We are thrilled to introduce you to Liza, our 2nd Annual “Best Italian Chef” winner and inspiration behind the star dish, Liza’s Lasagna. Liza was inspired to create this dish by her love of Italian food and Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis. We had the pleasure of joining Maggiano’s Little Italy Executive Chef, Luca Bettini and Liza as they walked us through the story behind this delicious dish. We invite you to try her recipe and join us for our Best Italian Chef features.
We also invite you to submit your favorite, original Italian recipe for a chance to become the 3rd Annual Best Italian Chef. You’ll have the chance to have dish featured on our menu, a trip to Italy for two and a Chef’s Dinner for four.Enter for 2014!
Dishes you’ll enjoy on our “Best Italian Chef” fall menu:
Liza’s Lasagna Maggiano’s “Best Italian Chef” Contest Winner – Enter for 2014! Chicken Sausage, Artichokes, Spinach, Fontina Cheese, Marinara Sauce
Beef Ravioli Fritte Marinara Sauce
Asparagus & Grana Parmesan Ravioli Lemon Cream Sauce, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Asparagus
by Liza B. - Douglasville, GA | Written on February 6, 2013
What inspired me to create this amazingly delicious dish is my love for Italian food and Giada! Although this is a dish of my own creation, I continually watch the Food Network to motivate me and introduce new methods and ingredients to me. I must say that I was very concerned when I moved here to GA from NY regarding having access to great Italian restaurants. I was so pleased to discover the wonderful fare at Maggiano’s. I try and limit my time there to about 5 times per year so I do not layer my hips with your wonderful dishes and need I say anymore about the Warm Apple Crostada; which happens to be my favorite dessert in the entire world! Blessings to you and I hope to share my kitchen with you!
Spinach & Artichoke Lasagna Rolls with Italian Sausage Bolognese
1 box of defrosted spinach or 2 pounds of sautéed spinach
1 box of defrosted artichoke hearts
2 garlic cloves
1 large can of diced tomatoes
2 med. Carrot stalks finely chopped
1/2 cup red wine (your preference)
1 med yellow onion
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 box dry lasagna
1 lb. of Italian sausage without casing
1 cup of ricotta cheese
1 ½ cup of mozzarella cheese
½ cup of Asiago cheese (for top)
½ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped basil to garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a sauté pan on medium heat combine 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and sauté the artichoke, garlic, carrots, spinach, and onion until veggies are fork tender. Drain well. Set aside and in same pan add remaining olive oil in pan with Italian sausage and fry until done. Add diced tomato, wine and simmer for 20 minutes.
Boil 12 cups of water and cook pasta according to al dente directions. Drain and separate onto paper towels to remove excess water.
Combine the ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella and ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese with veggies in large bowl. Lay out the pasta and add I heaping tbsp of veggie and cheese mixture onto the top of it and roll into a tight bundle. Do the same until all of the mixture is used. Pour 1 cup of the Bolognese sauce to cover bottom of dish. Lay each bundle into 13×9 baking dish close together. Pour remaining Bolognese sauce over the top of the lasagna bundles and cover with remaining Mozzarella, Asiago & Parmesan cheese. Bake until cheese is golden and bubbling on top. Serve with basil as a garnish on top. Enjoy!
by Jeff D. – Laguna Beach, CA | Written on February 6, 2013
I grew up in an Italian family from New York. My grandfather, Carlos, claimed to be the King of Italy’s personal tailor. I’m still checking on whether or not there was a king of Italy in the late 1800’s as my grandfather claimed. All the men in my family cooked. Holidays and special occasions – Fridays before poker – found all my eight uncles in the kitchen, each making their own specialty. My aunts were ushered out to discuss “girl things,” which usually meant men things. The male children, my many cousins and I each had a favorite uncle, and we would be the sous chefs: chopping, dicing, and pretending we were an integral part of the process. My specialty was tomatoes, and since we were Sicilians, that was a pretty important part. My cousin Gary’s specialty was sausage. He had the better specialty – more masculine. Very important if you’re Sicilian! My favorite uncle was Eduardo “Eddy.” He was the oldest of my mother’s eight siblings. Uncle Eddy was – and still is – my hero. Uncle Eddy’s specialty was lasagna, and not just your ordinary lasagna. Uncle Eddy’s lasagnas were aromatic, pungent, gamey, woodsy, and memorable. They were true to his Sicilian heritage and my grandfather’s legacy as personal tailor to the King of Italy.
