Equalizer Venison Lasagna

This uses an “Equalizer” technique I invented. Well, I’m probably not the first, but I’ve never seen or heard of it elsewhere. It’s a simple technique that should be easy to adapt for any long-cooking tomato based sauce.

Reducing a tomato based sauce brings out deep “Basso profundo” flavors but diminishes the brighter, fresher notes of the tomato. Adding the un-reduced sauce at the end restores the “treble” flavors back into the mix.

I discovered this trick accidentally when making sauce for two large lasagnas using a pot too small to stir without making a mess, forcing me to set some aside. The result was a thrilling surprise. Returning the lightly cooked sauce near the end restored the bright flavors without masking the deeper ones. It’s like turning up both the bass and the treble on your stereo, thus the “Equalizer”.

A lasagna takes a lot of work – but making 2 is not much worse than 1, and it freezes perfectly. I always double up. Making the sauce ahead of time can break up the effort. A couple of days in the fridge or a few months in the freezer will do the sauce no harm at all.

Print Recipe
Equalizer Lasagna Yum
Baseline quantities are for a standard 3qt lasagna pan (9" x 13"). Adjust accordingly if using a larger pan, such as a 5 quart (11"x15")
Make the Sauce
  1. Mix meats together, form into large thin patties and brown well. Set aside and dice into small chunks.
  2. If there is much liquid left behind separate it. Reserve the liquid, and either discard the fat or return it to the pan.
  3. Heat oil in skillet and slowly saute the onion and garlic for 2 or 3 minutes, then set aside.
  4. Add all the tomatoes and tomato paste. If you feel like it, stage the stewed tomatoes in a bowl and snip the large chunks into smaller chunks with kitchen shears.
  5. Add the salt, sugar and ground pepper.
  6. Bring to simmer. After 10 minutes, remove 1/3 of sauce and set aside. THIS IS THE TRICK!
  7. To the remaining sauce, add half of the parsley and half of any fresh herbs substituted for dried (basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme). Reserve the other half.
  8. Add fennel seed, bay leaf, and all dry herbs that were not substituted with fresh.
  9. Add wine, brandy, meat glaze, and any reserved saute liquid.
  10. Simmer SLOWLY uncovered, stirring frequently (every 5 minutes or so - I set a timer every time to remind myself) until reduced to a good thickness. It takes a while. It goes fastest if you have a nice wide, shallow skillet or saute pan. When reducing anything, surface area is your friend. You can speed things up with more heat, but if it's hotter than a slow simmer you'll need to stir constantly.
While the sauce is reducing...
  1. Shred and toss/mix the mozzarella, jack and cheddar together and set aside.
  2. Mix the ricotta and egg together and put back in the fridge. Some folks suggest mixing this together with the shredded cheeses. I haven't tried it yet.
  3. Boil your noodles unless using fresh or "ready to bake". Use a dash of olive oil to prevent foaming, and plenty of salt. Don't cook beyond al dente. Drain and set aside on towels or paper towels to avoid sticking.
After the sauce is well thickened:
  1. Add the reserved parsley and any other reserved fresh herbs.
  2. Mix the reserved third of sauce back in, return to simmer
  3. Optionally add hot pepper powder or flakes to taste
  4. Simmer 10 minutes, remove from heat. Remove bay leaf.
  5. Let it cool a bit before proceeding.
Build your lasagna
  1. lightly oil lasagna pan and put a little meat sauce on the bottom (not much).
  2. Build your layers. Unless you're a pro, consider dividing your ingredients up into the appropriate amounts first. See the note below the instructions.
  3. — Noodles (push them down a little bit to reduce "voids" in the lower layers - don't get too crazy with this step though - you don't want to moosh the goodies up between your noodles)
  4. — Spread Meat Sauce
  5. — Ricotta/Egg mix (except top layer). I use a fork and a large spoon to "flick" it in smallish lumps around the pan.
  6. — Moz/Jack/Cheddar mix (except top layer)
  7. — Sprinkle a little parmesan.
  8. Repeat steps 3 through 7, probably three layers for a standard pan, four for a large. The top layer is just noodles and meat sauce. Use up all of the ricotta/egg and moz/jack/cheddar on the lower layers.
  9. Finish by sprinkling the top liberally with dried parmesan.
Cook it!
  1. Cover with foil and bake @ 375 for 25 minutes.
  2. Remove foil and cook another 25 minutes or until nicely browned.
  3. Let stand for 15 minutes, slice and eat!
Recipe Notes

Hints for lasagna noobs:

It's frustrating to get to the top layer and find you have too much or too little “stuff” left.. You can't really go back and start over. Once you have made a few lasagnas you'll get a feel for it, but in the meantime you could presume you will have 3 noodle layers for a normal (3qt) pan, and 4 layers for a large (5 qt) pan. Keep your layers even by dividing up your meat sauce, ricotta mix, and shredded cheese mix up into equal portions in advance. Just remember that you will not use the shredded cheese or ricotta on the top layer, so there will be one less portion of those than there will be of the meat sauce. So for a 3-layer lasagna, after spreading a little meat sauce on the bottom of your pan, divide your meat sauce into thirds, and your ricotta/egg and shredded cheese mix into halves. Top to bottom, it should wind up like this:

A liberal dose of parmesan
1/3rd meat sauce
a little parmesan
1/2 ricotta mix
1/2 shredded cheese mix
1/3rd meat sauce
a little parmesan
1/2 ricotta mix
1/2 shredded cheese mix
1/3rd meat sauce
a smear of meat sauce
pan bottom

For four layers you'll divide your meat into 1/4, and your cheese into 1/3. Etc.

Fresh or "ready to bake" pastas absorb more liquid than boiled pasta. If using them you'll want to keep your sauce a little more liquidy.

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