into gooey pools of cheese. Topped with a generous dusting of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and you have a delightfully satisfying Lasagna in the form of a stew.
With its glorious balance of noodle, sauce and cheese, this lasagna stew takes far less effort yet has the same soul warming texture of the regular dish. (Recipe Credit: Marc Matsumoto of Fresh Tastes.)
- 5.6 ounces bacon (finely diced)
- 12 ounces ground beef
- 9.3 ounces onion (~1 medium onion, finely diced)
- 2.1 ounces carrot (~1 small carrot, grated)
- .5 ounces garlic (~2 large cloves, minced)
- 1 cup red wine
- 28 ounce can whole tomatoes (tomatoes hand crushed)
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
- 1 teaspoon porcini powder
- 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- .5 ounces basil (~4 sprigs, chopped )
- black pepper (to taste)
- 4.7 ounces Lasagna noodles (7 sheets 6 2/3 in x 3)
- 3.5 ounces bocconcini (mini fresh mozzarella)
- Parmigiano-Reggiano (to taste)
- Add the bacon to a heavy bottomed pot and saute until the bacon is starting to brown and a good amount of fat has rendered out.
- Add the beef and saute until cooked through. Transfer the meat to a bowl using a slotted spoon and drain off all but 1 tablespoon of fat.
- Add the onions, carrot, and garlic to the pot and saute until the onions are tender and well browned.
- Add the wine to the pot and deglaze the bottom of the pot.
- When it no longer smells like alcohol, return the meat to the pot, along with the tomatoes, vegetables stock, salt, porcini powder, fennel seeds, nutmeg, basil and black pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Break the lasagna into roughly 1-inch pieces.
- Add the lasagna and cook until tender (about 10 minutes).
- If the stew cooks down and ends up too thick, you can adjust the consistency by adding some more vegetable stock or water.
- Just before you're ready to eat, add 2-3 bocconcini per serving to the pot until they soften. Serve and garnish with flat-leaf parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marc’s been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.