4 Levels of Lasagna: Amateur to Food Scientist

We challenged chefs of three different levels - an amateur, a home cook and a professional chef - to make their versions of lasagna. And then we brought in a food scientist to review their work. Which Lasagna was the best? Check out the professional's recipe here on the ICE blog: https://www.ice.edu/blog/frank-proto-lasagna-recipe

Released on 8/13/2019

Transcript

00:00
[cutting] [sizzling]
00:00
[cracking]
00:01
[drum music]
00:04
Hi, I'm John and I'm a level one chef.
00:06
Hi, I'm Khadjiah and I'm a level two chef.
00:08
I'm Frank and I've been a chef for 23 years.
00:11
[drum music]
00:12
[sizzling]
00:13
This lasagna recipe is a variation
00:15
that my mom used to make for us.
00:16
Super simple.
00:17
Very dumbed down, cause I know how to do it.
00:19
I grew up in a Caribbean household.
00:21
But as I grew up, I started putting my own spin
00:24
on these Caribbean dishes.
00:27
I like things really spicy.
00:28
For my lasagna, I like to make a meat sauce.
00:30
Any time you have a crowd over,
00:32
you should make this lasagna.
00:33
It feeds a lot of people.
00:36
[metal drawing against metal]
00:38
[ringing]
00:42
So, first I'm going to make my meat sauce,
00:44
which is the base of the dish.
00:45
I just take the ground beef.
00:47
Just going to work it through the pan,
00:49
until it gets nice and brown throughout.
00:51
My parents don't like red meat, so I use ground turkey
00:55
for my turkey lasagna.
00:56
Turkey and mushroom lasagna.
00:57
You add the mushrooms handful by handful.
00:59
You don't want the mushrooms to end up soggy.
01:01
You just want it to brown.
01:02
I start out with pancetta.
01:03
Pancetta is basically cured pork belly.
01:05
It's salty, it has a lot of fat in it.
01:07
It adds this nice depth and richness to our tomato sauce.
01:10
This'll basically kind of melt into the sauce.
01:13
And I'm not using ground beef here.
01:15
I use short ribs.
01:16
I use short ribs for a lot of things.
01:17
We're going to season up our short ribs really well.
01:19
Plenty of salt. Salt.
01:20
Plenty of pepper.
01:21
And I really don't use much seasonings
01:23
with my ground beef.
01:24
I kind of like the taste, once it's cooked.
01:26
This is going to go back in the sauce,
01:27
but right now I just want to focus on getting my meat brown.
01:32
This tough piece of meat needs some time to break down.
01:34
While my meat is browning, I'm going to cut my aromatics.
01:37
I like to use carrots and onions.
01:39
You don't want it to be too big,
01:41
or else, when you take a bite of lasagna you'll have
01:43
a chunk of onion in the middle of your mouth.
01:46
Onions tend to melt into the sauce.
01:48
Like, we'll see little bits and pieces of the carrots,
01:50
but I'm not too worried about that.
01:51
It's a rustic sauce, it's going to be chunky.
01:53
I just put garlic in almost everything.
01:56
Of course, you've got to have garlic.
01:57
It's Italian food.
01:58
It's funny, because I come from an Italian-American family.
02:00
My grandmother did not like garlic at all.
02:02
So she would cook the garlic and then take it out,
02:04
and as kids, we'd eat it.
02:05
Brown the mushrooms.
02:06
We have some nice browning.
02:07
I'm going to add some basil leaves to my sauce.
02:10
And I always use my stems when I make tomato sauce.
02:13
I am adding some smoked paprika.
02:16
Season as you go.
02:17
I'm going to add a little pepper right now.
02:19
And I'm going to add some salt.
02:20
My grandma used to say, we're from Brooklyn,
02:22
that you don't need to add too much salt
02:23
cause we live by the beach, so there was salt in the air.
02:26
Don't know if that's actually true.
02:28
So, I'm going to add my ground turkey.
