Sunday, September 7, 2008

My Favorite Lasagna

I remember the first time I made lasagna. I think I was 17, and I got the idea that homemade lasagna would be amazing for dinner that night. So I went out to Kroger (which was quite a journey from our backwoods house), spent $35 on ingredients (which I felt was an extravagant amount), and went home to prepare the recipe on the back of the box of lasagna noodles. It was the first time I ever cooked anything for my family. I'm not sure if they liked it or even if everyone ate it, but I was so proud of myself for creating a homemade lasagna, it didn't matter.

Ever since, I've tried variations of lasagnas and have come to the point where I no longer follow recipes but instead do my own thing with whatever I have in the fridge. My most recent attempt is my favorite tasting dish so far:

about 8 lasagna noodles (I used 4 whole wheat and 4 regular, because that's what we had)
1/2 jar spaghetti sauce
1 28 oz can whole tomatoes, pureed in blender
1 tablespoon italian seasoning
1/2 lb ground beef, browned
1 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 15 oz container low-fat ricotta cheese
some mozzarella cheese
about 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg

Preheat the oven to 375. First, prepare the sauce: combine the spaghetti sauce with pureed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning in a saucepan, slowly simmer while you get the other ingredients ready. Cook the lasagna noodles in boiling, salted water only until flexible, about 6 minutes. Remove from water and lay out on an oiled cookie sheet to cool. In the meantime, prepare the ricotta filling: combine ricotta, parmesan, egg, salt and pepper in a bowl, set aside. Assemble the lasagna in an 8X8 ceramic pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray as follows: 1/4 cup sauce, noodles (cut to fit and cover the bottom), 1/3 of the ricotta mix, 1/2 of the spinach, 1/2 of the beef, mozzarella cheese, 3/4 cup sauce, noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta, remaining spinach, remaining beef, some more mozzarella, 3/4 cup of the sauce, remaining ricotta, noodles, and all the sauce that will fit on top without spilling over. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet (so that when it bubbles over it won't get the oven nasty), and bake for 55 minutes. After baking, remove the foil, throw some more mozzarella cheese on top of it (or cheddar if you run out of mozzarella, as I did), and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 15 minutes, and enjoy.

I don't know what it was about the combination, but it worked! I had extra sauce left over for a garnish or further drenching if desired.

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