Sunday, January 27, 2013

Homemade Lasagna

Updated October 2019

Almost everyone has a favorite "go to" recipe for lasagna and I've been making this recipe for more than 30 years. The original recipe is from a high school friend's mom, who was from the Island of Malta. She used Ricotta cheese in hers, but for years, it was too expensive for us, so I substituted whole milk cottage cheese ... purists are going to roll their eyes, but trust me, it was delicious.

My kids grew up with it this way, and we all loved it. Today I can afford ricotta cheese, but when I make it with all ricotta, we find it too stiff ... I guess we were just used to a more ooey-gooey cheesy mess.

Nowadays, I mix half cottage cheese and half ricotta and it holds together very well, not too stiff and not too loose. Of course, if you are a "purist" you can certainly use all ricotta cheese, so you would buy the 15 oz. size in the dairy section of your local grocery store and leave out the cottage cheese.

I also add shredded 5-cheese Italian blend cheese to ours (or 6-cheese Italian blend).  The extra cheeses make it more cheesy and gooey!

1-16 oz. box lasagna noodles
2-14.5 oz. cans good quality tomato sauce
1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
1.5 lbs. ground beef (I used not less than 93% lean)
2 tsp. garlic (powdered or minced)
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. oregano
1 small onion, diced (optional)
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
8 oz. Ricotta cheese (if using all Ricotta, buy the 15 oz size and skip the cottage cheese)
8 oz. Cottage cheese
2 eggs
3 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded 5 or 6 cheese Italian blend (if you don't use this, increase mozzarella to 4 cups)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Brown ground beef with chopped onion in large pan, drain grease.

Return cooked ground beef and onion to pan; add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine and seasonings (garlic, Italian seasoning and oregano).

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover partially with lid, allowing some steam to escape, and cook over low heat an hour or more (if you have time), or until sauce has reduced some, and seasonings are well blended. Adjust seasonings as needed, to taste.

In a large stock pot, fill with water and bring to a boil; add lasagna noodles and cook until just al dente, approx. 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Drain noodles and toss with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil to keep from sticking.  Otherwise, you can remove the pan from the heat and using tongs, just pull the noodles out and layer in the pan.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl combine ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan and 1 cup shredded 5 or 6 cheese Italian blend, stirring until well blended.

Spread 1 cup pasta sauce (approx) in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray (I use Pam). Layer with lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese mixture, pasta sauce and mozzarella cheese. Repeat layering, ending with sauce and mozzarella cheese on top of sauce. I usually end up with 4 layers so I can use all the noodles. The last layer sometimes has a few extra noodles for that very reason.

Bake in 350 oven uncovered 40-45 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.  Cut into serving pieces with a large knife or spatula and serve

I serve this with Italian bread (sometimes garlic bread) and a tossed garden salad.

Cook's note - make the lasagna in 2 smaller pans, one for now, one for the freezer since it freezes very well. Thaw before baking, then bake as above.



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