I love lasagna, and more importantly Monkey #1 loves lasagna. He discovered this last summer, while we were living with the Mad Scientist's parents. Prior to that I'm not sure he'd ever had it, because I was convinced it was a total pain in the patootie to make. Then my mother-in-law shared a beautiful secret with me. And, because I love you all so much (at least the "you all" that I imagine I am writing these posts to), I am going to share it. Because lasagna is now in the category of "Super Easy Fast Meals" in my book. And that's worth celebrating.
What I hated about making lasagna was the part where you try to spread the cheese on the noodles, and end up wrestling increasingly smaller bits of noodle around the pan with a sauce-coated spoon. I can't be the only person who's had this problem, because they now sell No-Boil noodles, which are advertised as not needing boiling before assembling the lasagna. These, however, only come in white. I don't buy white pasta. We do whole grain everything around here, so it didn't look like those were an option.
So I was completely delighted to learn (from my dear Mother-In-Law, of kitchen-painting fame) a super fast, super easy way to make really delicious, inexpensive lasagna. It involves a deep, dark secret, that I am going to share without further delay. Ready? To whit - that is true of ALL lasagna noodles! Yes, it's true! And this truth will change your lasagna-making life.
First, you will need ground beef, lasagna noodles, three types of cheese (one soft, two shredded), a jar of spaghetti sauce, and a couple of eggs. I use a pound and a half of ground beef for our family of five. I prefer whole wheat noodles, but get whatever makes you happy. Just don't spend the extra money for the fancy-schmancy no-boil noodles, because they are totally unnecessary. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Brown and drain your ground beef:
Once that is done, add one jar of spaghetti sauce to the meat. Then put about this much water in the sauce jar (I tore off the label so you could see it. This is very non-specific; it just adds some moisture - for the noodles):
It should look about like this when you're done:
Next assemble the cheese portion of the lasagna:
In a medium mixing bowl blend 2 eggs with 16 oz. ricotta cheese (or fresh goat cheese, if you have it available. That's really good.) Stir in about 1.5 cups each of mozzarella and parmesan cheese (I substitute whatever cheese I have on hand for the mozzarella. I like the flavour of the parmesan, so I always use that one). Stir all the cheeses together.
Now, grab a 9x13 baking pan. Spread a bit of sauce on the bottom, to help keep things from sticking:
Now take your plain, ordinary, lasagna noodles of choice (these are mine):
Make a single layer over the sauce, and top with half the cheese mixture:
Admire how it spreads so easily, since the noodles are rigid!
Top with half the meat and sauce mixture:
Then repeat the layers - noodles, cheese, sauce, using up the rest of the cheese blend and sauce mixture. Top with the rest of the shredded cheese, which will total roughly one cup:
It will look like this from the side:
Now, here is the Very Important Part: Cover TIGHTLY with foil. This keeps the moisture in while it is cooking, which is what actually cooks the noodles.
Then put in the oven for 1 hour. At the end of the hour, stick a knife in to check that the noodles are soft. (If not, leave it in, covered, for a bit longer. I have never had to do this.) If the noodles are soft take off the foil and let it cook for another 15 minutes. That's it. There were a lot of pictures, but it really only takes 15 to 20 minutes to put together. The important thing is to do it early enough to allow it to cook for the full time, so the noodles can absorb the liquid. Oh, this is so good!
Ideas for customizing: try different cheeses, different sauces, and extra toppings. (I'm actually thinking about trying some spinach blended into the cheese mixture. I suspect the problem with my mother's spinach lasagna may have been the lack of meat, not the spinach. That, and the walnuts. Don't tell my brothers.)
This another fast, easy meal, which ALWAYS works for me! See tips for what to do with the time you save at We Are THAT Family, hosting Works For Me Wednesday.