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Saturday, September 3

Lasagna, Anyone?

Well, the memories are fading, and I think it's high time I did something with this blog.  Thank you all for your patience.  And I promise you...THIS post will be worth every second of the waiting!!

There is nothing on earth quite like an authentic homemade Italian Lasagna.  NOTHING!!  Sure, you can go to the store, buy a frozen one...there's plenty to choose from out there...but to spend the time (and yeah, it's time consuming) making one from scratch allows you to show not only your cooking skills, but also just how much your family means to you!!  And...no offense to Stouffers, Marie Callenders, or any of the other brands out there...it just tastes infinitely BETTER!!  It's fresher, you can customize the ingredients to what you like, and the end result will get scarfed down faster than you can imagine!!


First off, let's talk pans.  You'll need a pretty good sized one (about 10" wide, 14" long, and at LEAST 3-4"deep).  Luckily, you can cheat...purchase a disposable rectangular aluminum foil pan for roasting a ham or turkey.  It works perfectly, and you don't have to worry about cleanup or high cost!  Smart, eh?  Not only does that save some money, but you can now put that extra cash towards some of the ingredients, because you really are better off buying the higher grade stuff when it comes to this.  After all, if you are putting out all this effort, shouldn't it taste like it?  

Here's the ingredient list that I use...expect the bill to reach about $50 once it's all said and done (thanks, economy).  The recipe makes a lasagna large enough to feed 10, which means leftovers (and it only gets better as it sits, so it's yummier the next day).

Authentic Italian Lasagna

1 pound ground sirloin
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 large Vidalia onion, cut into 6 pieces, then sliced thinly
1 large green bell pepper, cut into 6 pieces, then sliced thinly
1 small can chopped black olives (4-5 ounces), drained well
1 8 ounce package of fresh mushrooms, cut in half, then sliced thinly
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained well
2 24 ounce jars (or one 48 ounce jar) Prego Traditional spaghetti sauce
2 16 ounce (or one 32 ounce) containers of ricotta cheese
2 large eggs, beaten slightly
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or sea salt
1 pound box of dry lasagna noodles
3 teaspoons olive oil, divided

Ok...ready to cook?  It's going to take a little while, so make sure you start at LEAST 4 hours before dinner...6, if you need breaks all along.

In a large stockpot (at least 8, preferably 12 quart capacity), cook the noodles according to package direction, eliminating any salt that's called for.  Use plenty of water, and add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil to the water to prevent the noodles from sticking to each other.  Cook until JUST tender...do not overcook, or they will collapse when you handle them.

Meanwhile, in a 5-6 quart dutch oven, add the remaining olive oil, crumble the ground sirloin and Italian sausage (remove the casings), and put over medium heat.  Add the sliced onion, bell pepper, and olives, and cook until the meat is thoroughly browned.  Add the mushrooms, cooking only for a couple more minutes, then drain the entire mixture in a colander, removing all grease.  Return to dutch oven, add the tomatoes, oregano, and spaghetti sauce, and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.  Simmer the sauce mixture for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour (this allows all the flavors to blend well). 

In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, 2 cups mozzarella, 2 eggs, Italian seasoning, and salt, until it's blended well, and at a uniform consistency that can be spread easily. 

Now...for assembly...at this point, you'll want to start your oven preheating to 350 degrees.

Spray the bottom of the pan with a non-stick spray, such as PAM.  Spread a small layer of sauce across the bottom, then top with a layer of cheese mixture (enough to coat the bottom, not more than 1" deep).  Lay noodles lengthwise over this, making them fit the whole pan (if you have a small gap at each end of the pan, it's ok).  Spread another layer of the cheese, then a layer of the sauce, then noodles, continuing until your sauce and cheese is gone.  Top with a final layer of noodles, making sure this time that the whole pan is covered.

Bake for about 30 minutes uncovered, then cover with foil and bake for another 40 minutes (this keeps the top noodles from over cooking).  Remove from oven and take off the foil.  Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella over the top, spreading evenly.  Recover; bake for about 15 minutes, then remove the cover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes to brown up the top cheese.

Remove from oven.  Allow the whole thing to stand for about 15 minutes...this lets it set completely, so that slicing/serving is very simple.  If you are having garlic bread, you can bake it during this wait, as well as make a nice salad to go with it.

There you have it folks...a recipe that will make your family drool with anticipation.  Yes, this one takes work...yes, this one takes time...but your reward will not only be the smiles and thanks you'll get, but also the satisfaction of knowing that you made something that seems harder than it really is.  Oh yeah...lest we forget...YOUR TUMMY WILL BE SCREAMING IT'S THANKS, TOO!!  Enjoy!!

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