This past weekend I made lasagna, not one pan, but three. Making a pan of lasagna can take quite a bit of time especially when you make your own meat sauce, then cook the noodles, then layer it all in the pan, followed by baking it in the oven. So if I’m going to spend the time making a pan of it, without much additional time spent on the task, I can make two or three. I usually cook one for us, give one away to someone who may be having some difficulty preparing meals, and freeze one for a later date.
There are a couple of ways that I have found to shorten the time involved. I usually make my meat sauce a day or two in advance. That way the flavors have a good chance to blend together. This time I used the Slow Cooked Ragu that I wrote about here, but the recipe for my regular meat sauce is given below. The other way that I shorten up on the time involved is by using no-cook noodles. Cooking lasagna noodles has got to be one of my least favorite chores. In the pot they clump together, when drained they slither around and tear, and then afterwards you have to wash a large pot. So life is so much easier with the no-cook kind.
All you have to do is open the box, layer the sheets of pasta with the sauce and cheese and stick the baking dish into the oven to bake. Easy. Once you try it you will not go back to boiling lasagna noodles. Honest! More and more people are latching on to this easy method. There are several pasta companies that are now making these noodles. Look for them with other pastas in your supermarket.
You may be asking how are they different and how do they work? Both traditional and no-boil noodles are made from water and semolina, but the no-boilers are precooked in a water bath before being dried and packaged. They are also rolled out much thinner than regular noodles, so that they rehydrate quickly. The lasagna’s sauce and other ingredients contribute moisture they need to soften and expand. When layering your ingredients it is most important to be sure all surfaces of the dry noodles are covered -to the edges- with sauce, thus preventing dry spots in the finished dish. I usually add a little more sauce than the recipe calls for, just to be sure the noodles rehydrate fully. Keep in mind, also, that some vegetables will contribute additional liquid, such as spinach, mushrooms and zucchini. Until you are comfortable with the amount of liquid to use, it is best to take your cues from the recipe on the back of a box of no-boil noodles.
You will also need to follow package directions on how to position the pasta in your pan, alternating the directions that the pasta sheets are laying. Sometimes there is an illustration on the back of the box. And always coat the bottom of the baking dish with a small amount of sauce before placing the first layer of noodles in the dish.
Lasagna seems to be everyone’s favorite comfort food. We just never seem to grow tired of pasta noodles baked with a hearty meat sauce that includes ground beef and sausage, plus lots of ricotta cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan. When it comes out of the oven with the tomato sauce bubbling up around the edges, and the cheese melted all over the top, we can hardly wait to dig in. I usually keep it simple and serve a salad and some good crunchy bread with this meal, and no dessert!
The recipe that I use goes back to the way my mother prepared it. I have tweaked it over the years, mostly with the seasonings that I put in, but basically it’s still hers. Mr. D. loves this dish whenever I make it.
BAKED LASAGNA (With No-cook Noodles)
Yield: 10 – 12 servings
For the meat sauce:
- 3/4 – 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 lb. Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1/2 cup minced onion
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (15-0z) can tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 12 lasagna noodles
- 16 oz. ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 3-4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1. In a large sauce pot, cook sausage, ground beef, onion and garlic over medium heat until well browned. Drain off any accumulated fat. Stir in crushed tomatoes, sauce and water. Stir in sugar, basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Simmer, covered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. This can be made a day or two in advance to allow flavors to blend well.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, eggs, basil, oregano, and parsley.
3. Preheat oven to 350*F. Lightly grease or spray a 13″x 9″ baking dish or lasagna pan. Spread about 3/4 cup sauce in the bottom of the pan. Place 3 pieces uncooked pasta (crosswise) over the sauce. Pieces should not overlap or touch sides of the pan since they will expand when baked.
4. Spread about 1/3 of ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles. Cover this with 3/4 cup meat sauce spreading evenly and covering the pasta completely, sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese.
5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 two more times, alternating the direction the pieces of pasta are laying each time. Top with remaining 3 pieces of pasta. Spread the remaining meat sauce completely over the top layer; sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
6. Cover with foil. Bake 35 minutes; remove the foil and bake 10 – 15 minutes longer or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.
Extra pieces can be tightly wrapped and refrigerated, to be rewarmed at a later time in the oven or microwave.
To Make Ahead: Prepare as directed above but do not bake. Cover with plastic wrap, then foil. Refrigerate up to 48 hours or freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap, replace foil. Bake cold lasagna at 350*F for about 40 minutes, and a frozen lasagna for about 1 hour and 30 minutes, removing foil during the last 10 minutes of baking.
SOURCE: Family recipe