Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Homemade" Lasagna

I think the last time I had lasagna was, well, it was a long time ago. My grandma was in town and Ryan's family was coming over for dinner, and my grandma had the great idea to make lasagna for our family dinner.  You should have seen the kitchen. Sauce was boiling away. In fact, there was even sauce on the wall. Noodles boiling and cheese everywhere. I never had her lasagna before that night, but let me tell you, it was SO good. I thought it was strange that she used cheddar cheese along with mozzarella, but I shouldn't have second guessed her. That and she even put olives in hers. I love olives! I knew she made good stuff, but this was out of this world delicious.

Now, I probably got you all riled up to give you my grandmothers recipe. Sorry, you are not getting it. Well, someday, but not today. The sauce she makes for this takes time to simmer and for the flavors to merry and we just did not have time for that. Ryan was craving lasagna, and apparently I was suppose to make one for his birthday last year, oops. Sorry Ryan! Anyways, we didn't have the time to make the proper sauce, so we used my quick and easy homemade sauce. It's super simple and if you have an hour or more to let it simmer, you are good to go. All you need is two jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used Classico), either a pound of ground beef or Italian sausages (casings removed and browned up), red wine, onions, garlic, bell pepper, mushrooms and seasonings of your choice. Let it simmer and get all yummy. 

Once you have that done and ready to go, boil the noodles and start layering the lasagna. Sauce, noodles, ricotta, sauce, mozzarella and repeat until you are done. It is a little work, but it's worth it. When I made this, I could have sworn we would have had enough cheese, but I was wrong. I should have listened to Ryan. I'm pretty sure he told me I should get more. Maybe I should start listening to him more! The flavors were good, but it needed a little more ooey gooeyness if you ask me. Nothing beats slicing the lasagna and all that cheese hanging off the spatula. Mmmm.

sweet italian sausage browning (casings removed) and sauce simmering in the back

cooked sausage into the tomato pool

sautee the onions and garlic - LOTS OF GARLIC

green pepper cooking away (softening the veggies before helps speed up the cooking process)

cheese station!

oodles of noodles

cheese station meets lasagna station


finished and ready to bake. I forgot to take a picture when it came out of the oven. oops.

"Homemade" Lasagna 

2 jars spaghetti sauce (use your favorite or whatever is on sale)
1 pound of your favorite meat (sausage, beef, turkey, or no meat for a veggie dish!)
1 head garlic (about 10 cloves), chopped (less if you don't love garlic as much as I do)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cups mushrooms
1 cup red wine (use what you would drink, but don't spend lots on a bottle!)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 box lasagna noodles
1 - 2 pounds mozzarella cheese, grated (one pound for mine, two pounds for cheesy)
1 - 2 containers ricotta cheese (I used low fat here, and again, one for less cheese, two for more)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a large skillet and brown your choice of meat. If you are using hot or sweet sausage, remove the casing and break up the meat in the pan like you would do for ground meat. Meanwhile, heat up a large pot and put the two jars of sauce in the pot. Keep this on low so it does not splatter. Once the meat has been cooked, drain if there is fat in the pan and then add the meat to the sauce and stir. In the same skillet, add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until softened. Do not have the heat too high as you may burn the garlic. If you do that you have to start all over again. Once the onion is cooked, add to the pot with the sauce and repeat with the bell pepper. Add the mushrooms directly to the sauce and stir all the vegetables and meat together in the sauce.  Next, add the wine, seasonings, salt, pepper and sugar and stir to combine. Cover with a lid and let cook for at least an hour. Stir every 20 minutes and add addtional seasonings to taste. When the sauce is ready, remove the bay leaves and throw away.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles as per the directions on the box. Once they are done, pour two cups of sauce onto the bottom of a 9X13 pan. This helps the noodles not to stick.  Then lay down four lasagna noodles and top with enough ricotta to cover. This is a little hard to spread, but just use your fingers. Then pour sauce to cover the ricotta and then sprinkle with mozzarella to cover. Repeat until you have four layers.  On the top of the fourth layer, there will be no ricotta. Pour the remaining sauce on (unless you have a lot leftover - then just use enough to cover the top) and cover with mozzarella cheese.

For ease of transportation from counter to oven, line a baking sheet with foil and place the pan on the baking sheet. This will also help keep your oven clean if the lasagna boils over. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and cook for another 15 minutes. Then, remove pan from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes and then serve!

The best accompaniment for this dish is salad, bread and a big glass of red wine! You can also make this in a disposable foil pan, make a double batch (or more) and freeze. All you need to do is make the lasagna as above, let cool, wrap in plastic wrap and foil and freeze. I would say this would last about 3 months in the freezer and all you would need to do is heat it back up in the oven and you have a hot meal ready to go.

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