02:31
Maybe give it a couple of stirs,
02:33
so everything can be heated evenly.
02:36
My parents say that you can over stir,
02:38
so I trust them,
02:39
but lo and behold, I just keep on babysitting everything.
02:42
I'm just like, stir, stir, stir.
02:44
I have a problem.
02:46
I used some red wine. Red wine.
02:48
Some acid.
02:49
Red chili flakes.
02:50
Some chicken stock.
02:52
Beef stock or beef broth.
02:53
I know some people like to drain out the fat,
02:56
I keep em in there, I like the way it tastes.
02:58
I could stand to use a few pounds.
02:59
Now that my meat's fully brown,
03:00
I'm going to add some marinara sauce.
03:03
This is from a jar
03:04
because I don't have time to make my own homemade red sauce.
03:07
So I put a can of fire-roasted tomatoes in the blender.
03:10
[blending]
03:12
Canned crushed tomatoes are a staple for tomato sauce.
03:16
They're a little sweeter.
03:17
I try to get a sauce that has a little seasoning in it,
03:19
that way I don't have to add too much other seasonings.
03:21
This is where I add the spices
03:23
and absolutely destroy people's taste buds with it.
03:26
Ah ha ha!
03:27
This is berbere, it's an Ethiopian spice mix.
03:30
It makes everything spicy,
03:32
and it makes me happy!
03:34
And you also want to add honey,
03:36
to not kill anyone
03:38
after you just blew them up with a bunch of spices.
03:40
Don't forget the bay leaf.
03:41
Bay leaves usually give a nice flavor,
03:44
but it's always a pain fishing out.
03:46
I accidentally left a bay leaf in the lasagna once.
03:49
That was a horrible experience.
03:52
You're going to put it in the oven
03:53
and leave it there for about an hour, hour and a half.
03:54
Until the meat is fork tender.
03:56
I'm going to put this aside
03:57
for when we start building our lasagna.
04:00
Voila!
04:01
We let it simmer for about twenty minutes.
04:06
Ah, okay.
04:07
This smells amazing.
04:08
I'm happy.
04:09
Djiah's happy.
04:10
We want to add the remaining smoked paprika,
04:13
the berbere, and the fish and meat sauce toward the end.
04:16
I hate this part, because I hate taking out the bay leaves!
04:19
Okay, oh wait, it's right there!
04:22
Ah ha, aha ha ha, I don't have to fish for it.
04:24
This is the dones.
04:27
Now we have our finished sauce.
04:28
It's rich, it's reduced a little.
04:30
The meat is falling apart.
04:32
So now I'm going to make the cream layer of my lasagna.
04:34
Cause of course, all lasagna needs cheese.
04:36
I have a beautiful bowl of whole milk
04:38
ricotta cheese here Ricotta.
04:39
I added in some grated cheese, some salt,
04:42
a little bit
04:43
of fresh ground black pepper. Fresh ground black pepper.
04:44
And some Italian seasoning,
04:45
because I feel like life needs Italian seasoning.
04:48
I also like to add some mozzarella.
04:51
[singing]
04:53
Be careful not to grate your own fingers,
04:55
because that would be painful.
04:56
I like to have this earthy kind of taste in the middle.
05:00
So, we're going to add basil.
05:02
Now we're going to add two eggs.
05:04
This helps bind everything
05:06
and then you start to stir it a bit.
05:08
Or stir it a lot.
05:09
We're going to make my bechamel now.
05:11
Traditionally this is what you would use.
05:13
Especially in northern Italy.
05:15
We're going to add some flour.
05:16
I'm going to add a little garlic now, too, for flavoring.
05:19
Whisk my warm milk into the flour mixture.
05:23
Put some salt and pepper.
05:25
This is sacrilege to a lot of French people,
05:27
using black pepper in a white sauce.
05:30
So I'm going to add my cheese.
05:31
I have some really nice Parmesan cheese here.
