Lasagna

So, I was sitting in my house the other day, wondering what to fill my freezer with so that I could heat fast to make dinner easier. I thought of a nice meat lasagna.

I figured I could make one large pan of lasagna, cut it into individual portions, vacuum seal each one and freeze them so I can take out a few meals at a time. Heating the portions would be just a matter of tossing one into a sauté pan and sticking it in the oven for half an hour or so. Yes, you could stick it in the microwave, but I have to admit, I don’t like heating leftovers in those things.

One of the great things about making lasagna these days is that you don’t have to cook the sheets of pasta first.

I am going to give you the recipe for a 15-inch-by-11-inch baking pan, which will serve 12 to 15 people. When you look for most recipes, they are usually for four people; so this will give you something for those larger get-togethers. This recipe would be great for birthday parties, football games or other large, casual events. One of the great things about making lasagna these days is that you don’t have to cook the sheets of pasta first. All you need to do is make the sauce, cut the cheese and put it together.

I thought about making a simple spinach lasagna, but I knew I would be craving meat. I did add tomatoes and mushrooms. When I’m feeling weak, I need that meat protein. This is not quite the same as a nice rib-eye steak — the meat sauce will suffice. I almost added sausage, too, which would have been awesome, but I wanted to keep it simple.

The additions to the sauce should be according to your taste buds and the rest of the people who will be eating it. I’ll be dinning alone most nights and just wanted something hearty and easy. With the amounts of each of the ingredients in this recipe, I had enough sauce for a three-layer lasagna with just enough left over for one serving over any pasta for another meal.

I suggest that you use this recipe as a guide and not as a must-follow-to-the-letter recipe. If you are adding different ingredients, think about each one and be sure to prep them appropriately. If you use spinach, be sure to wilt it and strain it good before layering it into the lasagna to avoid excessive liquid.



Lasagna

3 lbs. ground beef
5 cloves garlic, rough chopped
2 T basil
2½ T Italian herb mix
1 T Six Pepper blend
5 bay leaves
1 T chili paste, to taste
1 28-oz. can tomato sauce
2 28-oz. cans whole tomatoes
2 6-oz. cans tomato paste
1 C red wine
10 large mushrooms, sliced
2 T sugar, to taste
1 lb. ricotta cheese
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, sliced
6 oz. pecorino cheese, grated
20 pieces no-cook lasagna sheets (which is more than 1 box’s worth)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Brown the meat on medium high with the garlic, herbs, Six Pepper mix in a large pot or pan. Strain off any grease. Add the tomato sauce, paste and wine. Cut up the tomatoes and add them and the bay leaves. Turn the heat down to low. Sauté the mushrooms separately and add. Let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add the chili paste. Simmer for another 15 minutes and add the sugar.

The longer the sauce simmers, the less sugar you will need because you will be cooking the acid out of the tomatoes. Simmer for another half hour on low heat and season with salt, pepper and any other adjustments of the other herbs and spices. Remove the bay leaves and remove from the heat.

Line the bottom of the 15-inch-by-11-inch baking pan with six pieces of pasta; break off the corners of the four corner pieces to fit in the pan. Ladle on enough sauce to cover the pasta. Lay out one-third of the mozzarella over the sauce, then spoon half the ricotta in small lumps over that. Add another layer of pasta and repeat. Add the third layer of pasta and cover with a thin layer of sauce. Add the last third of the mozzarella and sprinkle the parmesan over the top.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and then foil. Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Test the middle with a knife to be sure it’s done. Let set a half hour before cutting.