GARFIELD WOULD BE PROUD
I have to agree with Garfield on this one. Lasagna is great! Served with a nice garlic bread and Caesar salad makes for a delicious meal. It is actually pretty easy to make and feeds a crowd. Being a wide pasta noodle means there is less fuss. Nowadays, you can even get ready-made lasagna noodles which require no pre-boiling. For busy people like myself I would like to take a moment to thank the lasagna gods for this. Of course, fresh is best but you do what you can. This Italian classic is baked in a deep dish and makes you want to yell, “Mangia!”
When I get ready to prepare a lasagna I like to have all parts ready. For me, a great lasagna consists of 3 well-prepared parts that must each be flavourful in themselves: lasagna noodle, cheese, sauce.
I admit I do not make fresh lasagna noodles. At times I buy them when I can but usually my schedule allows for oven-ready sheets. Since I can’t do much about the noodle, I like to focus on the cheese and sauce. Ricotta is a light, whey cheese that adds a nice layer to a lasagna. Cheese is also used to sprinkle between layers if you choose but also to top off the lasagna and give it that beautiful golden colour. The standard is mozzarella but I enjoy more flavourful cheese so I will often buy blends (again to save time) of asiago, provolone, romano and emmethal.
Of utmost importance is the meat sauce. Before adding this to your lasagna make sure you taste it! It will be the primary flavour and if it lacks spices or salt, etc it will ruin the dish. To make clean up easier, I use 1 large pan to fry everything. I begin with some basic vegetables: carrots, celery, onion, and garlic, which I fry in olive oil until they are caramelized. This takes about 10 minutes on medium heat. The options are endless as far as vegetables go. You can add eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, and even spaghetti squash. If you want you can make this dish fully vegetarian, replace meat with more vegetables reducing the overall calorie count by almost 500 calories meaning each serving size will be about 348 calories with about 16.9 grams of protein.
Then I bring out my inner Mediterranean and cook down a cup of white wine in the vegetables before I add 2 cans of crushed tomatoes and my herb mix. Fresh herbs are nice but they are pricy and not always in season so I use dry herbs: parsley, marjoram, basil, thyme, and mountain oregano.
Mountain oregano is an actual thing. I was skeptical at first thinking, “Why can’t I just use regular oregano?” If you have access to mountain oregano, buy it. The taste is not like regular oregano at all. It is dried on the stem so when you rub the leaves be sure to take out the bits of stem that may have rubbed off. Oregano grows best in higher altitudes (specifically the mountains in Greece but shhhhh. . . .don’t tell the Italians) and changes the taste. It seems like a lot of work but it is worth it.
The recipe says to allow the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes. The longer the sauce simmers the tastier it will be. Ideally, sauces made in a crockpot have the best flavour but, again, it is all about how much time and energy you have to put into the meal. Once the sauce has cooked, set it aside and stir in some cream. I find pure tomato sauce too tangy for my liking. I like the smoothness cream gives to tomato.
Next, start on the meat. Simply cook the ground beef, strain the excess fat and season with salt and pepper. Toss the meat into the sauce, adjust salt and pepper and you have your lasagna meat sauce!
You now have everything ready to go and can start assembling the lasagna. Because I don’t have many mouths to feed, I prefer to make 2 smaller lasagnas. This way, when I freeze them, I don’t have to defrost all of it and be stuck eating lasagna day in and day out. Yours will vary depending on your dish. Layer as follows:
a bit of sauce to coat the bottom (helps with sticking)
1 layer of oven-ready lasagna noodles (they expand when cooked and may require you breaking them so they fit into your dish)
a healthy layer of meat sauce
a layer of ricotta cheese
a second layer of oven-ready lasagna noodles
another healthy serving of meat sauce to finish it up
sprinkle with mozzarella (or cheeses of choice) and garnish with some dried parsley
1 C celery (chopped)
1 C carrot (chopped)
1 C onion (chopped)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cans (398 mL each) crushed tomato
1/3 C heavy cream
1 C white wine
500 g lean ground beef
1 container (500 g) ricotta cheese
250 g shredded mozzarella
8 oven-ready lasagna noodles
1 Tbsp dried mountain oregano
1 Tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper
1. Sauté onion, carrot, celery and garlic in olive oil until slightly caramelized.
2. Add white wine and reduce for a few minutes until alcohol burns off.
3. Stir in canned tomato and spices.
4. Allow sauce to simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Stir in cream before setting aside sauce.
6. Cook ground beef until it is cooked through.
7. Drain fat from meat if needed.
8. Stir meat into tomato sauce.
9. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
10. Place a bit of sauce on the bottom layer of a lasagna dish.
11. Layer 1 layer of lasagna noodles on top.
12. Place a layer of meat sauce on the noodle.
13. Carefully spread the ricotta on the meat sauce layer.
14. Add a second layer of lasagna noodles onto the ricotta.
15. Place the remaining meat sauce on top of the lasagna noodle layer.
16. Sprinkle the top of the lasagna with mozzarella.
17. Loosely cover the lasagna with aluminium foil so the cheese doesn’t stick when baking.
18. Bake at 350º for 30-40 minutes.
19. Remove foil and bake 15 more minutes so brown the cheese.
20. It can be eaten right away or frozen once cooled for another day.
21. Serves 10 servings although people may want more than 1 piece!
Protein 26.9 g