05:33
The cheese and the cream kind of melt together
05:35
and it makes this beautiful,
05:36
kind of creamy layer in a lasagna.
05:38
And that's it.
05:39
That is our bechamel.
05:41
We're going to start making me pasta.
05:44
We want to make sure that we
05:45
salt this water. Salt.
05:47
You need to season your pasta water.
05:49
These are some lasagna pasta sheets.
05:51
I use these no-boil lasagna loodles,
05:53
that's really tricky to say.
05:55
I use these no boil lasagna noodles,
05:58
because they're really easy.
05:59
They're nice and thick
06:01
and the taste is still there, I think, so.
06:03
There's a lot of pasta in the market
06:04
that are no boil pastas.
06:05
They're perfectly acceptable for this,
06:07
but for my lasagna I'm going to make fresh pasta.
06:10
Everyone thinks pasta is this complicated thing.
06:12
It's not.
06:12
I have flour, eggs, a little bit of salt, and a fork.
06:16
Doing it the granny style method.
06:18
I said pasta was easy, it's messy though.
06:20
More flour on my hands and I start to bring it together.
06:23
I'm just going to cut a piece off,
06:25
we're going to start to roll it out.
06:26
And it gets really nice and smooth.
06:29
If you don't cook the pasta
06:31
and you put it in with the sauce,
06:32
it tends to be mushy.
06:34
You want to cook the pasta.
06:35
It gets firmer and it holds together better.
06:37
You're setting the proteins in the pasta.
06:40
All of them, are out!
06:41
We're about to use these to now layer our lasagna.
06:45
Which is actually my favorite part.
06:46
It's kind of like making a cake
06:47
because of all the different layers.
06:48
And I just think it's really, really fun.
06:50
I like to start with a base of just plain marinara sauce.
06:54
A very thin layer of the sauce.
06:57
The bechamel keeps the pasta from sticking in the bottom.
07:00
And then I'll put a layer of pasta.
07:01
We create a nice, flat layer for then,
07:05
my ricotta mixture.
07:06
Now a nice little creamy layer.
07:08
A little more bechamel.
07:09
You spread it out, all the way to the edges.
07:11
And it's really just like making a cake.
07:13
That's why it's so much fun.
07:14
Like see, I'm kind of spreading my frosting.
07:17
I'm going to add some of my meat sauce.
07:18
Looks great.
07:20
And you don't want to overload it.
07:22
And then you layer it with another layer
07:24
of the turkey and mushroom.
07:25
And then on top of that you add the mozzarella,
07:27
and next you add the Parmesan.
07:29
And then you add another pasta layer.
07:31
A little of the Parmesan,
07:32
and a little bit of the Pecorino.
07:34
I just use these baby spinach leaves
07:36
and the next layer is our meat sauce that we put aside.
07:39
I think the fresh basil gives a little kick
07:41
and then we just keep on adding our sheets.
07:44
All right, that's one full set of layers.
07:46
And now it's basically repeat!
07:47
[upbeat piano music]
07:51
We do this until we get to the top of the pan.
07:53
And that's how you assemble lasagna.
07:55
[foil crinkling]
07:56
Just got some tin foil here.
07:58
Makes it cook.
07:59
Foil is there
08:00
just to help the lasagna get started getting hot
08:03
and to keep it from drying out too much.
08:05
Now the last step is to bake this bad boy off.
08:08
Going to put it in the oven at 350 degrees for one hour.
08:11
And the last five minutes, I remove the tin foil,
08:13
turn the heat all the way up
08:15
to get the cheese nice and crispy.
08:16
We're going to bake this in the oven at 375 degrees,
08:20
30 minutes covered, and 15 minutes uncovered.
08:23
We're going to bake it for about an hour
08:25
and about 15 minutes in we'll take the foil off
08:27
and let it get crispy and bubbly on top.
08:30
And here's my beautiful lasagna.
08:33
Super excited to try it,
08:33
because it looks exactly like it should.
08:35
Going to cut off a nice little slice there.
