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Meaty, Cheesy Lasagna

October 6, 2011

I love lasagna.  What’s not to love about it?  It’s meat and cheese and pasta, all combined into one dish!  While I used to make spaghetti at home for dinner, I never made lasagna because it looked like such a complicated dish to me.  It’s layers and layers of pasta noodles and cheese and yumminess and more cheese and baking it and the other 50 million things you have to do to it.  I was just too intimidated to even give lasagna a try.  (But then again, I’m the girl whose marinara sauce always came from a jar rather than homemade!)

Everything changed when I met my husband.  He turned me on to the virtues of making lasagna at home (and even making marinara sauce from scratch!).  One day, he happened to mention to me that he knew how to make lasagna.  My world stopped!  (ok, not literally…)  But I was surely blown away by that fact.  I always thought that lasagna was something you ordered at a restaurant or microwaved frozen from a box.  Really, we could make this at home?  We definitely had to give it a try!!!

Turns out, the process is pretty easy, just time consuming.  I wouldn’t recommend making this meal when you came home from work at night because it’ll be hours before you’ll be eating dinner.  And waiting for your lasagna to cook is not an easy thing!

To make lasagna, you need some basic ingredients: ground beef, tomato sauce, tomato paste, basil, oregano, parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, lasagna sheets, and we add spinach in ours.  You start first by making the meat sauce for your lasagna.  For us, that means browning some ground beef and adding it to a red sauce mixture of tomato paste, tomato sauce, garlic powder, oregano and basil.  Meanwhile, cook your lasagna sheets in a pot of salted boiling water.

My husband tells me that the key to making lasagna at home is to not start with a lasagna sheet or else it will dry out and get hard and crunchy as it will cook before the rest of the lasagna does.  So, what we do with our greased lasagna pan (aka bread pan) is to start with a thin layer of meat sauce right down on the bottom of the pan.  Then you top this later with your lasagna sheets.  You will need to measure and eyeball and trip the lasagna sheets to fit the size of your pan (if you need to overlap a little bit, don’t worry about it.

On top of the lasagna sheets, we put down another layer of meat sauce.  That layer of meat sauce is then topped off with a sprinkling of grated parmesan cheese and then a couple of spoonfuls of ricotta cheese so that the cheese basically creates its own layer.

Next step is more lasagna sheets.  Top that with more meat sauce (do you see a pattern here yet?).  Then more ricotta on top of that.  Add some shredded parmesan this time.  Then we add a layer of fresh spinach leaves.  At this point, depending on how many layers you want your lasagna to be, or how deep your pan is, keep up with this pattern of layer with lasagna sheets, meat sauce, ricotta cheese and spinach.

When you get to the end, you want to finish it off with a layer of ricotta and then meat sauce covering the top of the pan.  Contrary to popular belief, don’t top it with cheese yet before you put it in the oven.  Put the lasagna into the oven as it is.  Bake it for a little bit so that everything within the layers start to melt and the whole concoction heats up.

After awhile, then take your lasagna out of the oven, and top the whole thing with mozzarella cheese that’s going to be all melty and gooey and yummy on top of your lasagna.  Then stick it back in the oven and let it cook.  Try and refrain from eating the whole thing now.  Just wait.  Once the mozzarella melts, it’ll be sooooo good.

The heat from the oven will melt the mozzarella and turn it a reddish brownish color that looks almost too good to resist.  Your whole place will smell like yummy lasagna.  When you pull the lasagna out of the oven, it’ll be all bubbly and piping hot!  The best way to serve this lasagna is actually to let it cool and set for a bit.  If you cut into right away, it’ll be all melty and will ooze with liquid and kind of fall apart on you.

If you wait a little bit (even over night if you can stand it) and let it set, it’ll cut nicely into squares for you.  But this is all about how much will power you’ve got to wait (and believe me, I don’t have much!).

When you dig into your lasagna you’ll see all of the wonderful flavorful layers you’ve created with the lasagna sheets, meat sauce, ricotta cheese and spinach.  This dish is hearty comfort food at its best.  And you can enjoy it on its own, or with a side of homemade garlic bread.  Ooooh yum.  Meaty, cheesy lasagna and homemade garlic bread.  Can I have some now?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    October 12, 2011 2:12 pm

    Love lasagna! Never made it with spinach before (well, in veggie lasagna, but that’s a different story) – I’ll have to try that. When we make lasagna we always make two pans and give away to my sister-in-law or freeze some. Or both! We use cottage cheese instead of ricotta and put mushrooms in, too. Lasagna is the best. And those frozen ones you buy never taste quite as good as homemade.

    • October 12, 2011 2:28 pm

      Giving a pan of it to your sister-in-law is a great idea. Especially if she’s with the kids and her husband’s away. Makes it easy for her. And I’m sure the girls love it too.

      Sam’s always said that lasagna is best put in the oven, taken out to cool, and then refrigerated overnight to set. Then it’s easy to slice and reheat. When we try to bake it and then eat it right away, the inside layers aren’t set and what isn’t eaten, oozes out all over the pan.

      Freezing it is another good idea. Do you cook it fully and then freeze it once it’s cooled and then just rebake it when you are ready to eat?

  2. Amanda permalink
    October 12, 2011 7:10 pm

    It’s probably best if it sits for awhile, otherwise it doesn’t stay together. But even if it slides around, it still tastes great, right? We normally don’t make lasagna as a “regular” type meal – only for guests or special occasions, and then we make extra because if you’re going to the trouble, why not just make more? Cook the whole way, then freeze whatever is leftover (in single serving size pieces) and reheat in the microwave. Lasagna anytime. Lasagna’s so versatile, too. You can put practically anything in there according to tastes. We all like mushrooms, even the girls, so we normally do that.

    • October 12, 2011 7:13 pm

      I’m sure if I liked mushrooms, Sam would put them in because he likes mushrooms. Unfortunately, I just don’t like the fungi.

      I like your idea of freezing it in single serving slices. That makes sense. I guess I’ve never thought of freezing lasagna before, even though frozen lasagna at the store is one of the most popular items.

      I love all these ideas I get from you!

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