Lasagna

This might just be the best lasagna ever.  It’s a little strange for me to be writing that, since until recently, I didn’t really like lasagna.  By that I mean that I refused to eat it because I didn’t think it looked good.  The only lasagna I would willingly eat was my Aunt Ruth’s, and I was only willing to try hers because she’s never made anything wasn’t delicious. So, while this was not my first attempt at the classic comfort food dish, it is the first time that I got excited about the results.
Although it takes a little time (it took me about an hour to get it in the oven, and then an hour or more to bake, but I wasn’t very organized about it, and you might be able to cut that down a little with some planning), it really isn’t that difficult to make.  You saute the vegetable in a little oil (carrots? in lasagna?  I was a little surprised to see them in the recipe, but I didn’t even know they were there when I was eating it), add the meat and cook through, then add the spices and let simmer for a few minutes.  I could have just eaten the sauce right out of the pan, it was so good.  I really like that it had both ground beef and sausage in it, and I chose the hot italian sausage, so that gave it a little kick.  You will have to spend some time breaking it up though, unless, like me, you don’t mind some rather large-ish sausage lumps in there.
While my sauce was cooking, I boiled the noodles, and got my pan ready.  Then you make the cheese filling with ricotta, parmesan, and a couple of eggs.  This was probably my favorite part of the lasagna; it was so light, and just cheesy enough without being too gooey, if that makes any sense.  Once you’ve got everything mixed in, then you get to assemble this monster.  Be prepared, because it will feed a small army, as my grateful co-workers found out later in the week.  It’s pretty straightforward – you just put a little sauce in the bottom of the pan, then layer on the noodles, ricotta mixture, sauce, and shredded mozzarella until you run out.  Then top with a little more mozzarella and parmesan, and you’re good to go.  
Let it bake covered for 40 minutes, then uncover and continue to bake for another 40 minutes (I only baked uncovered about 30 minutes or so, since I was impatient, and it was plenty hot, and the cheese was bubbly, but I have an atomic oven, so results may vary).  All in all, this was a very successful project, and I can’t wait to make this again.  The sauce was so flavorful, and the ricotta mixture baked up so well, that this may have just made the list of my favorite foods.
Three Cheese Lasagna with Italian Sausage
SAUCE
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped peeled carrots
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 8 ounces lean ground beef
  • 6 ounces spicy Italian sausages, casings removed
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon golden brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

LASAGNA

  • 15 lasagna noodles (about 12 ounces)
  • 2 15-ounce containers part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, squeezed dry
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 3/4 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 1 1/4 pounds)

FOR SAUCE:
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic; sauté until softened, about 12 minutes. Add beef and sausages to pan; sauté until cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until flavors blend and sauce measures about 5 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Cool.

FOR LASAGNA:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; cover with cold water.

Combine ricotta and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Mix in spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs.

Drain pasta and pat dry. Spread 1/2 cup sauce over bottom of 13×9-inch glass baking dish. Place 5 noodles over sauce, overlapping to fit. Spread half of ricotta-spinach mixture evenly over noodles. Sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella cheese evenly over ricotta-spinach mixture. Spoon 1 1/2 cups sauce over cheese, spreading with spatula to cover (sauce will be thick). Repeat layering with 5 noodles, remaining ricotta-spinach mixture, 2 cups mozzarella and 1 1/2 cups sauce. Arrange remaining 5 noodles over sauce. Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese evenly over lasagna. (Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake lasagna 40 minutes; uncover and bake until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes. Let lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving.

 

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