If you're serving a large crowd and are short on time, here's an ideal dish to prepare. Lasagna is my go-to dish when we throw a party. I prepared the white sauce in advance and grilled the vegetables ahead of time as well. Since it's Meatless Monday, I kept the meal vegetarian, adding only grilled eggplant.
The sauce is a combination of the white sauce, ricotta cheese, Asiago cheese, thyme and oregano. To ensure easy clean-up, I first greased a chafing dish with a thin layer of butter and spread flavorful tomato sauce on the bottom. I baked the lasagna in the morning and finished browning the top 30 minutes before the party started. Once my guests arrived, I lit the chafing dish fuel. This method lets you serve a piping-hot, stress-free meal in virtually any setting.
Servings: 8 servings
18 pre-cooked lasagna sheets
2 large eggplant
1 sprig fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or any neutral oil)
¾ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1½ cups Dubliner cheese, freshly grated
12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
7 cups milk, warm
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
4 tablespoons Asiago cheese, freshly grated
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup tomato sauce
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
For the béchamel sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat; you don't want it to burn. Add the thyme and oregano and let the fresh herbs infuse the butter. Bring the heat back up to medium-high (the butter should be hot and golden) and add the flour. Keep stirring manually with a whisk until the mixture is even. Make sure the flour and butter form a paste and let cook for 3-4 minutes to prevent an unpleasant raw-flour taste. Add 6 cups milk in 3 stages and stir well until fully incorporated. Increase the heat and continue stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add ½ cup of each cheese and the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Let rest while preparing the eggplant.
Preparing the eggplant: Trim and thinly slice the eggplants lengthwise. Sprinkle with salt. Let sit, then pat dry with paper towels. Brush a griddle pan with oil. Add the eggplant slices and cook on both sides for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a platter and let cool..
Check the consistency of the béchamel sauce. Thin the sauce with 1 cup warm milk. Stir well.
Mix the ricotta cheese with 4 tablespoons béchamel sauce.
In a (10 x 15 x 2") chafing dish greased with butter (for easy clean up), spread the tomato sauce first, then layer 6 sheets of the pre-cooked lasagna sheets. Spread a layer of eggplant slices. Sprinkle with Dubliner cheese and a few tablespoons chopped parsley. Spread half the ricotta cheese mixture, then add 2 to 3 ladles of the béchamel sauce, then add another 6 sheets of lasagna. Repeat the same layers until all the ingredients are used up. Finish with the rest of the béchamel sauce. It should cover the whole tray; top with the Asiago cheese.
Bake in the oven for about 35-minutes at 375°F (until golden brown).
When it's cooked, remove the pan from the oven and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. Cut into squares.
The easiest way to grate Dubliner cheese is to place is in the freezer for 15 minutes before cutting it.
And if you're a pasta lover, check out my other pasta dishes.