Sunday, November 21, 2010

Love 4 Lasagna: Pork & Fennel Lasagna

It's Sunday again and I'm here with my next Love 4 Lasagna attempt.  With this version I've gone with something a bit more traditional.  A hearty meat sauce, ricotta cheese, mozzarella and pasta.  I made this one while my mom was visiting and she is a fan of a more traditional lasagna, so I played to that.  She's also a fan of fennel which is how I came up the hearty pork ragu that is chock full of fennel flavor from the fresh fennel and the fennel seed.

This is a really versatile sauce that would be delicious served over polenta, or even with some homemade tagliatelle.  The slow cooking not only helps the pork break down, but also really infuses great flavor throughout.  It definitely a Sunday Super kind of meal and couldn't be more perfect for a cold fall evening.

Pork & Fennel Ragu
Printable Recipe

2 1/2 lbs boneless pork shoulder - cut into 1-2" cubes
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
2 cups dry white wine
1/2 fennel bulb - cubed
1 carrot - diced
1 stalk of celery - diced
1 onion - diced
2 cloves garlic - minced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 pinch or more red pepper flake
1 large can tomatoes
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste


500g ricotta cheese
1 egg
2 Tbsp flat leaf parsley - chopped
salt & pepper
3/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
1 large ball fresh mozzarella - sliced
1 box no boil lasagna noodles

1.  Heat a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat.  Place the flour and some salt & pepper in a large bowl, mix to combine.  Dry the pork cubes with a paper towel and dredge in the flour.  Add oil to the heated pot and brown all of the pork, removing to a plate to reserve once brown.
2.  Once all the pork is browned and removed from the pot, lower the heat to medium and add in 1 cup wine to deglaze the pan.  Scrape up and brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Once it had reduce by half add in the cubed fennel, carrot, celery, onion, garlic and pinch of red pepper flake.
3.  Saute the vegetables until soft, about 5 minutes.  Then add the tomatoes, remaining white wine and fennel seed.  Bring to a boil and add in the browned pork.  Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
4. While the ragu is simmering, mix the ricotta with the egg, parsley, salt & pepper and set aside. After the 2 hours have passed, taste the sauce and adjust seasoning.  Using your spatula or wooden spoon break apart any pieces of pork that haven't already broken down.
5.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Lightly butter a 9x13 casserole dish.  Ladle some of the pork ragu on the bottom of the pan, top with a single layer of lasagna noodles.  Spread half of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles, top with more of the pork ragu and 1/2 of the parmigiano.  Repeat with another layer of noodles, ricotta, ragu & cheese.  Top with a layer of noodles, some more pork ragu and a layer of fresh mozzarella. Sprinkle with salt & fresh cracked pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
6.  Place casserole, uncovered into the heated oven and bake for 45 mins to 1 hour, until the cheese has browned and the sauce is bubbly.  Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

This one was a hug hit with the boy and mom.  It was silent as we started and eating and pretty much until we finished, which I always take as a good sign.  I think my mom just said "Jennifer" and kept eating, also a good sign.  The boy really liked it but I've turned him into a massive fan of bechemel sauce, so he of course thought it would be better with some bechemel.  I'd have to disagree with him on this one, with the thick sliced of fresh mozzarella and ricotta cheese, the white sauce would have made it too rich.   I really loved the pork ragu though and froze what was left for a quick meal later on, I can't wait to have an excuse to use it.  That is once my pasta hangover from this month has passed!  One more week to go and I have a pretty creative idea for it, stay tuned!


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