Lola Cooks: Classic Lasagna

A good lasagna is hard to beat. There is a time commitment involved, but the result is more than worth the effort. It is a dish that is sure to please. When executed properly you get a good, thick, meaty sauce and lots of gooey cheese with each bite. The noodles will be cooked but not too soft. That is dining heaven.

lola-cooks-classic-lasagna1.jpg

This is the kind of dish that has lots of steps, but easy steps. Therefore, I find it the perfect time to get the family involved. Gather your family (or friends) around to assist in the assembly. Food is best when prepared together. It helps kids understand how things are made and appreciate the work that goes into a good meal.

When it's done start with a small salad and some crusty bread. Then bring on the lasagna and a glass of red wine (for the adults, of course). This meal and some conversation around the table simply says "home".

savour... classic comfort

Get the rest after the jump...

Classic Lasagna

lola-cooks-classic-lasagna2.jpg

Before you start:

Simmer your sauce for at least an hour, but feel free to leave it longer.  I sometimes leave it 3 or 4 hours.  Just be sure to stir it occasionally and add a bit of water if it gets too thick.

We use fresh herbs from our garden, but you can use dried if that is what you have available. Be sure to use a little less as the flavor will be somewhat concentrated. Additionally, rub them in your palm or between your fingers before putting in the pot to release the essential oils that hold the flavor.

I like to place a baking sheet on a rack one level below the lasagna to catch any spills. It rarely happens, but if it does the mess is a hassle.

The ingredients:

  • lasagna noodles (dried or homemade)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 lb sausage (italian or spicy)
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1 can (22 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (22 oz) diced stewed tomatoes
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • cheese mixture:
  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup provolone
  • 2 cups mozzarella (finely shredded)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste

The method:

  1. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened (about 5 min).
  3. Add ground beef and sausage and cook until browned.
  4. Drain any unnecessary fat (if applicable).
  5. Add tomato paste and stir until incorporated.
  6. Add tomato paste and then tomatoes (drained slightly).
  7. Turn heat to low.
  8. Add italian seasoning, fennel seed, oregano, thyme, basil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Mix well.
  9. Cover pot and allow to simmer for no less than one hour.
  10. Prepare cheese mixture by adding all ingredients (reserve 1/2 cup mozzarella) to a bowl and mixing well.  Store in refrigerator until ready for assembly.
  11. Boil pasta according to instructions.  It should be a little firmer than if it were going directly to the table.  It will soften a bit more when cooked in the lasagna.
  12. When you are ready for assembly preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  13. Place a small amount of sauce in the bottom of your baking dish.
  14. Next add a layer of lasagna noodles overlapping them on the sides slightly.
  15. Add a layer of meat sauce spreading it out evenly over the surface.
  16. Add a layer of cheese mixture by placing small amounts (quarter sized) to cover surface.
  17. Repeat noodle, meat sauce, cheese mixture pattern until you get to the top.  Cheese mixture should be the last layer but not so high that it will spill over the top.
  18. Top off with 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese and grated parmesan
  19. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
  20. Remove foil and bake another 10-15 minutes until top starts to turn golden brown.
  21. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.