My lasagna never tasted as good as what you could get in a restaurant and often it was separatist (not politically: it didn’t meld together) and too wet. Normally when I cook I am all about creativity and playing with recipes. However, my husband asked if I would make a lasagna last night (we are trying to cook in more and eat out less) and I was a little anxious about how it would come out. If I failed this weekend, would we then spend potential mortgage money next weekend eating out? The horror. Being a self-proclaimed and 25% genetically Italian woman, I had been carrying this shame for some time. I didn’t know how to make an excellent lasagna. Sure I could make one… and it certainly would be identified as lasagna. But I had tasted the delights of Venice and the comfort of Fragole in Carroll Gardens – lasagna could be so much more. I succumbed to these pressures and looked online for a good recipe and found this: Simply Recipes by a woman named Elise. I read through the comments and everything was very complimentary. I decided to follow the recipe almost to a T. What you see below has just a few minor changes from the original recipe.
I had extra sauce leftover from the recipe and froze it for future use.
As you consider using this recipe, remember these words of joy expressed by my eloquent husband: “This is the best f%$&*n lasagna I’ve ever had.” Poetry
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1/2 medium white onion, diced
- 1 large bell pepper (green, red, or yellow), seeds and veins removed, diced
- 9 lasagna noodles
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 28 oz can tomato sauce
- 16 oz stewed tomatoes
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1 lb Ricotta cheese
- 1 lb Mozzarella cheese (large flat square slices cut thin)
- 3/4 lb freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Garlic Powder
- Italian Spice mix (I had some in my spice rack called “Italian”- I’m guessing it’s a mix of other spices listed here but what the heck)
- Parsley flakes
- 1 Garlic Clove, minced
- Large skillet (for browning beef, onions, green pepper)
- 6 Qt pot (for noodles)
- 3 Qt pot (simmer sauce)
- glass lasagna pan (or other similar)
- Large colander (drain noodles)
- Large slotted cooking spoon
- Large cooking spoon
METHOD (cook lasagna simultaneously or earlier in the day to reduce prep time)
1. Brown lean ground beef in skillet until lightly browned and cooked through. Keep mixing and breaking it up so it doesn’t get too chunky. Put a few layers of paper towels on a plate. With slotted spoon, remove browned beef from skillet draining off excess beef fat and put on top of blotting towels. After all the browned beef has been removed from the skillet, drain off and dispose of excess beef fat. Wipe skillet clean with paper towel. (If your ground beef is sufficiently lean, there won’t be any or much excess fat to drain.)
Add diced green pepper and onion to skillet. Brown for a few minutes on medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more. Add browned beef back to the skillet, lower the heat to low and continue to cook for 5 more minutes stirring frequently.
2 Transfer browned beef, green pepper and onions to 3 Qt. pot. Add tomato sauce and tomato paste. Open stewed tomatoes, drain liquid into the pot, and dice the tomatoes, then add these to 3 Qt. pot. Add oregano, parsley, Italian Spice Mix to taste, probably 2 teaspoons of each. Add a healthy pinch of garlic powder to taste. Add sugar a tablespoon at a time, until desired level of sweetness, no more than 1/4 cup of sugar. Note: It is hard to follow a pure recipe when it comes to pasta sauce. One Italian spice mix is not like the other, so you really need to taste the sauce as you are adding the spices and sugar.
Stir and allow sauce to simmer 15-45 minutes to thicken (do not scorch bottom, stir frequently). Remove from heat.
3. Cook lasagna noodles in 6 Qt. Pot per cooking directions (al dente). (Note noodles may be cooked in advance.) Stir often to prevent from sticking and be sure that water remains at a boil during the entire cooking to prevent noodles from sticking. Make sure you add salt to your boiling water to prevent stickiness. Drain in colander and place in a cool water filled pan to keep from drying out and sticking together (I let the original pot cool down with cold water and then put the noodles back in with the water).
4 In dry lasagna pan, ladle one cup of sauce and spread along the bottom of the pan. Apply a layer noodles 3 length wise (edges overlapping). Ladle in sauce sparingly into center trough of 3 noodles. (i.e. along the inside of each noodle) Apply a layer of mozzarella cheese slices on top of lasagna sauce. Place ricotta cheese dollops every 2 inches in center of noodles on top of mozzarella cheese slices, sprinkle grated parmesan cheese in thin even layer on top of ricotta cheese. Apply second layer of noodles, topping again with sauce and cheese. Finish with another layer of noodles. If you have extra sauce and cheese you can spread that over the top. Tent lasagna pan with aluminum foil (not touching noodles or sauce). Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes. Allow to cool before serving.
Note – Flavor improves for leftovers and may be reheated in convention or microwave. Store with Saran wrap
Yield: Serves 6-8.