I had an urge, no; I was compelled, to make Lasagna over the summer. It’s not something that you would make on a hot summer day, nor, is it something you just ‘whip up’ last minute. It is truly a labor of love.
I hadn’t made lasagna in a long time and I wanted (was compelled) to make it the way my late mother used to on every Christmas day – with tiny meatballs and fried eggplant. I called my relatives to invite them to dinner to celebrate my Dad’s birthday and we feasted on lasagna. It was a treat for everyone. For me, it was nice knowing that I was able to recreate something that was as delicious as my Mom’s and also bring back memories of those Christmas day get-togethers at our house every year.
This lasagna recipe uses ground meat but you can use homemade, tiny meatballs or, if you prefer, make it meatless. I also left out the fried eggplant which were just peeled, sliced-thin eggplant, fried in olive oil and placed randomly around the lasagna. Remember, just like any recipe you follow (except for baking), feel free to step out of the box and make it your own by adding ingredients that you and your family like.
To make 2 lasagna trays (3 noodles deep and 3 wide); use the entire box of noodles. To make 1 tray, use only half (9 noodles) and DIVIDE the recipe ingredients. You can also make a very large lasagna using the entire box of noodles and a very large tray.
- 1 box of lasagna noodles – For this recipe, I used noodles that need to be cooked. You can use the no-boil kind. Just make sure that your sauce is not thick and has more moisture in it.
- Tomato Sauce, about 4 cups. (I prefer homemade. I make my own using canned tomatoes: Sautee onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent. Pour in 2 cans of crushed tomato sauce. Add basil. Add a tablespoon of sugar for a bit of sweetness. Allow to simmer for 1 hour).
- 1 32-oz container of ricotta
- 12 oz. of mozzarella. You can purchase the pre-shredded kind or you use Fresh Mozzarella, if preferred.
- Parsley, 3 T chopped
- 1 egg
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on top.
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 pound of ground meat (I used half beef and pork). You can use any mixture.
Brown the meat in a non-stick pan. Drain the fat. Set the meat aside. I prefer not to add the meat to the sauce. This way, I can spread the meat evenly while making the lasagna.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to package directions. When the noodles are done, drain them. Separate the noodles on a colander or baking sheets. I always add a bit of light olive oil to help prevent sticking.
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, parsley, egg, salt and Parmesan cheese.
Have all of your ingredients and tray(s) in place.
Pour sauce to cover the bottom of the lasagna tray.
Next, place the noodles across the bottom, overlapping slightly.
Spoon some of the ricotta mixture over the noodles. Don’t worry if it is not evenly spread just as long as you have enough placed around the lasagna.
Spread the ground meat on top of the ricotta.
Spread some of the sauce and then a layer of mozzarella.
Place another layer of lasagna noodles. I press down a bit to spread the ricotta around the layer below it.
Continue by repeating the above steps until you get to the top layer with just noodles.
For the last layering, I just put sauce, some ricotta, a layer of mozzarella, and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top.
Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Take the aluminum foil off and bake for another 10 minutes.
Let it stand and cool for about 15 minutes. This will allow the lasagna to hold its form and not spill all out when you cut into it. It makes for easier cutting, serving and presentation.