08:38
It's nice and cheesy.
08:40
My lasagna is out of the oven.
08:41
Stop for sec.
08:42
Wait.
08:43
Do not cut it right away.
08:45
It's going to be wet and sloppy.
08:47
Give it a little time to rest.
08:51
Gorgeous!
08:52
It all stayed intact.
08:54
I'm very happy.
08:55
Oh the cheese pool!
08:57
The cheese pool!
08:58
[laughing]
08:59
Maybe I'll cut a piece in the center
09:01
and leave the crispy part for my wife.
09:02
So, you can see the finished product.
09:05
Nice layers of pasta, just a little bit of juiciness to it.
09:08
It's not falling apart.
09:10
It's holding together.
09:11
I'm going to sprinkle it with a little extra helping
09:12
of grated cheese, just to give it a little extra kick.
09:15
Garnish this with some basil.
09:17
And I'm going to finish it with some Pecorino cheese here.
09:21
And this is my lasagna.
09:23
[loud stamping]
09:25
Here's my lasagna.
09:26
[loud stamping]
09:27
And that's my lasagna.
09:29
[loud stamping]
09:30
[music like ringing bells]
09:35
Ready to dig in to this lasagna.
09:37
Get some of that extra sauce on there.
09:38
Mmmm. So good.
09:39
It came out exactly
09:41
how I wanted it to. I'm so proud of myself.
09:42
Really good.
09:43
It turned out perfectly.
09:45
Nice and meaty.
09:47
The pasta's super tender.
09:48
Absolutely delicious.
09:49
This a great lasagna, you guys should try this.
09:52
I'm going to have some more.
09:53
[loud stamping]
09:54
We saw three chefs layers up three different styles
09:57
of lasagna.
09:57
Let's take a look at each layer and see how they compare.
10:00
[boiling and sizzling]
10:03
[tapping]
10:04
All of our chefs created homemade sauces
10:06
using different varieties of prepared tomato products.
10:09
John used jarred marinara sauce,
10:11
Khadjiah used canned fire-roasted tomatoes,
10:14
and Frank used canned whole tomatoes.
10:17
John's jarred marinara sauce is pre-blended
10:19
and will produce a smooth sauce.
10:21
Nothing too crazy here.
10:23
Khadjiah and Frank made their sauce with diced
10:25
and whole tomatoes, which contain calcium chloride.
10:28
Calcium chloride improves the cellular structure
10:31
of both canned and fresh tomatoes.
10:33
This is added to help the tomatoes maintain their shape
10:36
during storage and cooking.
10:37
This will make Frank's sauce chunkier and more rustic.
10:41
While Khadjiah used canned tomatoes with calcium chloride,
10:44
she blended the tomatoes before adding them to her sauce.
10:47
The mechanical manipulation grinds the tomato pieces
10:50
into a smooth texture.
10:51
[sizzling]
10:53
[tapping]
10:55
All of our chefs incorporated meat into their sauce recipes.
10:59
John used ground beef, Khadjiah used ground turkey,
11:02
and Frank used pancetta and short ribs.
11:05
Both Frank and John chose higher fat meats,
11:07
which will add more flavor to their sauce,
11:09
compared to the lower fat ground turkey Khadjiah used.
11:12
This is because fat is a carrier of flavor compounds.
11:15
Since most of the aromatic compounds are fat soluble,
11:19
they will disburse throughout the sauce.
11:21
As you can see,
11:22
the meat's developing a lot of it's own natural oils
11:24
and juices.
11:25
Khadjiah chose a lower fat meat to use in her sauce,
11:28
but the addition of fresh herbs and dried spices
11:30
will add a layer of bold and deep flavors to the sauce.
11:33
[drumming]
11:35
[tapping]
11:37
Our chefs used a combination of high-moisture
11:39
and low-moisture cheeses in their fillings.
11:41
Combining these cheeses will provide textural
11:44
and flavor complexities.