Uncle Eddy's Duck & Sausage Lasagna
Uncle Eddy’s Marinara Ingredients 12 ripe Italian Roma tomatoes
3 28 oz. cans tomato puree.
1 8 oz. can tomato paste
2 yellow onions chopped
8 crushed garlic cloves.
1 cup red wine. I use Madera now, and limit it to a cup or so. Uncle Eddy’s recipe had no discernible limit.
½ cup olive oil. This can’t really be measured. When in doubt, use more.
8 bay leaves
4 oz. dried whole oregano
4 oz. dried basil
2 Tbsp dried fennel seeds
1 Tbsp ground sage
1 Tbsp dried rosemary
1 Tbsp dried marjoram
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground nutmeg
3 Tbsp sugar.
In an 8 quart heavy pot, cover the bottom with olive oil; add the chopped onion, crushed garlic, and sauté over medium heat—not too high. Sauté until onions and garlic start to brown. No need for a separate sauté pan. Uncle Eddy’s Marinara is a one pot product—start to finish.
Crush the tomatoes with your hands over the pot. Do not remove anything—seeds, stems, skins, or blemishes.
Add the tomato puree, the tomato paste, and the oregano, basil, rosemary, marjoram, sage, and fennel. Sage and fennel are the secret weapons in Uncle Eddy’s Marinara and Lasagna.
Heat (simmer is too high) for a minimum of several hours. Several days is better! Add the wine and sugar along the way. They balance each other, so you have to use taste as your guide. Uncle Eddy’s sauce is thick and perhaps a bit sweet, but we’ll be adding lemon juice during the assembly process to get the sweetness just right.
Additional Ingredients 1 small roasting duck
4 Sicilian sausage links
1 pot Uncle Eddy’s marinara
6 sprigs fresh Sage
6 sprigs fresh Basil
6 sprigs fresh Oregano
2 tablespoons ground Nutmeg
1 tablespoon dried Red Chili Flakes
1 lemon. I use Meyer lemons. Uncle Eddy had a tree in the backyard
Uncle Eddy split the duck in half and grilled it. He stuffed half cloves of garlic into knife slits he made on each half of the bird. He left the skin on and placed each of the duck breast-side-down on a hot grill for about 15 minutes. He then turned each half over and lowered the heat. Uncle Eddy did this by removing about half the charcoal coals in his backyard red charcoal barbeque.
Cook for another 45 minutes or until the skin becomes golden brown. Uncle Eddy used a fork to tell when it was done.
Remove the duck and place it on a platter.
Now, take one large, heavy fry pan and cover the bottom with olive oil. Add the four Sicilian Sausages and brown over medium heat. Uncle Eddy’s Sicilian sausages were a mixture of pork, veal, basil, garlic, and red wine. Once browned, take a wooden spoon and break apart the sausages into pieces (not too small). Carve the duck into pieces, too, and add to the sausage. Use all of the duck. Uncle Eddy used the giblets and neck. I don’t.
Continue to cook the duck and sausage mixture over low heat. Do not drain.
Add the fresh basil leaves torn into pieces and turn off the heat. Leave the mix in the fry pan—don’t put it on a plate, or, God forbid, a bowl.
Assembling the Lasagna
I am showing the “open face” version, but you can make a more traditional lasagna by adding a final layer of noodles over the last layer of filling and covering with sauce and mozzarella—breadcrumbs optional. I like the open face version because it’s lighter and allows the diner to see filling and layers. Uncle Eddy always made it open face.
The Lasagna Noodles
Uncle Eddy rolled his own dough. He made the dough, kept it in a bowl overnight, and then rolled it into sheets using a rolling pin or Chianti bottle. Cut the noodles into 4 x 6 inch rectangles.
Put your cut noodles on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes at 250 degrees. I know—why did we go to all that trouble to make fresh pasta noodles if we’re going to dry them out in the oven. We’re not—we’re doing a little al dente so we can have our noodles stand up to the next steps.
