Youse thought you was going to get the receipe for Uncle Eddy's Lasagna--which has been passed down for generations--just by youse being pazzo enough
to scroll all the way down to this page? Well, youse must be Italian, or maybes youse got a St Christopher arounds youse neck, because todays yours lucky day It'll be, likes--our little secret.
This is the long version. Youse need a lot of patience or just a lot of time on your hands; like maybe youse in prison or something. There are short cuts--prepared marinara, pre-made lasagna sheets--but if it's a major Catholic holiday, youse better
make it from scratch or Uncle Eddy will make you eat applesauce the rest of your life.
The dish starts with making Uncle Eddy’s Marinara. Make this right or you'll be sleepin' with
the fishes. Please keep in mind Uncle Eddy never measured anything. You won’t either after a time or two.
OK--heres we go.
12 ripe Italian Roma tomatoes
3 28 oz. cans tomato puree. Uncle Eddy only used Progresso, but there are other brands, too-I guess
1 8 oz. can tomato paste
2 yellow onions chopped
8 crushed garlic cloves. I use a garlic press. Uncle Eddy used whatever was heavy. 8 cloves are for non-Italians.
For Italians, it’s really a matter of how many cloves you gots
1 cup Dago Red wine. I use Madera now, and limit it to a cup or so. Uncle Eddy’s recipe had no discernible limit.
½ cup Olive Oil. This can’t really be measured. When in doubt, use more.
8 Bay leaves
4 oz. dried whole Oregano
4 oz. dried Basil
2 tablespoons dried Fennel Seeds
1 tablespoon ground Sage
1 tablespoon dried Marjoram
1 tablespoon dried Thyme.
1 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
3 tablespoons sugar. Uncle Eddy used the little packets he borrowed from Dennys. . .
In an 8 quart heavy pot (Uncle Eddy’s was dented), cover the bottom with olive oil; add the chopped onion, crushed
garlic, and sauté over medium heat—not too high. Sauté until onions and garlic start to brown. Do not use a separate sauté pan. Uncle Eddy’s Marinara is a one pot adventure—start to finish.
Crush the tomatoes with your hands over the pot. Do not remove anything—seeds, stems, skins, or blemishes. Uncle Eddy left bugs in, too. This is optional.
Add the tomato puree, the tomato paste, and
the oregano, basil, rosemary, marjoram, sage, and fennel. Sage and Fennel are the secret weapons in Uncle Eddy’s Marinara and Lasagna.
Heat (simmer is too high) for a minimum of a few hours; a few days
is better. Add the wine and sugar along the way. They balance each other, so you have to use taste as your guide. Uncle Eddy’s sauce is thick and just a little bit sweet, but we’ll be adding lemon juice to get the sweetness just right.
UNCLE EDDY’S DUCK AND SAUSAGE LASAGNE FILLING
There’s nothing like it, so let’s get started.
1 small roasting duck--Uncle Eddy said he got these from an egg ranch in Chino that had ducks, too. I get mine at Stater Bros--ask the butcher.
Sweet Sicilian Sausage links or bulk
1 pot Uncle Eddy’s Marinara
6 sprigs fresh Sage
6 sprigs fresh Basil
6 sprigs fresh Oregano
2 tablespoons ground Nutmeg
1 tablespoon dried Red Chili Flakes
lemon. I use Meyer lemons. Uncle Eddy had a tree in the backyard
Uncle Eddy used all sorts of game in his lasagna. You can try quail, goose,
game hens--whatevers youse like or is on sale. No road kill. For fowl like duck, split the duck in half and grill it--outdoors is best and youse won't catch hell from the Aunts. Stuff half cloves of garlic into knife slits. Leave the skin on and placed the
halves breast-side-down on a hot grill for about 15 minutes. Then youse cook for awhile. Uncle Eddy removed about half the charcoal coals from his backyard red charcoal barbeque so it would, like, you knows--get smokey.
Uncle Eddy always knew when it was cooked just right. Youse will, too
Remove the duck and place it on a platter.
