Feb 16, 2011

Recipe of the Week: Easy Lasagna

Once upon a time, I faithfully followed the directions on the lasanga noodle package, cooking the noodles and then fishing the slippery things out of scalding hot water, rinsing them to keep them from sticking together in one pasty blob.  

And then I discovered a secret:  you don't need to do that.  And you don't have to buy the "ready-to-use" noodles, either.  Really.  

This recipe is flexible - you can make it up ahead of time and freeze or refrigerate it until time to bake.  (Thaw overnight in the refrigerator if frozen - it will cook much more evenly.)  It can also be thrown together and baked in about 45 minutes.

Easy Lasagna

1/2 box lasagna noodles
1 pound ground beef
1 can tomato paste
1 can pureed or finely diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water
1 package spaghetti sauce seasoning
1 16-ounce carton cottage or ricotta cheese
1 egg
3-4 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Brown ground beef; drain.  Add tomato paste, tomatoes, water and seasoning mix and mix thoroughly.  (You can also substitute 1 large jar marinara or regular spaghetti sauce if you prefer; reduce water to 1/2 to 3/4 cup .)  Over medium heat bring to boil, let simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat.  The sauce should be fairly runny - if it's thickened too much add a little more water.  (The excess water will be absorbed by the noodles while baking.)

Mix together cottage or ricotta cheese and egg.

In 9x15 glass pan, place a few spoonfuls of sauce, just enough to coat the bottom.  Place one layer of noodles, 1/3 of the sauce.  Dot with half the egg/cheese mixture, sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.  Repeat with noodles, 1/3 of the sauce, the remainder of the egg/cheese mixture and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. 

For the final layer, place noodles, remaining sauce and mozzarella cheese, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes. Remove foil, test for doneness by inserting a knife near the middle of the dish; it should slide in easily.  Remove foil for the last five minutes of baking to get the cheese lightly browned on top.  Serves 6-8.

This technique creates a firm lasagna that cuts and serves beautifully.  And no more blistered fingers trying to corral the slippery noodles!

Happy cooking!