If there’s one thing I know about lasagne, it’s this.
My mom’s recipe is the best one.
I’ve never tasted it’s equal.
Which leads me to the second thing I know about lasagne.
Sometimes, getting exactly what you want require cheap, grocery store tomato sauce, cottage cheese, and dried pasta.
Sure, I’ve localed it up a bit with some fantastic locally raised beef and parsley from my garden, but this semi-unusual way of preparing lasagne is the way I was taught, and as we’ve already discussed, it’s the most delicious way to do so. Why break something that works so beautifully?
This is not to say that I will never foray into fancy lasagnes with handmade noodles and fresh tomato sauces, but I doubt I will ever abandon this one.
Lasagne is a dish that I remember from my childhood days as a herald of people coming to visit, or a special occasion. With an hour to prep and an hour in the oven, this is no quick meal to prepare. BUT. Once you make it, you have twelve slices, which if you’re by yourself (as I was this summer) you can eat it for a week. True story.
And who wouldn’t want to eat lasagne for a week? It has almost everything good inside! Long, wide noodles. Tangy red sauce. A cheesy concoction fit for the gods. Be still, my heart!
After composing the three elements (noodles, sauce, cheesy-business) comes the most entertaining part of lasagne: the construction thereof. It took me a while when I first began cooking this dish to get the right balance of the three, and not run out of one before the others. I can’t actually remember my mom measuring any of these things, but for your sake, I’ve finally found the ratio that I think works best. Plus if you’re super-smart (read: smarter than me) you will actually separate your ingredients into the number of layers you need for each to ensure that you WON’T run out.
Or you can wing it.
Don’t be like me.
Then get all your little bowls in a huddle around a big, empty baking dish, and prepare for the fun.
Aaaaaand now you still have to wait an hour to eat. Stick this bad boy in the oven ASAP.
Meanwhile, however, take the extra noodle you made (you should always make an extra… for emergencies… yeah) and start cleaning up.
This is, of course, required.
Also wash your dishes. You’ll have plenty, and an hour of cooking is a good time to knock ’em out. I’m not telling you how to run your life, but trust me.
Because when this comes out of the oven?
You really won’t want to do anything but eat it.
Adapted, just a smidge, from Mom
Note: The trickiest part of lasagne is timing the preparation of your three elements. The idea is to be pouring the noodles into a colander as your sauce is simmering and your cheese mixture is mixed and ready. This takes some practice, but I’ve tried to outline the order in which I prepare things to finish everything at about the same time.
9-10 dry lasagne noodles
1 large can Hunt’s Traditional or Mushroom tomato sauce (or whatever tomato sauce tickles your palette)
1 pound ground beef
1 pound cottage cheese (I use 1%)
3/4 pound mozarella cheese, grated
4-5 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 13″x9″ baking dish (not for eating, but obviously important)
1/3 c finely grated parmesan cheese
Grate the mozarella and chop parsley before beginning to cook. Or, hire your room mate or significant other to do those while you commence the next steps.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.
Heat a large frying pan or skillet with a bit of oil. Add beef and season with salt and pepper. While cooking the beef, break it into pieces as small as possible so that it will be evenly distributed in the lasagne.
As the beef begins to cook, the water should be boiling, or close to it. Once it begins to boil, add lasagne noodles. It may take a minute or so before the noodles soften enough that they can be submerged in water. Once noodles are submerged, boil until noodles are about 2 minutes shy of al dente (there should still be a thin layer of firmness in the noodle). Remove to a colander to drain and cool slightly. If you estimate that the noodles will be sitting out for more than 10 minutes, cover with a lid so they don’t dry out.
Meanwhile, once the beef has cooked, pour off any excess grease that is in the pan. Add the tomato sauce and stir thoroughly. Cover with a lid and simmer.
Finally, while your sauce is simmering and noodles are cooking, combine cottage cheese, mozarella, and parsley in a large bowl. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Taste test for good measure.
In theory, everything will be ready at about the same time. Place the bowls of your three elements close together around your pan. If you want to separate your sauce and cheese mixture into equal parts to ensure your layer proportions are correct, separate the sauce into 4 small bowls and the cheese into 3 bowls.
Now is also a good time to preheat your oven to 350 °F.
To construct the lasagne, add layers to the pan in the following order:
1. Meat sauce
2. Noodles (3 complete noodles, side by side)
3. Cheese (dolloped in and then spread with fingers or the back of a spoon)
You will have three layers of each, plus an additional layer of sauce on top as Layer 10. Sprinkle parmesan over the top to create Layer 11.
Bake lasagne for 55 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before slicing into 12 pieces and serving.
Makes excellent leftovers, if your significant other will let it last that long.