Thanksgiving. Is. My. Favorite. (1 week and counting...)
Whether we have 4 friends, 8 friends or if it’s just dinner for me and my hubby, I cook for 12 – which is what I grew up doing – with days of leftovers in my mind and in my heart. Ohh the leftovers! They're almost as much of a treat as the day-of feast itself. (Dare I say, potentially better?) And while the leftover sando is a huge staple – and never going anywhere – I wanted something new with somewhat of a twist, but all-inclusive of my faves. This autumn lasagna is a perfect way of blending my most loved cuisine with the cozy comfort holiday.
Ingredients for this lasagna will vary based on your own personal Thanksgiving menu. The basics include turkey, of course, greens, root vegetables, stuffing and gravy. I’m hesitant to add cranberry sauce into this rich pasta pie, but if you’re feeling particularly daring, by all means go for it. (I’m going to be fully honest – there’s rarely cranberry sauce that makes it past Thursday in my house.) The pasta is usually my only original, non-leftover ingredient in this dish. Between the noodles, white meat, white sauce and pale potatoes, my version is pretty monochromatic. But feel free to add color. Because traditional Thanksgiving dishes are so familiar to us and meld together so beautifully, just about anything from your own Thursday feast will do. You’re looking forward to a rich layered pie of married fall flavors, covered in cheese. How could you go wrong?
Lasagna (per MY leftovers for 2)
1 cup shredded white meat turkey (sliced very thinly or shredded by hand)
1 cup mashed sweet potatoes (season with salt, pepper and chopped fresh sage; pumpkin will work well for this layer too, and will give the dish more of a fall color scheme than my sweet po’s)
1 cup garlicky sautéed spinach with olive oil and salt
1 ½ cups béchamel sauce (recipe below, feel free to use leftover gravy, or both!)
9 lasagna noodles cooked (I make fresh noodles, recipe below, but dried pasta will work fine!)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ red onion thinly sliced
Bunch of fresh sage leaves
Toasted stuffing, crumbled over the top
1. Spread a tablespoon of béchamel to cover the bottom of a buttered 7 x 10.5" baking dish.
2. Begin the layers! 3 lasagna noodles, sweet potato, spinach, turkey, sauce. Repeat. Repeat for 3 layers. Press each layer down as you go to really get the flavors to meld and the structure to hold. I end on a hearty layer of béchamel.
3. Sprinkle the mozzarella, sage leaves, red onion, and crispy crumbled stuffing over the top.
4. Cover tightly with tin foil and refrigerate for at least an hour, up to a day.
5. Remove from the fridge. Preheat oven to 375° F. Bake covered for 20 minutes. Increase temperature to 400° F. Remove tin foil and bake another 15 minutes, or until the cheese on top is golden around the edges and bubbly. Let cool for a few minutes, which will allow it to set.
6. Enjoy your thanksgiving residuals!
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups whole milk
Pinch of salt, nutmeg, cayenne, and chopped fresh sage
1. Make a roux. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color and smells rich and nutty, about five minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture gradually, whisking continuously until very smooth. Make sure to scrape the bottom and edges so none of the roux sticks and burns. Bring to a simmer. Cook ten minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season to taste with salt, nutmeg, cayenne and sage. Cover and set aside.
Pasta Dough (Basic Egg Pasta from James Beard’s Beard on Pasta)
1 ½ cups all-purpose, unbleached flour, plus more for rolling
½ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1. Put the flour mixed with the salt on a wooden board or counter top. Make a well in the center of the mound, and break the eggs into the well. Beat the eggs with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour from the sides of the well. When the dough becomes a sticky mess, continue mixing the flour into the egg with your fingertips. When the flour and egg are all mixed, press the dough into a ball. It will seem to be composed of dough flakes.
2. If the ball is still sticky, sprinkle a bit of flour on your work surface. Begin to knead the dough. Push the heel of your hand down hard, stretching the dough firmly away from you. Fold the flap back toward you and give the lump of dough a quarter-turn. Press down on another section of the dough. After a few minutes, it should begin to form a ball. Knead for a full ten minutes, pushing, folding and turning until the dough is smooth. When you are done, pat the dough into a neat ball and cover with a dish towel and let is rest for at least 30 minutes. Two hours’ rest is even better.
3. Once rested, divide the dough into four pieces. Roll each piece through pasta machine according to instructions, folding the dough in thirds after rolling through the widest setting a couple of times. Continue passing through the machine, decreasing the setting’s wideness one by one until you reach desired thickness.
4. Cut each rolled out noodle to 10-12”.
5. Drop in furiously boiling, salted water for only a minute or two. Test a piece for doneness. Drain in a colander.
6. Drizzle with olive oil and aside until you’re ready to build the lasagna.