Lasagna is a dish which is very often made with a fairly lengthy list of ingredients. The principals that are pasta sheets, ground (minced) beef, cheese, tomatoes and bechamel sauce are often substantiated with so many additional items and flavorants that the preparation time involved before you even get to start cooking becomes horrendous. That is the beauty of making lasagna with leftovers as one of the principal ingredients, as much of the work has previously been done and you can prepare the dish in a comparative fraction of the time. The night before this recipe was prepared, I cooked a simple chili and deliberately made extra that I would have sufficient left to make this simple meal for one person the following evening.
Ingredients (Serves 1)
- Portion of leftover chili
- 2 sheets of dried lasagna pasta
- Little bit of olive oil
- 1/2 cup crumbled smoky salsa cheddar cheese or similar
- 3 slices from French bread stick
- 1/4 stick (1 ounce) softened butter, plus a little bit extra for greasing lasagna dish
- 1 large garlic clove
- Small handful of peashoots or other green salad leaves of choice
- 1/2 a small tomato
- 3 or 4 basil leaves to garnish
The chili should ideally be removed from the fridge an hour or two in advance and left to come up to room temperature.
Bring a large pot of well salted water to a rolling boil. It is plenty of water in the pot which dilutes the starch when cooking pasta and stops the pasta sticking together. Adding olive oil - as many people do - is just a waste of oil as it simply floats on top of the water. Put the two sheets of lasagna in to the water and gently move them around for a few seconds with a wooden spoon, reduce the heat to achieve a simmer and continue to simmer for ten minutes.
Very lightly oil a large plate with olive oil. Lift the cooked sheets of lasagna from the water one at a time with a large spatula and lay them on the plate to cool down.
Start your oven preheating to 350F/180C/Gas Mark 4.
This smoky salsa cheddar cheese is of course a specialty cheese which is not in its precise form widely available. Try to get something similar. It is basically a hard, cheddar type cheese, infused with chilies and garlic. Crumble the cheese fairly finely with your fingers.
The stone dish I used is eight inches by five inches by about one and a half inches deep. It proved to be the perfect size. You will need a dish of a similar capacity and be sure to make sure it is ovenproof. The inside of the dish should be lightly greased with butter before you just under a third fill it with some of the chili.
The lasagna pasta sheets will be very delicate so be careful as you lift one of them on to the chili bed and very lightly press it down and in to place.
Spread some more chili on top of the first pasta sheet to just under two-thirds fill the dish. Scatter with around two-thirds of the cheese and lay the second sheet of pasta in place in the same way as before. Almost but not quite fill the dish with more chili.
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and lift it carefully on to a large, deep oven tray. The purpose of using the tray is that it will contain any inadvertent leakage which occurs during cooking. It's a lot easier to clean the tray than clean your whole oven! Put the tray in to the heated oven for an initial thirty minutes.
When the thirty minutes are up, take the tray from the oven and very carefully remove the foil. Remember that a lot of hot steam will suddenly escape. Scatter the remainder of the cheese over the top of the chili and return the tray to the oven for five final minutes, this time with the dish uncovered.
Put the quarter stick (one ounce) of butter in to a small mixing bowl. Grate in the peeled garlic clove and mash/mix well with the back of a fork. Cut the slices from the French bread stick around one inch thick and spread a third of the butter on one side of each slice.
Take the tray from the oven and lift the lasagna to a heatproof surface to briefly rest. Lay the bread slices - buttered sides up - on the tray and put them in to the oven for ten minutes.
Wash the salad leaves in a colander under running cold water and shake them dry. It is imperative you do this to eliminate the risk of food poisoning, even when the package alleges they are pre-washed and ready to eat. Cut the tomato half in to three equal sized wedges.
When you come to lift the lasagna dish to your serving plate, remember to wear oven gloves as it will still be incredibly hot. Take the garlic bread from the oven and plate on one side of the lasagna, with the salad leaves and tomatoes on the other side. Lightly season the salad with salt. Roll the basil leaves and shred. Scatter over the dish as a final garnish.