Who doesn’t like lasagna?? Layers of sauce and cheese and noodles baked to a bubbly perfection with crisp edges! I know your mouth is watering just thinking about it, mine is from the remembering of it!
I will admit to not really following a recipe for this and I cheated and used no boil noodles. There is no shame in taking a shortcut in the kitchen! Some genius invented these no boil noodles and I don’t see a thing wrong with using them, the flavor and texture end up being the same it just saves time and dishes! No, they don’t have the wavy edge of a needs to be boiled noodle but those waves aren’t crucial to a tasty dish. Oh, even with the fancy noodle it still took me about 45 minutes to build our beast and that time would longer if I had to cook a noodle as well as the sauce and make the cheese mixture.
Honesty out of the way let’s get to the cooking part!
I started with the sauce because it needs to simmer for a bit and while it is cooking you can be schaffing together the cheese mixture. For the sauce I used 1 24 ounce can of pre-made spaghetti sauce and 3 15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes, 1 white onion diced and a pound of ground beef. Start with a little olive oil in the pan and get it warmed up so we can soften up the onions a little before we add the meat. I put a pinch of salt and pepper in with the onions to accentuate their flavor and let them cook over medium heat for 5 or 6 minutes depending on the size of the dice. Once the onions are translucent add the meat and another pinch of salt and pepper, a generous sprinkle of Italian seasonings, a generous sprinkle of garlic powder and a little onion powder. The meat needs a little seasoning so it isn’t a flat note in the final sauce and if you don’t eat meat then just skip these steps and go right to tomatoes. Once the meat is just browned taste it to make sure it’s got some flavor and then add the pasta sauce and tomatoes to the pan with another pinch of salt and pepper, just because the stuff in a can has flavors doesn’t mean that you can’t jazz it up a bit, stir it all together and let it simmer over the medium heat while you carry on to the cheese.
Cheese!! My favorite part of lasagna is the cheese so I went all out and used a mix of cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, a roasted garlic white cheddar, a sharp provolone and some parmesan. To me this is the most fun part, the mixing of the cheese layer! Yes, mostly because I get to eat the cheese as I am grating and mixing. In a giant bowl I mixed together 8 ounces of ricotta, 12 ounces of cottage cheese and 4 ounces each of the garlic and provolone and parm. To this glorious mountain of yum I added a 3 pinches of salt, fresh ground black pepper, shallot powder and some garlic juice. Yes, I said that. My market carries both onion and garlic juice. Who knew there was such magic?? I also put some of the garlic juice in the red sauce! Hard to have too much garlic in my humble opinion. Back to the cheese, add all the cheeses to a bowl, season and stir and the best part taste!! Some of the cheese is salty so I didn’t add much and didn’t add any more once it was mixed up but depending on what cheese you use more salt might be needed. I also found some sliced mozzarella in the fridge but I didn’t add that to the mix I just layered it in with the spread.
Ok the sauce has been simmering and the cheese is mixed together so we are ready to build our baby. I don’t have a specific lasagna pan so I used a regular 9×13 casserole dish. The first thing is to put a bit of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish so the noodles don’t stick. Then a layer of noodles, keep them close together but don’t let the edges overlap, if they do that part cooks weird. On top of my first layer of noodles I put the slices of mozzarella 2 to a noodle and filled in around them with the fancy mix of other cheese then a layer of sauce, really just enough to cover the cheese. The second layer of noodles needs to go on in the opposite direction of the first layer, like if you went long way down the dish making a horizontal layer then for the next go short ways down the pan and make a vertical layer. This will help to give the dish more structure and make it look like you ordered it from a restaurant. On my second layer of noodle I put one slice of the mozz in the middle of the noodles and globbed that super yum cheese mix all over the rest. Agian with the sauce layer, just enough to cover the cheese. Repeat until your dish is full or you run out of ingredients. The last layer does need to be more sauce and less cheese for the initial bake.
Now our baby is ready for the oven. Put the baking dish on a cookie sheet or baking tray and cover it with foil and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes take her out and add whatever bits of cheese you want on top and put it back in the oven without the foil and let that cheese get all golden and bubbly. This topping cheese is what will help make those crispy edges that everyone fights over! While the cheese is browning you can toss a loaf of bread or some rolls in with so that everything gets finished all at once.
When this finally comes out of the oven you will be tempted to immediately cut it and plate it and start shoveling it into your face BUT have at least 5 more minutes patience to let it sort of firm up and you will be rewarded with a lasagna that slices TV perfect!
I am not going to include a formal recipe for this one, lasagna is super easy and you can use whatever you like to make it. Veggies as noodles instead of pasta, mushrooms instead of meat, bell peppers in the sauce, cheese sauce, no cheese at all if you don’t fancy it. There are a hundred ways to make one of these babies, the sky is the limit, just remember to have that very first layer in the dish be a bit of sauce so that whatever you use as a noodle doesn’t stick!!
Thanks ya’ll!! Happy cooking!