10/21/09

A Basic Lasagna Recipe to Start You Off

I think lasagna is one of those things like... chili; everyone has their own 'version' they have tweaked to make it their own. You start out with a basic idea and then add, delete, embellish with things you know your family likes or doesn't like, or that you think might be good, want to use up something in the refrigerator or a friend shares their secret ingredient with you.

What you need however, is a basic idea to start with. So let's make a simple, basic lasagna that any busy Mom or wife (or husband!) can throw together if you have an hour 'bake' time before dinner. There are many variables from the kind of cheese you use, to the kind of meat and even the spices. Don't be scared you are using the wrong one - play with your food! Lasagna is pretty hard to screw up.

This is enough for a large 9X13" pan - which will feed a large family or if you have a smaller family serve half and freeze the other half for a future meal!

A Basic Lasagna

1 package dry, flat lasagna noodles (9-12 noodles depending on how thick you want to make it)
1 jar (30 oz. or so) spaghetti sauce of your choice
1 egg
30 oz. ricotta or cottage cheese - or a mixture of both (2 containers of ricotta is 30 oz.)
3 cups (about) of shredded mozzarella, some Parmesan and even a little cheddar if you wish
2 t dry Italian blend spice (or use a mixture of oregano and basil if you have them instead)
1 salt
Garlic: fresh or powdered - just about a teaspoon. I like to use some garlic salt too
Optional: Meat - a pound of ground beef or Italian Sausage (hot or mild)
Optional: Diced tomatoes from your garden or a can, an extra small can of tomato sauce, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, etc.


Brown the ground beef or the Italian sausage. If I have any tomatoes to use up I sometimes throw them in as well. Add the sauce to the meat and let that simmer while you mix the cheese layer. If you feel like adding a small can of tomato sauce, some onions, mushrooms, green peppers or shredded carrots, etc. be sure you simmer the sauce until the firm vegetables are softened or cook them in a bit of water first in the microwave to soften them.

In a bowl mix the ricotta and/or cottage cheese with the egg, a teaspoon or so of fresh garlic or garlic powder, the Italian spice mixture, and about 1 cup of the mozzarella.

In a large 9X13" pan place about 3/4 cup of the sauce. I like to line my pans with heavy duty aluminum foil but you don't have to. Spread the sauce around a bit and lay 3 dry noodles down to cover the bottom of the pan. Pour about 3/4 cup of sauce over, top with about a cup of the cheese mixture and sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese. Now add another layer of dry noodles, meat and cheese. And a third layer. If you have enough ingredients and noodles make a fourth layer. End and stop with a nice layer of sprinkled shredded cheese on the top - mozzarella with parmesan is a good mixture. I like to sprinkle the top with just a bit of Italian spice mixture or even parsley.

Using the spaghetti sauce jar, fill it with a bit of water (about 3/4 cup) and swish it around and then pour it around the edge of the noodles in the pan. Cover the entire pan with aluminum foil to seal. Place in a 350-375 degree oven and bake about 45-50 minutes. Uncover the foil and continue baking about 15 minutes until the cheese is melted and it's bubbling and golden brown. Let the lasagna set for 10 minutes before slicing so it has time to 'set up'. This is a good time to make some garlic bread to accompany it as well as a salad.


Browning the Italian Sausage - I added some small tomatoes from the garden too


A basic sauce you can embellish with whatever your family likes

End with a top layer of cheese
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