Friday, April 29, 2011

Mom's Lasagna

Lasagna is one of those comfort foods that always seems to do the trick. Layers of cheese, pasta and bolognese are hard to resist, especially on a cold evening or after a long hike. Sometimes, though, you don't need a reason at all and it tastes just as good. Earlier this week my mom made her lasagna, the same recipe she's used since I was a kid, and I finally decided to help out and take some notes.

You can tweak a lasagna in so many ways and it is still delicious. This is just one of the many, many options out there, but it's straightforward and it's one that I love. As much as I love vegetables, I have always preferred meat lasagna over a vegetarian one. Maybe it's because I've never had a really good vegetarian variation before, but I haven't actually attempted to make one from scratch. For now, I will stick with this meat version.

The sauce can be made using a combination of two parts beef to one part turkey, or all beef. You can use lean meat if you want to keep part of it healthy, but with all the cheese you'll be adding, I wouldn't consider this a healthy meal. I used the no boiling required lasagna sheets, but if you use the traditional pasta, make sure to cook it beforehand or while making the sauce. Hopefully you can enjoy this with a glass of wine in front of a fire. But like most of us, it will probably be gobbled down in 5 minutes.

Serves 8
Prep time: 45 minutes
Baking time: 1 to 1 1/2 hours

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds of beef (or beef and turkey combo)
4 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 bay leaf
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
1/4 cup water
1 bullion cube (use whatever flavor you have, I used chicken)
15 ounces of ricotta cheese (425 grams)
2 eggs
1/3 cup bottled marinara sauce (or skip this and just use some olive oil)
1 pack lasagna pasta
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes. When fragrant, add the meat and cook for about 4 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste, salt, pepper, herbs, bay leaf, crushed/diced tomatoes, water and bullion cube. When everything is combines, turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes (it's fine if you cook it longer too).

In the meantime, combine the eggs and ricotta cheese in a small bowl. If you need to cook your pasta, do that as well.

When the sauce is ready, remove the bay leaf and preheat the oven to 375F. Coat the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish with either the marinara sauce or enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Add a layer of pasta, each sheet slightly overlapping the previous one. Cover with 1/3 of the sauce. As best as you can, spread 1/3 of the ricotta/egg mixture over the meat (this will melt while baking, so it does not need to be perfect). Make 2 more pasta/meat/cheese layers. Over the top cheese layer, add the grated Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

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  1. Yum. Were you there that night at the Bates when I made lasagna and Baby Riley ate about 7 servings?

  2. Yes! And I believe I polished off about 3 servings. It was delicious.