In a ceramic or porcelain lasagna pan, spread a thin coating of olive oil and then an inch or so of Uncle Eddy’s Marinara. Next the noodles—do not overlap. Uncle Eddy’s open face lasagna is more like giant raviolis that are served individually rather than a casserole that’s cut into squares.
Next comes the fresh ricotta. Don’t buy it in a plastic tub, but try blocks from an Italian or Mediterranean market. Lay down a 3 inch square or so on each 4×6 noodle sheet – about a half inch thick.
Mound the duck and sausage mixture – about a handful (use your hands) over each ricotta slice.
Cut ½ inch slice of the fresh mozzarella (you can use buffalo mozzarella), and cross the pieces over the duck and sausage. Sprinkle a little ground nutmeg over each mound and a few generous squeezes of lemon.
Next place one or two wooden spoonful’s of Uncle Eddy’s Marinara over each mound (no touching), and put fresh sprigs of sage and oregano on each. If you want more fresh herbs, add marjoram–tarragon if you’re an adventurer.
Now, build another layer as above starting with a layer of noodle. Build as before and top with shaved parmesan—a pretty good amount.
Into the Oven
325 degrees for 45 minutes or until the lasagna is starting to turn golden. At this point, every pot, pans, and utensil in the kitchen has been used. Uncle Eddy didn’t believe in clean as you go. The Aunts cleaned up the kitchen after dinner while the Uncles set up the poker tables.
Serving Place one section on each plate. Ladle on a couple of spoonful’s of marinara. Not too much; but not too little. You want to see the lasagna, not a plate of sauce. Garnish the plate with fresh thyme, and serve with a heated bowl of extra marinara and more shaved Parmesan.
Uncle Eddy’s Lasagna is a stand-alone dish. Warm crisped focaccia or olive bread is the only side dish required, but you can add a salad either before or after. Salad often comes after the entrée in Italian families. I like it with, but you can have it first.
Everyone always applauded Uncle Eddy at the end of the meal -you can too! It’s part of the tradition.
by Cari B. - Richfield, WI | Written on February 6, 2013
This is my favorite dish to cook when my husband and 6 year-old son, Nico, are out snowmobiling, “ATV’n,” or doing boy stuff for the day. I will start the preparation late morning and let it cook until they return home with friends. The entire home smells like an Italian restaurant, and after a hard day of playing, coming home to Nico’s Braciole and pasta is very welcoming. I love serving it with fresh bread. I make my own sauce with the Braciole, but for if the Nico’s Braciole is placed on the menu it will be served with Maggiano’s sauce. My husband always says this should be called “Sergio’s Braciole,” after our dog. As soon as I start the preparation for the Braciole, Sergio comes into the kitchen and will not leave until dinner is served. He just stays there and waits for hours. Nico’s Braciole is the only thing I make that he does this for…that’s amoré!
1 Slice (1/2 pound) Round Steak – sliced thin
1 Tbsp minced Parsley
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp sea salt – divided
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper – divided
½ lb. ground chuck
¾ cup dry bread crumbs
1 raw egg
2 hardboiled eggs – sliced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 pieces butcher string
Choice of cooked pasta
2 qt Maggiano’s Marinara Sauce
Trim fat from meat.
Pound steak with meat tenderizer on both sides until thin and tender (about 1/8 inch thick)
Spread on top of round steak parsley, minced garlic, ½ t. ea salt and 1/8 t. ground pepper
Rub top of round steak with olive oil
Mix Ground Chuck with bread crumbs, raw egg, oregano, basil, parmesan cheese, ½ t. sea salt and 1/8 t. ground pepper.
Spread mixture onto round steak, keeping 1/8 inch away from edge of round steak
Roll steak lightly with rolling pin to make sure everything is spread evenly
Place sliced hardboiled egg on top of meat
Roll up round steak
Tie with 3 pieces of butcher string
Add ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil to large pan
Place Braciole in pan and brown Braciole on all sides
Place browned Braciole in 2 qts. Maggiano’s marinara sauce for 4 hours and simmer on low heat
Remove Braciole from sauce
Let rest for 15 – 20 minutes
Slice Braciole in round slices – ¼ inch thick
Serve atop pasta of choice with Maggiano’s Marinara sauce