Lasagna

My kids love to help in the kitchen.  Laying noodles and spreading cheese and sauce layers are the perfect ways for them to help me make lasagna.  And, since they get to help so much, they always seem to eat more.  In fact, my daughter asked me to pack lasagna in her lunch 3 days in a row after we made it  for dinner.  I take a little help by using jarred sauce.  Also, I don’t pre-cook my noodles (and I don’t buy those “special” no-cook noodles either).

I start by browning hamburger and Italian sausage together.  Make sure you crumble it pretty fine as it is cooking so you don’t get big chunks of meat in your lasagna (unless you like big chunks, then, go for it).

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Drain off any extra fat and add sauce to meat in pan.  Use 3/4 cup of water to rinse out your jar and add it to the pan too.  This extra water will help your noodles soften up in the pan.  Then I mix up my ricotta cheese and mozzarella cheese with an egg and some seasoning.  The egg helps your cheese layer stay put instead of squishing everywhere when you try to eat it. And I use part-skim ricotta.  I’ve tried the regular.  The part-skim seems to give a creamier texture – less grainy than the regular.  Maybe it’s just me.

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Next, spread a very thin layer of sauce on the bottom of your baking dish to keep the pasta from sticking.

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I build three sets of layers – noodles, cheese, sauce.  Then, top the whole thing with some more mozzarella cheese.

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Put the whole pan in a preheated oven and bake it for about thirty minutes – until the cheese is melted and golden and the edges are bubbling.

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Let this stand for at least 10 minutes before you try to serve it.  If you don’t, you’re going to burn yourself and your layers are going to fall apart.  If you wait, you’ll be able to serve beautiful slices of deliciousness.

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Recipe:

1 pound hamburger

1/2 pound Italian sausage

24 ounce jar of prepared pasta sauce

3/4 cup water

15 ounce container part skim ricotta cheese

3 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (divided)

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

12-15 dry lasagna noodles (depending on your baking dish)

Preheat oven to 350*.

Brown hamburger and Italian sausage in skillet together.  Drain.  Return to pan and add pasta sauce.  Pour 3/4 cup water into empty jar.  Swirl jar to rinse down all the extra sauce and add water to pan.  Leave sauce simmering on stove.

Add ricotta, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, egg, pepper, Italian seasoning and basil to a bowl.  Stir to mix thoroughly.

Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of your baking dish. Cover with 4-5 dry noodles, depending on the size of your baking dish.  Top dry noodles with 1/3 of cheese mixture. Spread to distribute evenly.  Top with 1/3 of your sauce and spread to distribute evenly.  Repeat the layering process 2 more times.  Top with remaining 2 cups mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350* for 30 minutes.  Cheese will be melted and golden and sauce will be bubbling at the edges.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

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