Cook Eat Love Grow by Louise Westerhout [download best books to read]

  • Full Title : Cook Eat Love Grow: Healthy meals for babies, children and the rest of the family
  • Autor: Louise Westerhout
  • Print Length: 235 pages
  • Publisher: Struik Lifestyle; 1 edition
  • Publication Date: May 25, 2012
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: B0089MQ1OU
  • ISBN-13: 
  • Download File Format: epub


Louise Westerhout delights in cooking for herself, her son, her family and friends, and seeing the results of good and wholesome food, as well as happy mealtimes. For her ‘cooking, eating and growing in the wonderful culture of food’ is an integral part of the fun of life. This philosophy is reflected in her ideas and recipes for meals for babies upwards of four months, as well as dishes suitable for the whole family. There is an emphasis on organic food and most of the 70-odd recipes are wheat- and sugar-free with many dairy-, egg- and gluten-free options as well. You will find new ideas and healthy combinations, using simple and inexpensive ingredients. The text will appeal to all parents as it encourages without being prescriptive, yet it is simple and practical to eliminate guesswork when it comes to feeding babies and children.




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ate prefers. Italian brands vary from region to region. There are many great olive oils from other countries such as Spain and Lebanon.


This is flavorful Italian-style bacon cured with salt, pepper, and spices.

Pasta (Noodles)

Freshly made pasta noodles, pasta fresca or fatta in casa, are the finest pasta for lasagna. Other alternatives are available, especially when you don’t have a lot of time. Check out your local pasta shop for fresh pasta noodles, usually sold in a variety of flavors.

Factory-made dried pasta noodles are available in most supermarkets. These usually have a traditional ruffled edge.

“No-boil” noodles are a nice way to prepare lasagna in a short time. Just be sure you have enough sauce to generously cover each layer of noodle, especially the top, so that the noodles will become tender during baking (the sauce and/or moisture from the filling will help to cook the noodles). With any store-bought pasta it’s a good idea to try a few different brands and choose the one that you like best. I like the no-boil noodles. These are more like home-style noodles. To expedite the cooking and use less sauce, you can soak the no-boil sheets in hot tap water for ten to fifteen minutes, then drain on absorbent paper.

In most recipes, you can interchange fresh pasta sheets with soaked no-boil noodles, but it is important to remember that fresh pasta sheets are thinner. If you use them, you will have a shallow lasagna, or you can split the filling into thinner layers to accommodate more layers, thus yielding a taller lasagna. When substituting fresh pasta, just make a minor adjustment for the thinness.

No matter what type of noodles you are using, don’t worry about irregular sizes or torn pieces of the noodles. They can be pieced together and will set up fine during the baking of the lasagna.

You can use a variety of other things in place of noodles for lasagna such as crepes, tortillas, egg roll wrappers, phyllo, and polenta.

There are also variations for flavored pastas, such as spinach and beet. Their flavors are subtle and the colors provide a striking presentation.


This seasoned salt-cured ham has been air dried. It is usually available at most Italian delis. It’s best when cut into very thin slices.


In this collection of lasagna recipes we use a large variety of tomatoes. Tomatoes that are fresh from the garden like plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes work well in a few of the quick sauces. Canned, peeled plum tomatoes should be a staple in every Italian pantry. Many times you can use whole peeled tomatoes and simply crush them by hand for a rustic slightly chunky sauce. If you like a smoother sauce, you can puree these tomatoes in a food processor. You can also use crushed tomatoes or petite diced tomatoes interchangeably for many of the recipes. Many excellent brands of canned tomatoes are available. My advice is simply to try a few and find the one that suits your own personal taste.

Tomato Paste

Tomato paste is tomatoes cooked and strained to highly concentrate the flavor. It will also help to thicken sauces. It is available in 6-ounce cans and also in smaller tubes, which make storage easier. You can use only as much as you need at one time.


Baking Dishes

Most of the baking dishes used in this book are of a size that is readily available and probably already exists in most kitchens. The 13 × 9 × 3-inch dish, the 8 × 8 × 2-inch, and the 11 × 7 × 1½-inch dishes are the most commonly used in this book. A glass baking dish is very common and handy when you want to check out how the sides and bottom of the lasagnas are looking. A ceramic dish works just as well and usually makes a better presentation when the lasagna goes from oven to table. Larger lasagnas use a large roasting pan, 18 × 13½ × 3 inches.

