Lasagna

Lasagna slice
Garfield the cat was my favorite cartoon character as a child. I loved cats, and enjoyed the dry sense of humor that masked a warm heart. But most of all, Garfield and I shared a love of the same food: lasagna.

Lasagna has always been my favourite meal, the dish I requested for birthday dinners and special events. And while my mom was always happy to make lasagna for me, once I was out on my own, I quickly learned how to make it myself. Lasagna was the first main dish that I mastered, and like my double chocolate brownies, it was my go-to for potlucks and parties for many years. In fact, this lasagna was one of the first things I cooked for my husband when we were dating (in a tiny, ghetto residence kitchen!), and has become one of his favorite meals as well.

You’ll need cans of whole tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste, a pound of ground beef, and your basic Italian spices. Later down the road, you’ll need mozzarella cheese and oven-ready lasagna noodles, but they didn’t show up in time for the first photoshoot.

Ingredients

Start by browning the ground beef in a large frying pan. I prefer lean or extra lean beef, but it doesn’t matter too much because you’ll be draining the fat off anyway.

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While the beef is browning, pour the tomatoes, sauce and paste into a large pot. I prefer to use whole tomatoes and crush them, but you can use diced or crushed tomatoes if that’s what you have.

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Crush the tomatoes with an immersion blender or potato masher.

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Add garlic, oregano, basil, bay leaves and red pepper flakes. Add chili powder to taste. 1/4 teaspoon will add flavour but not too much heat, and should be fine for kids (or grandmothers – that’s how we categorize spicy food in my family!) ½ teaspoon gives it a bit more heat (and is how my husband and I like it.)

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Drain the excess fat from the beef and add to the sauce. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, on low heat for 45 minutes to an hour.

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When the sauce is almost ready, grate 250 g of mozzarella cheese (should give you about 3 cups of shredded cheese) and preheat the oven to 350°. For a dairy free lasagna, use mozzarella-style soy cheese.

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I always use oven-ready noodles in my lasagna because I think boiling noodles is a pain in the neck, but feel free to use whatever kind of noodles you like. If you need to use whole-wheat or gluten-free noodles, you’ll probably have to boil them according to package directions before assembling the lasagna. I’ve made this several times with brown rice noodles when cooking for gluten-free friends and it’s just as tasty!

To assemble the lasagna, spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray. Spoon in enough sauce to thinly cover the bottom of the pan.

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Lay noodles in the pan to cover the sauce without overlapping, breaking them to fit if necessary. I usually need about 4 noodles per layer.

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Spoon in enough sauce to cover to noodles.

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Add another layer of noodles, then another layer of sauce, the last of the noodles, and the last of the sauce. You should have 3 layers of noodles with sauce above, below, and in between. Sprinkle the cheese on top.

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Bake for 25 – 35 minutes at 350° until the noodles are tender. Stick a fork in the middle to check, if it meets any resistance, bake for a few minutes longer. If the top is getting too brown for your liking before the noodles are done, cover the lasagna with a sheet of foil. Alternately, if you want it a little browner, stick it under the broiler for a minute or two!

Allow the lasagna to stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving. This is the hardest part, since your kitchen will smell amazing at this point, but it makes it much neater to cut and serve.

Lasagna

Enjoy with some garlic bread and salad for a tasty Italian meal!

This lasagna reheats beautifully (some say it’s even better the next day!) and freezes very well. I cool the lasagna completely, wrap individual slices in foil, and stick in a freezer bag for quick lunches or suppers.

You can also bake smaller lasagnas in loaf pans or small Corningware. That’s how I usually make it, since I don’t eat dairy and I’m married to a cheese lover. One pan dairy free for me, one pan covered in cheese for him!

Lasagna

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 450 grams (1 pound) lean ground beef
  • 1 596ml (20 ounce) can whole tomatoes
  • 1 398 ml (13 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 156ml (5 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or two teaspoons bottled minced garlic)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ – ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • 250 grams (9 ounces) mozzarella cheese, grated (about 3 cups grated)
  • 12 oven ready lasagna noodles

Directions:

Brown ground beef in a large frying pan.

While the beef is browning, pour the tomatoes, sauce and paste into a large pot. Crush the tomatoes with an immersion blender or potato masher.

Add garlic, oregano, basil, bay leaves, red pepper flakes and chili powder to taste.

Drain the excess fat from the beef and add to the sauce. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, on low heat for 45 minutes to an hour.

When the sauce is almost ready, grate 250 g of mozzarella cheese and preheat the oven to 350°.

To assemble the lasagna, spray a 9 x 13 inch pan with cooking spray. Spoon in enough sauce to thinly cover the bottom of the pan. Lay noodles in the pan to cover the sauce without overlapping, breaking them to fit if necessary.

Spoon in enough sauce to cover to noodles. Add another layer of noodles, then another layer of sauce, the last of the noodles, and the last of the sauce. You should have 3 layers of noodles with sauce above, below, and in between. Sprinkle the cheese on top.

Bake for 25 – 35 minutes at 350° until the noodles are tender. Stick a fork in the middle to check, if it meets any resistance, bake for a few minutes longer. Cover with foil if the cheese browns before the noodles are tender.

Allow the lasagna to stand for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Reheats and freezes well.

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