Venison Lasagna

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VENISON LASAGNA

INGREDIENTS:
   
1 1/2 to 2 lbs. ground venison, no fat added 1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds 
1 lb. Italian sausage or Hot Sausage 1/4 cup Port Wine
1 package 10 oz. Lasagna Noodles (10 noodles) 1/4 cup water 
1 can (28 oz.) whole or crushed tomatoes, don't drain 1/2 teaspoon Wild Bill's Meat Rub
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns (Tellicherry)
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce    3 tablespoons olive oil, reserve 1 tablespoon for pasta water
3 cups Ricotta or cottage cheese    2 tablespoons dried basil
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced (12 slices)    1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese    4 tablespoons dried parsley, divided
1 cup onion, diced fine    1 tablespoon Morton table salt, reserve 1 teaspoon
2 cloves garlic, minced    1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs, beaten  


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place a large skillet on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, venison, Italian sausage, garlic, onions and cook until brown.  Drain grease from skillet.  Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, 2 tablespoons dried parsley, 2 tablespoons dried basil, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon Wild Bill's Meat Rub, 1/4 cup Port Wine, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns, 1/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons salt mixing well.  Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, add water to a 10 quart plus pasta pot and bring to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt and 10 oz. package of lasagna noodles and cook per package instructions until al dente.  When finished cooking, drain and place under cool water and pat dry with paper towels.  Place noodles flat on a sheet of aluminum foil until ready to use.

For the cheese filling, combine Ricotta cheese, beaten eggs, 2 tablespoons parsley, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese mixing well.

TO ASSEMBLE:  Spread 1 1/2 cups of the meat sauce on the bottom of a deep dish 9 x 13 lasagna pan.  Layer half the cooked lasagna noodles overlapping if necessary.  Spoon half the cottage cheese mixture over the noodles; spread evenly.  Cover cottage cheese with a layer of mozzarella cheese.  Spoon a little less than half the meat/sauce mixture over the top.  Repeat; lasagna noodles, cheese mixture, cheese slices ending with meat/sauce mixture.  Sprinkle top generously with extra Parmesan cheese.

Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 30 to 45 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.  Recipe adapted from standard beef lasagna recipes from cookbooks and the internet.

YIELD:  12 servings

NOTES:  I baked the above Venison Lasagna on 05-23-13 and served with a tossed salad and garlic toast.  This recipe is outstanding and there was a very good presence of Italian spices, especially the fennel seeds and anise seeds in the recipe of which I believe most of it came from the Johnsonville Italian Mild Sausage, although I used only 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds in the meat sauce/mixture.  My bride liked the recipe but I don't think she was as stoked as I was about the presence of the fennel seed flavor and updated the recipe to reflect the change in the amount of the fennel seeds.  We have never been big fans of Italian cuisine other than pizza and spaghetti simply because neither of us had much experience with it growing up.  What few times I have experienced Lasagna there was an overpowering taste and presence of a tomato paste taste and I rectified that by toning down the tomato taste flavors with the usage of 1 tablespoon of pure honey and it did the trick.  It took the bitter taste out of the tomato paste in my humble opinion.  My bride managed a local Pizza Inn for several years and regularly prepared Lasagna along with other Italian dishes but her favorite is still Pizza Inn pizza such as their BLT, Pepperoni, Bacon Cheeseburger and a few others.  Both our parents made traditional Southern style spaghetti but I don't remember Lasagna being prepared at all. 

I let the lasagna cool for 15 minutes or more but it could have cooled much longer to get an optimum photo since the cheeses were not solidified yet but it sure did taste wonderful!  The last three pixs added to the sequence pixs below were the first ones that I took of the plated lasagna.  The first three pixs above were taken after the lasagna had cooled down an hour or so.   I will add this recipe to my pasta section but will change the venison to beef....grin if you must!  I used 3 cups of the Ricotta cheese but believe 2 cups would have been adequate for this recipe.

I don't own a deep dish lasagna pan and used a standard Pyrex dish 9 x 13 x 2 and it was filled to the maximum and didn't take the meat/sauce mixture to the extreme edge since it was about to overflow....grin if you must!  I will add a specialty lasagna pan to our kitchen pots n pans because I will definitely do this recipe again.  My taste testers will have some large samples to critique tomorrow!

Click on thumbnail sequence pixs below for a larger screen view:

NOTE:  I got totally preoccupied with the lasagna assembly and didn't take pixs of each step of the assembly but the directions are correct....my bad on the sequence pixs.

Web published by Bill aka Mickey Porter 05-21-13 with pixs added on 05-23-13.

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