Many of the recipes can be adjusted to use different-size pans. Keep in mind that shallow pans will give you fewer layers of filling and a crustier top.

Disposable foil baking pans are not recommended for most situations but can certainly be used for what I call “meals on wheels.” Often a casserole or lasagna becomes a gift to a family that is going through a difficult time. For these occasions, make lasagna in a disposable foil pan for giving. This eliminates anyone having to worry about returning what pan to what person. In this case, double the pans for extra strength.

Saucepans, Stockpots, and Skillets

Use heavy-gauge pans to prevent sauces from sticking to the bottom. This is especially important when the sauce cooks for a long period of time. The last thing you want is to labor intensively over an expensive meat ragu only to find it burnt and stuck to the bottom of your saucepan.

Many of the sauce recipes here are made or start out in a large skillet. A heavyweight skillet with sturdy sides, 12 to 14 inches in diameter, works fine.

Spoons, Spatulas, Serving Utensils

Offset spatulas are ideal to remove slices and to spread fillings over noodles. Use a sharp straight-edge knife to cut and a flat spatula to remove pieces of lasagna from the baking dish or pan.


These are ideal to maneuver long noodles in boiling water.


Storing and Making Ahead

Many lasagnas can be prepared one day in advance. After assembly, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Be sure to let the lasagna come to room temperature before baking it.

How to Tell When Lasagna Is Done

Most lasagnas are baked initially with the top covered with foil. The foil is then removed for the remainder of the cooking time. You want the lasagna to be bubbly, well browned in spots, and hot in the center. For really large-size lasagnas I use a meat thermometer to be sure the internal temperature is 150°F.

Let the Lasagna Rest Before Serving

This is an important step. After baking, let the lasagna rest ten to fifteen minutes before cutting and serving. This will allow the sauces and fillings to set up and will give you a picture-perfect piece.

Individual Free-Form Lasagnas

Free-form lasagnas are not baked whole in a baking dish like most traditional lasagnas. They are simply noodles, filling, and sauce plated directly on a warmed plate and served individually. They are a nice way to redefine people’s perception of lasagna and impress them with an individual portion instead of the usual family style.

For all free-form lasagnas, be sure the filling and sauce are hot to help to “cook” the pasta and make it tender. Warm the oven to 200°F. Store ovenproof plates in the oven until ready to portion lasagnas and serve, ten to fifteen minutes. Carefully remove and plate the lasagna. Store the stacked pastas in the oven until serving.

Lasagna Essentials


Delicate and delicious, these noodles are really worth the effort. When making dough for homemade pasta be aware that proportions are approximate. The texture of the dough will vary according to what size eggs you use, how humid the weather is, how you measure the flour, and the type of flour that you are using. It will also make a difference if you use a hand-mixing method, a mixer with a dough hook attachment, or a food processor to mix the dough. My husband, Edgar, likes to mix by hand or use the mixer with a dough hook. (He even rolls the dough with his grandmother’s wooden rolling pin instead of using the pasta machine.) I tend to favor the food processor method. I think it yields more consistent dough and is a bit less messy.

Kneading is the key (knead for five minutes). Marcella Hazan says, “Press your thumb deep into the center of the dough. If it comes out clean, without sticky matter, you have enough flour.” Also important in making pasta is to let the dough rest at room temperature before rolling it through the machine.

Fresh Egg Pasta

1½ cups Italian 00 flour or all-purpose unbleached flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil


On a lightly floured work surface, mound the flour and salt. Make a well in the center. In a small bowl, mix eggs, water, and olive oil. Pour egg mixture into well. With a fork gradually incorporate the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, at least 5 minutes. Roll the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 15 to 20 minutes before rolling out.


Combine the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the eggs, water, and olive oil. Pulse a few times to combine ingredients. Remove the dough from the food processor and knead until smooth and elastic, at least 5 minutes, dusting with additional flour if necessary. Roll the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes.


