I usually ask my boys for dinner ideas for the upcoming week before I go food shopping; I can almost guarantee one of them is going to suggest an Italian meal. This week it was lasagna.
After I was married, and teaching myself how to cook, I was so intimidated by lasagna! I don’t know why but I thought it was going to be so hard to make. It’s really not hard at all, it just has a few different parts that have to come together.
My first step is to make a big batch of meat sauce in the morning and then let it simmer for 4-6 hours on low. This is going to make much more sauce then you will need for the lasagna. There will be plenty leftover to use for another meal.
I start out by softening 1 diced onion and 1 diced red pepper in a tablespoon of olive oil; when the onion is translucent and pepper soft I add 3 to 4 cloves of pressed garlic and cook for one more minute.
I added the onion mixture to my slow cooker and then added a big can of crushed tomatoes. I personally love the Pastene ground peeled tomatoes; they are a local New England company and all of their products are wonderful.
Now it’s time to add my spices. I start out with a 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning, 1 tablespoon of basil, 1/4 cup sugar, and a teaspoon of salt and pepper. I test out the sauce after a couple of hours of simmering to see if I need to adjust the seasoning. The sugar added to the sauce helps to cut down the acidity of the tomatoes.
Since I’m making a lasagna, I need to make this a meat sauce. I cooked 2.5 pounds of ground beef; drained the fat and added it to the sauce in the slow cooker. Simmer on low for 4-6 hours before putting the lasagna together.
To make the cheese filling I use a 32oz. container of Galbani ricotta cheese, 1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (save the remaining 1/2 c for later), 1 egg, and a dash of grated nutmeg.
I combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir until they are combined.
I’m using pre-cooked noodles for my lasagna today to save some time. I just found this brand from Italy at my local grocery store and they were the best pre-cooked noodles I’ve used; plus they have curly edges.
Now it’s time to layer the lasagna. I’m using a 13×9 inch casserole dish. I added a cup of the meat sauce to cover the bottom of the dish.
Next, I put a layer of the lasagna noodles. Then I ladled a generous layer of meat sauce over the noodles, next spread a layer of the ricotta mix over the meat sauce.
Repeat the noodles, meat sauce, and ricotta twice.
Finish the lasagna with a layer of noodles and cover them with more meat sauce. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.
Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 1 hour.
Let cool for 15 minutes, then call down your family and enjoy!!
- Large Can Crushed Tomatoes (6lbs. 10 oz)
- 1 Large Onion, diced
- 1 Red Pepper, diced
- 3-4 Garlic Cloves, pressed or minced
- 2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Basil
- 1/4 Cup Sugar
- 1 Teaspoon Salt (more if needed)
- 1 Teaspoon Pepper (more if needed)
- 2 1/2 lb. Ground Beef, cooked and drained
- 32 Oz. Ricotta Cheese
- 1 Cup Grated Parmesan
- 1 1/2 Cup Shredded Mozzarella (out of 2 cup bag; sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup on top of lasagna before baking).
- 1 Egg
- Dash of Nutmeg
- 1 Box Lasagna Noodles
- Saute diced onion and pepper in olive oil; when soft add the garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add to slow cooker along with the crushed tomatoes and seasonings; stir well.
- Cook the ground beef until no longer pink; drain and add to the slow cooker and stir well. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.
- Make the cheese filling by mixing the ricotta, Parmesan, 1.5 cup mozzarella, egg, and dash of nutmeg in large bowl.
- Cover the bottom of a 13×9 pan with about a cup of the meat sauce.
- Layer with lasagna noodles
- Top with generous amount of meat sauce
- Spread layer of cheese filling
- Repeat noodles, meat sauce, and cheese filling.
- For final layer it will be noodles, meat sauce, and the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.
- Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 1 hour