It's funny that even though I come from an Italian family (my mom is a full-blooded Italian), I really don't like making lasagna. It's also funny--or ironic--that my full-blooded Mexican husband loves lasagna, even claiming it as his favorite meal. Making lasagna is too time-consuming, in my opinion. So, on those rare occasions when I do make lasagna, I always double everything and make two. I usually freeze the second pan, for a future meal or for blessing another family. I use a throw-away aluminum pan for that second pan in case it goes to another family.
Here we go with what I do...
one pound of ground beef, cooked and drained
30-oz. can whole tomatoes
15-oz. can tomato sauce
8-oz. can tomato paste
Italian seasoning to taste (basil, oregano, parsley)
2 cloves garlic, crushed/minced
smidge of cane juice crystals (or sugar--I use maybe a couple of tablespoons, no measuring)
Empty the whole tomatoes into a large pot. Stick your hands in there and hand-crush all the tomatoes. Then, add the cooked ground beef and the rest of the ingredients. Heat over medium heat until heated through, or simmer for a couple hours on low. You can use this sauce on its own, for serving over spaghetti or whatever. You can also omit the meat and make meatballs (add them to the meatless sauce), or add cooked sausage or just serve it marinara-style. This is also the spaghetti sauce I use in other recipes, such as taco soup.
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) fresh ricotta cheese (the fresher, the better)
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese (I always end up adding extra--cheese is great!)
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (I use fresh)
dash fresh nutmeg (the secret ingredient; use a microplane grater)
salt and pepper to taste (I don't use these)
If your fresh ricotta is watery (which is typical of fresh ricotta but not always the case), drain it well. A large metal sieve, or even the large colander I typically use, works well. Once it is drained, combine it with all the other ingredients in a large bowl, and mix until everything is blended.
no-bake lasagna noodles--a couple boxes to be sure you have enough
couple cups grated mozzarella (I use more so I have enough for the top)
Okay, now to put everything together. On the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish, I spread some meat sauce. Then I place noodles over that. Feel free to break the dry noodles to make them fit! Spread some of the ricotta mixture on top of that, then some mozzarella. Then I layer: sauce -- noodles -- ricotta -- mozzarella. Do this twice so that all the ricotta is used up. My final layer is noodles, with sauce on top to cover the noodles completely. Then sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top (I usually grate extra!).
Ready to bake!
To bake, place lasagna (I "tent" some aluminum foil over the top of the pan) in a preheated 350-degree oven, and bake for 45 minutes to one hour. Check after 45 minutes, and remove the foil at that point. Bake until it's bubbly and the cheese is slightly golden.
I don't think it's possible to mess up lasagna. Whether the sauce is a little too thin or thick, or I've layered it incorrectly, it always seems to taste just fine. And that's the important thing.
Fresh nutmeg--my Italian grandma's secret ingredient!
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