Classic Lasagna

—This meal is part of my Canadian Thanksgiving series—

Hubby’s family had a long trip to our house for Canadian Thanksgiving – about 8-10 hours.  So before I could worry about the Thanksgiving feast itself, I wanted to have a nice meal for them when they arrived.  I decided that I needed something that could be made and frozen in advance but could also be reheated multiple times in case hubby’s parents and sister arrived at different times.  My first thought was baked ziti, until a friend recommended a Barefoot Contessa recipe for lasagna that she’s had great success with in the past.  After a few failed veggie lasagna attempts recently I’ve been kind of avoiding it, but this recipe sounded very safe and not complicated at all to make.

I got to work, making a couple of changes – the original recipe calls for chicken sausage and goat cheese, both of which would make this dish very special but also not as universally liked, so I wanted to stick to more classic flavors.  If those ingredients sound good to you, though, please check out the original as it gets amazing reviews from my friend and reviewers over at the Food Network website!

I have to admit, making lasagna is a pain in the neck – every step was simple and the components were easy to pull together, but it took me a solid 20 minutes just to layer everything in the pan!  The result, however, was delicious, and accomplished my goal of still tasting good even after being reheated several times.  I was especially excited to get rave reviews from my mother-in-law who makes a great lasagna herself!  The proportions were great – cheesy but not too much cheese with plenty of sauce, and I think the fresh mozzarella adds a really special touch – I got several comments about it.  I served this with caesar salad and home-made whole wheat rolls, but I ran into some issues with those so the recipe on that will have to wait until I get it right 🙂

 

 

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Classic Lasagna
adapted from Ina Garten

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 pound whole wheat (or regular) lasagna noodles
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Romano or Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 400 F.  Take out a 9×13 baking dish (I used a disposable foil pan so as to not tie up one of my others while the lasagna was in the freezer).

Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the beef over medium-low heat, breaking it up as it cooks, until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.

Meanwhile, fill a large bowl or dish with the hottest tap water (I used instant hot). Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain. (If you are using no-cook noodles, follow directions on the box – you may be able to skip this step.)

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, 1 cup of romano cheese, the egg, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta (this should fit nicely in one layer), half the mozzarella, half the ricotta mixture, and 1/3 of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of romano. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

Do ahead: Entire lasagna can be cooked according to directions above and frozen.  Place frozen lasagna covered in 350 degree oven for approximately 90 minutes, until lasagna is steamy when uncovered and knife inserted into the middle feels hot when removed.

Serves 8 for dinner, or 12 for lunch

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