Lasagna

It’s not just Garfield who loves lasagna! I have explained to you before our high regard for Italian cooking. When the smell of garlic bread and baked pasta is in the house I want to pour a glass of vino, raise my voice a little and hug my babies. I can’t help myself, without any actuality I’m part Italian.

As organic as possible:

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Yellow onion, diced
3-4 Cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs Ground hamburger (I prefer lean)
2 jars Homemade or store bought pasta sauce (about 50 oz)
1 lb Lasagna noodles

8 oz Cottage cheese
16 oz Ricotta cheese
8 oz Fresh Mozzarella, shredded and divided
3/4 cup Grated Parmesan, divided
1/4-1/2 tsp Salt
1/8-1/4 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp Granulated garlic
1 tsp dried basil

Lasagna requires a few steps, but the difficulty is low. And once assembled it’s a make ahead dish that’s easy to throw in the oven, bake and serve.

Preheat the oven to 350º

I like to start with my sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat, add diced onion and let sauté about 2 minutes. Add garlic and let sauté another minute. Add beef, let cook until browned and drain. Pour in sauce and stir. Allow to simmer. Taste! Add seasonings accordingly.

In the meantime, start boiling pasta water and cook according to package directions (remember to salt your water and keep in mind the noodles are supposed to be “al dente,” still maintaining a little bite because they will continue to soften when in the oven). Drain and rinse the pasta under cool water to stop the cooking process and make the noodles easier to handle during assembly.

In a separate bowl, combine cottage cheese, ricotta, 2/3 of the shredded mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper, granulated garlic and basil. (Side note: I love cottage cheese in my lasagna; it has a tangy salty zing that I prefer over ricotta, and I have made my cheesy filling with it alone. However, ricotta gives that little bit of creaminess that cottage cheese in general is lacking, so I prefer the combination). Taste! Some cheeses are saltier than others, you want each part of your layering to taste equally delicious, so if this is flat add more salt and/or pepper now.

Ok. You’ve made it this far, so you might as well finish what you’ve started! In a large baking dish (or a 13X9 dish will do) place just enough sauce on the bottom, smearing it all over, so your noodles won’t stick. Line your noodles closely to each other so that you completely cover the pan (trimming noodles to fit like a puzzle if necessary). Using about a 1/3 of your cheese mixture spread the creamy goodness all over the noodles. Next use about a third of your pasta sauce to layer on top of the cheese. Repeat with the noodles and continue with cheese and sauce until you are out (you will most likely have left over noodles).

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. (I did not forget about the remaining cheese…) When the kitchen timer goes off (or after you have watched the clock relentlessly for 30 minutes), carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and turn the oven up to 425º. Take off the aluminum foil and on the top layer of sauce, evenly sprinkle the remaining 1/3 shredded mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan. Place back into the oven uncovered for about 15 minutes until cheese is browned and dish is perfect!

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before attempting to serve. Not only will you spare the skin on the roof of your mouth, but this gives your dish time to set and will allow for you to cut into it without it spreading.

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