Now, take one large, heavy fry pan (Uncle
Eddy’s was dented) and cover the bottom with olive oil. Add the Sicilian Sausages and brown over medium heat. Uncle Eddy bought his sausages from the Italian market next to the Bocce Ball Courts where my Grandfather was a regular until he died at eighty
six. Uncle Eddy’s Sicilian sausages are a mixture of pork, veal, basil, garlic, and red wine. I get mine now at Huntingtons Meat and Sausage at the original Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles.
browned, take a wooden spoon and break apart the sausages into pieces (not too small). Carve the duck into pieces, too, and add to the sausage. Use all of the duck. Uncle Eddy used the giblets and neck. I don’t, but youse can.
Continue to cook the duck and sausage mixture over low heat. Do not drain--the sausage dripping and seasonings will flavor the dish. Hey, how often are you going to make this anyway? Splurge!
basil leaves torn into pieces over the top and turn off the heat. Leave the mix in the fry pan—don’t put it on a plate; or, God forbid, a bowl.
ASSEMBLING UNCLE EDDY’S LASAGNE
This is the art form, and there are several different approaches. I am showing the “open face” version, but you can make a more traditional lasagna by adding a final layer of noodles over the top and covering
it with sauce and mozzarella—breadcrumbs optional. I like the open face version because it’s lighter and allows the diner to see filling and layers. Uncle Eddy always made it open face.
Uncle Eddy rolled his own. He made the dough, kept it in a bowl overnight, and then rolled it into sheets using a rolling pin or Chianti bottle. Cut the noodles into 4 x 6 inch rectangles. Uncle
Eddy didn’t crimp the edges—neither should you.
Never use dried lasagna noodles Even Uncle Eddy’s third wife who was Swedish knew better.
your cut noodles on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 250 degrees. I know—why did we go to all that trouble to make fresh pasta noodles if we’re going to dry them out in the oven. We’re not—we’re leaving them a
little al dente so we can have our noodles stand up to the next steps.
If the Marinara is where the cart meets the cobblestone, layering is where DaVinci
meets the Mona Lisa. You’ll need an artistic eye, a trained hand, and a glass or two of the Dago Red that you didn’t use for the Marinar for drinking. will make it look perfect-- even if it's not. Here we go:
In a ceramic or porcelain lasagna pan (Uncle Eddy viewed metal pans the way Joan Crawford viewed wire hangers), spread a thin coating of olive oil and then an inch or so of Uncle Eddy’s Marinara. Next the noodles—do not
overlap. Uncle Eddy’s open face lasagna is more like giant raviolis that are served individually rather than a casserole that’s cut into squares.
Next comes the fresh ricotta. Don’t buy it in a
plastic tub (wire hangers), but in blocks from an Italian or Mediterranean market. Lay down a 3 inch square or so on each 4x6 noodle sheet—about a half inch thick.
Mound the duck and sausage mixture—about
a handful (use your hands) over each ricotta slice.
Cut ½ inch slice of the fresh mozzarella (you can use buffalo mozzarella—Uncle Eddy never saw a buffalo except on a nickel)—and cross
the pieces over the duck and sausage. Sprinkle a little ground nutmeg over each mound and a few generous squeezes of lemon.
Next place one or two wooden spoonful’s of Uncle Eddy’s Marinara over each
mound (no touching), and put fresh sprigs of sage and oregano on each. If you want more fresh herbs, add marjoram--tarragon if you're an adventurer.
Now, build another layer as above starting with a layer of noodle.
Top with shaved parmesan—a pretty good amount. If Uncle Eddy ever heard of Pecorino Romano, he never mentioned it.
Into the Oven
325 degrees for 45 minutes or until the lasagna is starting to turn golden. At this point, every pot, pans, and utensil in the kitchen have been used. Uncle Eddy didn’t believe in clean as you go. The Aunts cleaned up the kitchen after
dinner while the Uncles set up the poker tables.
Place one section on each plate. Ladle on a couple of spoonful’s of marinara. Not too much; but
not too little. You want to see the lasagna, not a plate of sauce. Garnish the plate with fresh thyme, and serve with a heated bowl of extra marinara and more shaved Parmesan.
Uncle Eddy’s lasagna is
a stand-alone dish. Warm crisped focaccia or olive bread is the only side dish required (except for more Dago Red), but you can add a salad either before or after. Salad often comes after the entrée in Italian families, but you can have it first. .
Everyone always applauded Uncle Eddy at the end of the meal—you will too; it’s part of the tradition.