Lasagna is amazing. It has tons of nutritional value and can be made to fit any taste. It's perfect for eating alone as well as serving the masses and works for any occasion. Lasagna is a one-dish wonder enjoyed around the world. Most people think it was first made in Italy, but lasagna has been around since ancient Greece. The term was first used to describe the cookware in which the meal was made, but has since been used to describe the actual meal. Regardless of its origins, lasagna is a simple dish to make that everyone can enjoy.
Excellent lasagna begins with a good sauce. Saute two cloves of finely chopped garlic with one tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan for five minutes. Add two large cans of tomato sauce, about 60 ounces. Add one tablespoon each of salt and sugar, and two teaspoons each of parsley, oregano, pepper, and basil. Cover with a lid and simmer on low heat, so the flavors have a chance to marry. Now prepare the meat while your sauce is simmering.
Almost any meat can go into lasagna, but ground beef and Italian sausage are usually used. Put one pound of whatever meat you choose into a skillet. Add one teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir often while cooking over medium heat until the meat is browned, about ten minutes. Drain the grease.
While your meat is browning, fill a large pot with water to cook the noodles. You may want to make your own, but you can also use pre-made noodles. You will want enough to layer a 13” x 9” baking dish three times, so approximately 15 - 20 noodles. Add a tablespoon of salt and cook over medium heat for 6 - 7 minutes. They should be mostly done but still a little firm. This is called al dente. Drain the water and lay the noodles out to dry so they aren’t touching each other, but don’t rinse them. This will keep the noodles from sticking to each other.
Whisk two eggs in a bowl until they are mixed completely. These will be for the lasagna filling. First, though, is a great cooking tip, you should always use when working with eggs. Break eggs in a separate container and then add them to your recipe. Why? Because if you break a shell or have a bad egg, you don’t ruin the entire batch of food.
Pour a large container of ricotta cheese, about 30 ounces, into a large mixing bowl. Add the two eggs you whisked, as well as one tablespoon each of parsley, oregano, basil, and garlic powder. You may also add 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese if you’d like. It will help keep the filling from being too runny if you plan on serving it that day. The filling will set without it, though, if you are making the lasagna for a later date. Stir until everything is mixed together.
Spray your 13” x 9” baking dish with non-stick spray or coat the bottom and sides with olive oil. Spread two large spoonfuls of that delicious sauce you just made until it covers the bottom of the pan. Both of these steps help with clean-up later. Adding sauce to the bottom also helps the first layer of noodles cook evenly without burning.
Put one layer of noodles over the sauce to completely cover the bottom of the baking dish. Spoon enough of your ricotta cheese mixture over the noodles to cover them, and spread it out evenly. Now spoon enough of your meat mixture over the ricotta cheese to cover it completely, and spread it out evenly. You will add another layer of sauce, noodles, ricotta cheese, and meat mixtures as before, two more times.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add a final layer of noodles to the baking dish and cover it with sauce. Sprinkle 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese to cover the top completely. Now sprinkle on a thin layer of Parmesan cheese for added flavor. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil, so it cooks all the way through without burning on top.
Bake the lasagna covered for 35 - 40 minutes. Take off the foil and set it aside but don’t throw it away. Bake your lasagna for another ten minutes to give the top coat of cheese a nice brown color. Presentation is important when serving food, and a little thing like browning the cheese adds to the meal’s overall appeal.
Remove your lasagna from the oven and cover it with the aluminum foil you saved. Let it sit for 10 - 15 minutes. This gives the liquids created from the cooking process time to absorb back into the food, so all the pieces will come out square and perfectly set. It is best if you can cook your lasagna at least a day before serving to ensure this process is complete. If you can’t, though, allowing it to sit for just a few minutes should serve the purpose. You are now ready to cut a piece of delicious lasagna, sit down, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
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