Okay .. so … yeah.  The plan was for January to be all-healthy-all-the-time, start-the-new-year right and all that.  But you know what they say about plans … when I asked the mister what he wanted on the menu this week, he said without a moment’s hesitation, “lasagna.”  Since yesterday was the last day of the Christmas holidays, it seemed like a nice, cosy, cheesy way to end what has been a fantastic break.

Lasagna is one of those dishes that really doesn’t have a right or wrong recipe – it’s a lot like spaghetti or chilli in that every household has their own tradition, their own taste.  This is a recipe I’ve been tinkering with for years, sometimes adding steamed spinach or loads of fresh basil if the garden is running amok with it.  The thing I love about it is that it’s perfect to double-up and make one for now and one for the freezer – – or, if you know a new mom, drop one off for the family to bake when they need a no-hassle dinner.

Lasagna

  • olive oil
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced or microplaned
  • 1 lb ground meat (I use turkey but you can use beef or pork)
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 heaping tsp oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms, chopped
  • 8-10 oz ricotta
  • Lasagna sheets (try to get fresh – you don’t have to boil it)
  • 2 cups mozzarella
  • 1 cup Parmesan

Heat the oil and pinch of pepper flakes in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and cook until soft.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute before adding the meat.  Brown the meat with the onion mix and add thyme and oregano, cooking completely before adding the tomato paste.  Mix in the paste completely before adding the red wine, stirring to incorporate thoroughly.  Add the tomato sauce, bay leaf and mushrooms before you season to taste.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 30 minute to an hour.  Just before you’re ready to assemble, turn off the heat, add the ricotta and stir through completely.  If you have dry pasta sheets, cook them per the instructions now.

Okay, so your sauce is done.  You’ve got your pasta sheets at the ready and your cheeses on stand-by — it’s time to assemble.  First, preheat the oven to 400 F.  Put a couple of ladles of sauce in the bottom of a 9×11″ pan (not a lot – enough to create a base for the pasta sheets).  Then, lay a single layer of sheets across, followed by a layer of sauce and a sprinkling of both cheeses, then repeat the process – there is enough sauce here for three good layers.  Top it with the last of the cheeses then cover with tin foil.  Bake for 45 minutes – at the 15-minute mark, remove the foil.

If you’re making this recipe for the freezer or to give someone, then stop right after you assemble it.  Don’t cook from frozen – let it thaw for at least 2 hours before baking (otherwise, the sides are going to dry out before the whole thing is cooked).

mmmm ... layers of gooey, cheesy, meltiness ...

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