Many souls have been cared for with lasagna and its many layers of warm, comforting goodness. Lasagna allows the maker to be creative, with all the variations that are available. I enjoy vegetarian lasagna as much as I enjoy the version with meat sauce that I am posting today. This version of lasagna has served me so well over the years that I wanted to share it with all of you. I started making it when I was first married, and over the years I have made additions and subtractions and adjustments, all the while creating bonds with family and friends through this meal. When a friend or relative has a baby, has surgery, or loses a loved one, this is the dish I like to take over to help out. It can be assembled ahead of time and refrigerated or even frozen until it is needed, and then all it needs is baking time. And while it is baking, it fills the house with the most divine smell. I also like to make this lasagna when I am having guests for dinner, because I can do a lot of the work before they arrive, allowing me to be more relaxed while the meal is baking away in the oven. Though this lasagna cannot be considered a quick meal to prepare, it is a wonderful treat on that afternoon/evening when you have the time and it is cold and blustery outside. For some reason, I love to give this meal away. One of the first times I made this lasagna was when my then-new husband was in the army and he invited a new friend over to our apartment for dinner. He and his friend finished the whole tray in one sitting (I ate some too of course, but not nearly as much as they did). His friend, far from home, was so happy to have a home-cooked meal, and I felt like we had made a friend for life after that dinner. I remember another time when my husband and I were renting an apartment on the main floor of an old house and our neighbor (who became a good friend) lived upstairs. I had just pulled a tray of lasagna out of the oven and it was cooling when she walked by our door and started up the stairs to her place. She looked like she had had a long day at work, so I quickly cut a piece of lasagna and handed her a plate of it to take up. She smiled. Layers of warm, comforting food make people smile, and that feels good. This meal tastes great with a green salad. I like to use lean ground beef in the sauce, though Italian sausage tastes good and ground turkey is even more lean. The quality of the tomatoes makes a difference to me, so I get the highest quality of tomatoes I can find. That goes for the meat too. The recipe is based on a lasagna recipe I found in my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, though I have made several changes to it over the years. I am pretty sure there is a crowd gathering at Angie’s blog The Novice Gardener for Fiesta Friday, hosted this week by the talented bloggers Suzanne at apuginthekitchen and Sue at birgerbird, so I am going to take this dish over there to share.
- 3/4 pound ground beef, Italian sausage, or ground turkey
- 1/2 to 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- about 12 ounces of tomatoes with their juices (a little less if you prefer)
- 8 ounces of tomato sauce
- 6 ounces of tomato paste
- 1-2 teaspoons of dried basil
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 6 lasagna noodles
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 cups of ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons of fresh flat-leaf parsley, washed, finely chopped, and patted dry
- 8 ounces of mozzarella cheese
For the sauce, cook the meat, onion, and garlic in a large saucepan over medium to medium-high heat until the meat is browned and the onion is tender. Drain the fat. Add the undrained tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, oregano, and salt. Stir well and bring to a boil, breaking the tomatoes into small pieces with your spoon; then cover and gently simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then. Meanwhile, cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling water as the package directs. Drain and rinse the noodles and let them cool, spread out on a paper-towel lined tray or plate. For the filling, in a medium-sized bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, beaten egg, parsley, and 1/4 cup of the grated Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
When the meat sauce is done, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Layer half of the cooked noodles in a 12 by 7 1/2 by 2 inch baking dish (a traditional lasagna dish). Then spread with half of the ricotta filling. Top with half of the meat sauce and half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layers. Top with the remaining 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or till heated through and cheese is melted. Let it stand for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with a green salad.
To make ahead of time, prepare as above, except after assembling the layers, let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When you are ready to bake it, remove the covering and cover freshly with foil, and bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for about 20 minutes more, or until heated through and cheese is melted. Enjoy!
This recipe is based on a lasagna recipe found in The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, Tenth Ring Bound edition.