11:45
For the high-moisture cheese,
11:46
John and Khadjiah used ricotta
11:48
and added other flavors into the mixture.
11:50
John used seasoned ricotta and Pecorino Romano,
11:54
giving the mild ricotta a sharp and nutty flavor profile.
11:57
Khadjiah mixed her ricotta cheese with mozzarella,
12:00
Parmesan, eggs, and basil.
12:02
Oh, wow.
12:02
Yeah, that's some strong basil!
12:04
[laughing]
12:05
During baking the egg proteins will denature
12:07
and then coagulate.
12:09
The coagulated egg and cheese mixture
12:11
will solidify in a distinct layer.
12:14
Frank used a cheesy bechamel sauce,
12:16
instead of ricotta cheese.
12:17
This is a little more classic.
12:19
This adds moisture and creaminess,
12:21
as well as a tangy and salty flavor from the Parmesan.
12:24
[water boiling]
12:25
[tapping]
12:27
Our chefs used three varieties of lasagna noodles.
12:30
John used oven ready lasagna noodles,
12:33
Khadjiah used dried lasagna noodles,
12:35
and Frank made homemade lasagna sheets.
12:38
The oven ready noodles that John used
12:40
are commercially parboiled and dehydrated.
12:42
The starch in the noodles has been pre-gelatinized,
12:45
which means that the starch molecules absorb water
12:48
and heat, and swell irreversibly during production.
12:51
The oven ready sheets are designed
12:53
to be layered in their dehydrated state.
12:55
The sauce that John spreads over these noodles
12:57
was sufficient to rehydrate them.
12:59
Khadjiah used dried pasta sheets
13:01
that have not been pre-gelatinized.
13:03
She parboiled them before assembling the lasagna.
13:05
This will gelatinize the starch before baking.
13:08
Frank made homemade pasta with a high concentration of eggs.
13:12
He also parboiled his pasta before assembly.
13:14
Frank's pasta has a higher moisture content than dry pasta.
13:18
This gives it a shorter cook time and a softer consistency
13:21
than John and Khadjiah's pasta.
13:23
To avoid overcooking the pasta,
13:25
Frank rolled it to a moderate thickness
13:27
to maintain the structure in the assembled lasagna.
13:30
[banging]
13:32
[tapping]
13:34
When layering the lasagna, there has to be enough sauce
13:36
to cover the lasagna sheets completely.
13:39
All of our chefs started with a layer of sauce on the bottom
13:41
to prevent the pasta from sticking to the pan.
13:44
The sauce plays an important role
13:45
in hydrating lasagna sheets
13:47
and ensuring a completely cooked final product.
13:49
Because Khadjiah and Frank parboiled their pasta,
13:52
they require less sauce in their dish than John needs
13:55
for his oven ready dehydrated noodles.
13:58
[tin foil ripping]
14:00
[tapping]
14:01
All chefs covered their dishes with foil
14:03
for most of the baking
14:05
and removed the foil partway through the cooking process.
14:08
The covered dish will produce steam in the head space,
14:11
between the top layer of the lasagna and the foil,
14:13
keeping in the moisture.
14:15
This is especially important for John's oven ready pasta
14:18
to ensure complete hydration.
14:20
Frank baked his lasagna covered for only 15 minutes
14:23
and then removed the foil for the rest of the bake time.
14:26
Because Frank used both a bechamel and tomato based sauce,
14:29
more moisture needs to escape
14:31
to ensure the final product is not too liquidy.
14:34
When the foil is removed, the surface of the lasagna browns
14:37
with more direct exposure to heat.
14:40
When the lasagna is finished cooking,
14:41
it's best to let the dish rest before slicing.
14:44
It's a beautiful, classic lasagna.
14:46
Like, really, everyone should try this.
14:48
It's so freaking good.
14:49
Bake some of these tips
14:50
into the layers of your next lasagna.
14:52
You can choose some of these techniques and ingredients
14:54
from level 1, 2, or 3 to make lasagna your way.
14:58
[twinkling]