Invest in a classic pasta-making machine. Several models are available, some with hand cranks and some with motors. This is the only way to get the pasta noodles delicate and thin. Most pasta machines have settings that range from #1 to #6, with #1 being the widest setting and #6 being the narrowest.

1. After letting the dough rest at room temperature, cut it into three equal pieces.

2. Lightly dust the pasta rollers, and crank each piece of dough through the widest setting twice.

3. Reset the rollers one size narrower. Run the pasta pieces through the rollers twice on this setting, then cut the pasta pieces in half to make them easier to handle. This will give you six pieces of dough that are approximately 4 × 5 inches.

4. Roll pieces through the next two narrower settings (#3 and #4 settings) twice. Cut each piece of dough in half for easier handling. Run these pieces through the last two narrowest settings (#5 and #6), only one pass each setting.

5. Continue to roll on narrower settings until the desired thinness is reached. Number 5 or #6 produces a nice thin noodle that doesn’t tear. You’ll know it’s thin enough if you can see your fingers through the dough, holding it from underneath. You should have approximately twelve pieces of dough about 3 to 4 inches wide by 10 to 12 inches long. Remember that if you cut the pasta into smaller pieces for easier handling, you will have a different number of pieces. If you are new to pasta making it’s really more important that you are comfortable rolling pieces through rollers. They will be pieced together in the lasagna and it won’t make a difference if they are not the ideal size.

6. Place the pasta sheets in a single layer on a lightly floured sheet pan. Dust the tops with flour and place a piece of parchment paper over the sheets. Continue to layer pasta sheets and parchment, lightly flouring between each layer. Cover pan tightly with plastic wrap. Use immediately or refrigerate overnight.



How to Cook Pasta for Lasagna


Fresh pasta sheets do not take long to cook. Because they are so thin, a simple dip into boiling water will just about do it. The noodles will also continue to cook in the lasagna.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Place noodles three or four at a time into boiling water for 15 to 20 seconds. Remove pasta from the boiling water and transfer to an ice water bath with a strainer or a pair of tongs. This will immediately halt the cooking. Remove from ice water and drain on absorbent paper.


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta al dente, a little less than the manufacturer’s directions recommend. The noodles will cook again in the lasagna. Drain on absorbent paper.


Last-minute lasagna is now a possibility. The key is having enough moisture and sauce to cook the noodles as the lasagna bakes. Be sure you have a generous amount of sauce if using no-boil noodles straight from the box. Some recipes use a shortcut for the no-boil noodles that my friend and great chef Sally Maraventano taught me. Fill a large bowl with hot tap water. Soak the noodles for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain on absorbent paper. They are now ready to use.

Spinach Pasta

Use a piece of cheesecloth or paper towel to drain and squeeze all the excess water out of thawed spinach. Chopping it finely in a food processor will make the spinach blend more uniformly when mixing the pasta dough. Otherwise, it will look like a speckled herb pasta, not a rich green spinach pasta.

½ cup frozen spinach, thawed, excess liquid squeezed out, and finely chopped in a food processor

1½ cups Italian 00 flour or all- purpose unbleached flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs

1 tablespoon water

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Follow previous directions for mixing, rolling, and cutting pasta sheets. Mix spinach in with flour.



Whole Wheat Pasta

This hearty pasta can used in just about any lasagna. I like it with a pungent sauce like Puttanesca (page 56), Spicy Tomato Sauce (page 64), or a flavorful meat ragu.

1½ cups whole wheat flour (medium grade)

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Follow previous directions for mixing, rolling, and cutting pasta sheets.



Beet Pasta

Pureed beets add a fantastic color to homemade pasta sheets. This pasta stars in our Beet Lasagna with Creamy Gorgonzola Sauce (page 108), but you can use it simply layered with pecorino and béchamel as well. To roast the beets, wrap washed beets in aluminum foil and bake for 1 to 1½ hours until fork tender. Let cool slightly, then pull off skin. Process in food processor until smooth.

½ cup pureed roasted beets (about 1 medium beet)

2 cups Italian 00 flour or all-purpose unbleached flour

Pinch of salt

2 eggs

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Follow previous directions for mixing, rolling, and cutting pasta sheets. Mix beets in with flour.




