Undoubtedly, whoever designated this Sunday, July 29, as National Lasagna Day as well as Chicken Wing Day has got to love entertaining. These popular entrees are crowd pleasers that can be made ahead and in large quantities, perfectly portable for picnics, buffets and family Sunday suppers. They also both have an ooey-gooey richness that pairs well with big salads on the side. Most cooks have their tried-and-true recipes for lasagna and for chicken wings; here are a few variations to expand your repertoire.
Lasagna Casserole with Meat and Red Wine Sauce
This meat lovers’ lasagna has three different meats. It’s a long list of ingredients, but once they are prepped, the dish comes together easily. Make it up to four days in advance and reheat at 350 degrees. Recipe from “The Pasta Book” by Julia della Croce; makes 6 servings as a main course; more as part of a buffet.
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 large stalk celery, including leaves, finely chopped
1/2 pound lean, sweet, fennel Italian pork sausages
1 pound lean ground beef
4 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 cup good dry red wine
28-ounce can tomatoes in puree, drained and coarsely chopped (reserve puree)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound dried lasagna noodles
3 cups ricotta cheese
Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
1-1/2 cups fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound thinly sliced Italian salami, diced
1-1/2 pounds mozzarella, cut into very thin slices or shredded
Soak dried mushrooms in 1/4 cup warm water until softened, about 30 minutes. Strain liquid through a fine sieve and reserve. Chop mushrooms coarsely; set aside. Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter in a heavy saucepan. Add onion, garlic, parsley, carrot and celery; saute over medium heat until vegetables soften, about 10 minutes (do not brown.) Remove sausage meat from casings; add it and the ground beef to the pan. Saute until lightly browned, about 8 minutes, breaking up meat with a spoon and mixing with the vegetables. Saute gently another 8 to 10 minutes; stir in reserved mushrooms and their liquor, the tomato paste, and wine. Simmer 5 minutes, then add tomatoes and reserved puree; simmer, uncovered, until sauce thickens, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
While sauce is cooking, preheat oven to 425 degrees, placing oven rack in upper half of oven. Boil 5 to 6 quarts water; add vegetable oil and noodles. Stir immediately and frequently as noodles cook. Drain when slightly underdone, reserving 1/3 cup of the cooking water. Rinse noodles in cold water. In a bowl, combine ricotta with reserved pasta water, nutmeg, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan. Smear bottom of a 10×14-inch baking pan with meat sauce; place a single layer of noodles on top, then spread a layer of ricotta mixture, followed by a layer of sauce. Add some salami, a layer of mozzarella, and a few teaspoons of remaining Parmesan. Repeat layers until all ingredients are used up, ending with a layer of meat sauce then cheese. Bake about 25 minutes, until bubbly. Let settle about 15 minutes before cutting into small squares.
Hamakua Zucchini and Eggplant Lasagna
This hearty, pasta-free, vegetarian lasagna was shared several years ago by Chef Cy Yamamoto for a Farm Bureau event highlighting local ingredients. Although it did not list the number of servings, I suspect there’s enough to share with a few friends.
20 Roy Honda Farms tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1/4 lb. chopped garlic
1 cup olive oil
1/2 lb. chopped basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil on medium-low heat; add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes; cook for an hour, stirring occasionally. Let cool, then blend until smooth and add basil; set aside.
2 pounds Hamakua mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 Maui onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 local zucchini, thinly sliced
2 local round eggplant, thinly sliced
1 pound Mozzarella cheese, grated
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons olive oil
Saute mushrooms, onions and garlic in olive oil until soft; let cool. Put one layer of zucchini in a baking pan; top with a thin layer of marinara sauce, then mozzarella cheese, then a layer of mushroom mixture, more sauce, and then more cheese, Add a layer of eggplant, then sauce, then cheese. Keep alternating layers until all ingredients are used up. Finally, top with Parmesan cheese and bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 50 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand for 20 minutes to set up, then cut and serve.
Spicy Amber Ale Wings
Lucy Saunders, author of “Grilling with Beer,” created this crowd-pleasing chicken wings recipe.
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
24 ounces amber or brown ale
5 pounds chicken wings, cut into 3 sections, small tips removed*
24 bamboo skewers, at least 10 inches long, soaked in water
1 cup butter
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup minced fresh jalapenos
1/2 cup Tabasco pepper sauce
1/2 cup Asian sweet hot chili sauce
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (for garnish)
In a large gallon bowl, mix salt, brown sugar and ale; whisk until dissolved. Add chicken and mix to coat. Cover and chill 4-8 hours. (You may need to put a plate in the bowl so chicken is completely submerged in the brine.) Melt butter in a large skillet over low heat; add garlic and jalapenos. Cook, stirring, until jalapenos are tender. Add Tabasco, chili sauce, cinnamon and ground pepper. Mix well; simmer 3 minutes. Put mixture in blender; puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Prepare grill. Drain wings from brine. Thread on skewers, 3 to 4 pieces per skewer. (Hint: keep pieces of similar size together to cook evenly.) Place skewers over indirect heat; cook 25 minutes or until very brown and crispy, turning every 5 minutes. Arrange cooked wings on platter, spoon prepared chili sauce over, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
*I freeze the wing tips and use them at a later time for making homemade stock for soups.
Crispy Balsamic Chicken Wings
Amazing taste with only three ingredients; the slightly sweet vinegar marinade caramelizes into a crisp glaze. You can bake or grill these wings. Recipe from “The Best of Food &Wine: Chicken Collection” by Food &Wine Books; makes 8 servings.
4 pounds chicken wings
1-1/3 cups balsamic vinegar
6 large scallions, thinly sliced
In a large bowl, combine chicken wings, vinegar and scallions; toss well to evenly coat the wings. Cover and marinate at room temperature for 6 hours, stirring occasionally, or refrigerate overnight. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Return wings to room temperature if refrigerated. Lift out of marinade and place on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake until crisp and deep brown, about 25 minutes. Alternatively, grill wings over a medium-hot fire, about 5 inches from heat, for 8 to 10 minutes per side. Serve hot or at room temperature.