Friday, December 26, 2014

Old School Lasagna

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We celebrated twice, a noisy family and friend get-together on Christmas Eve and a quiet Christmas Day dinner with Mom Tilton. I loved both of them, it's always an excuse to try out new recipes and ideas. My family is used to being guinea pigs! Sometimes that's how I find a BEST recipe, better than the one I thought was the best... that's what happened this year when I made an old school Italian family recipe that's been passed down in Martha's family over at A Family Feast. It is homemade from start to finish, so you just might want to plan ahead and make the tomato sauce one day and the meat sauce another. I hope you won't say,"This is too much trouble"... it is so worth it! I made a few variations, I left out the mint and shredded an additional 8 oz. block of mozzarella in place of the fresh sliced mozz. One more trip to the grocery store might just have pushed me over the edge ;)

A recipe that every Italian Grandma knows by heart, the next time you need a 9x13 showstopper this one will fit the bill!

          1 pound box of dry lasagna noodles (you will need 16 noodles. A one pound box contains 20                noodles so you will have four extra. Usually a few get broken so this usually works out)
    For the Meat Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage meat (I used Jimmy Dean Italian Sausage)
  • 1 28-ounce canned crushed tomatoes (Cento is my favorite)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dry basil or 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint (I left this out)
  • For the cheese mixture
  • 2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley 
  • Other ingredients you’ll need
  • 2 ½ cups tomato sauce (see recipe here)
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella sliced into 12 slices (I took another shortcut and shredded an 8 oz block of mozzarella)
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Cook lasagna noodles according to box directions but keep them slightly undercooked (I cooked them 8 minutes). They should still have a good bite to them. Rinse and cool. Keep moist while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the onions for about two minutes over medium high heat. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Add the meat, stir and cook until there is no pink. Depending on the fat content of the meat you are using, you may need to drain off some liquid. There should only be a few tablespoons of liquid after cooking the meat. Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes and mint. Reduce to medium and simmer ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix ricotta, 1 cup shredded mozzarella, beaten eggs, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and the chopped parsley. Mix to combine and set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and put oven rack in center of oven.
  5. In a 9X13X3 glass baking dish, ladle in one cup of tomato sauce into the bottom and lay four lasagna noodles overlapping slightly. Add one third of these cheese mixture, one third of the meat mixture and half of the sliced fresh mozzarella. (The sliced mozzarella will not cover the whole pan, just spread as evenly as possible). Repeat with four more noodles, one third of cheese mixture, one third of meat mixture and the other half of sliced fresh mozzarella. Cover with four more noodles and top with remaining cheese mixture, remaining meat mixture and 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese. Finish with four more noodles, 1 ½ cups tomato sauce, 1 ½ cups shredded mozzarella and ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese.
  6. Lay a piece of parchment paper over top and then cover tightly with foil. Cover a sheet pan with foil and place a rack in foiled pan. Now place the covered lasagna on the rack and place in the oven. The rack is to circulate heat and the lower pan will catch and drips.
  7. Bake for one hour covered. Remove foil and parchment and cook uncovered for 30 more minutes. Let rest 15-30 minutes before cutting.

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