Using crepes instead of noodles is another great way to make lasagna.

Don’t worry about trying to fit round crepes in a square pan. Just slightly overlap and layer the lasagna and it will all fit in and set up while it’s baking.

Basic Crepes

These are my mom’s manicotti crepes that I also use as a tender lasagna noodle. They can be interchanged with fresh pasta noodles in most recipes. This batch can be easily doubled so you can freeze crepes ahead of time.

3 eggs

1 cup water

1 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1. In an electric mixer, combine the eggs and water. Mix until well blended. Gradually add the flour and salt. Mix until smooth. Use immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container. (Batter can be made one day in advance.)

2. Heat a 7-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Ladle a scant ½ cup of batter into the heated skillet. Roll pan around so that batter can cover the surface of the pan. Cook the crepe until the bottom is light brown. Carefully use a spatula to turn the crepe over and continue cooking the underside until light brown as well.

3. Use the crepes immediately, or store in refrigerator or freezer. To store, lay crepes on top of parchment paper. Layer crepes with parchment in between. Place in heavy-duty plastic bag.


Whole Wheat Crepes

These tasty crepes add a nice texture and color to your lasagnas. They are delicious in our Autumn Pancetta and Porcini Lasagna (page 83) but can be used in any of the other recipes as well.

3 eggs

1 cup water

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup whole wheat flour

Pinch of salt

In an electric mixer, combine the eggs and water. Mix until well blended. Gradually add both flours and salt. Mix until smooth. Use immediately or store in refrigerator in an airtight container. (Batter can be made one day in advance.) Cook and store like basic crepes.



Fillings for lasagna do not need to be cheesy and heavy. Rather, a creamy béchamel or a delicate ricotta-based filling is the perfect way to accompany noodles and a homemade sauce.

Sauce for lasagnas can be a creamy béchamel, a light pomodoro (tomato), or a hearty meat ragu. (A ragu is typically a flavorful meat sauce.)

Basic Ricotta Filling

2 eggs

1 pound ricotta

1 pound mozzarella, cubed

½ cup grated pecorino Romano

½ cup chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

In a mixing bowl, whisk eggs until blended. Add ricotta, mozzarella, pecornio, parsley, and salt and pepper. Refrigerate in an airtight container.


Béchamel Sauce

(Salsa Besciamella)

This classic white sauce is made from butter, flour, and milk. Almost equal parts of these ingredients are used to create this creamy filling for lasagna. It acts as an ingredient binder and adds a delicate balance to many of the flavorful meat ragus used in classic lasagna preparation. The key to success when making béchamel is easy: never let the butter cook until it browns, or the sauce will have a burnt taste. Heating the milk in a separate pan really helps to create a smooth thick sauce. Add the milk slowly, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Below is the master recipe with variations for different amounts depending on the amount of sauce you need. Use unsalted butter for the freshest flavor.

2-Cup Béchamel Sauce

2 cups milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper

3-Cup Béchamel Sauce

3 cups milk

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter

¼ cup all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper

4-Cup Béchamel Sauce

4 cups milk

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper

10-Cup Béchamel Sauce

10 cups milk

12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) butter

½ cup all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper


1. In a saucepan, heat the milk over low heat just until small bubbles come to the surface. Remove the pan from direct heat, cover, and keep warm.

2. In a separate saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.

3. Whisk the flour into the butter and continue to whisk for 1 minute.

4. Gradually whisk in the warmed milk; bring to a simmer, and whisk frequently until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes for a small batch, 6 to 8 for a larger batch.

5. Remove from the heat. Stir in salt and pepper. To prevent a skin from forming on top of the sauce, either whisk occasionally as the sauce cools or place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the sauce. Use the béchamel immediately or cool to room temperature. Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. Reheat sauce, stirring, over low heat before assembling lasagna.

Quick Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

One 35-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand, with juice

Salt and pepper

3 fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until just beginning to brown, 30 to 40 seconds. Add tomatoes and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 20 to 25 minutes until thickened. Stir in the basil.


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