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dinner italian pasta

Mom’s Lasagna

Comforting lasagna made with pantry staples – simple, flavorful and cost effective.

I thought, today, that I would share something healthier. It’s the time of year when people want to eat a little lighter, focus on their health after the holidays. And guys, I swear I’m going to get there but then the weather turned outside and you know what sounds good? Lasagna. And I’m going to go ahead and bet it sounds good to a lot of people right now, attempting to fend off the winter chill and find something comforting and nostalgic and cheesy and…. I’m getting off track here.

This lasagna recipe is not fancy or complicated. This is old school, dry spices, canned ingredients. Straight forward lasagna like your mom (and definitely my mom) used to make. Technically this isn’t my mom’s lasagna. It’s the sauce that is all Mom – it’s her spaghetti sauce. Here’s the thing. She doesn’t measure. (Neither do I!) So this is… an approximation. You might need to adjust the spices a little to get it where you want it. And I’ll give you the way we “measure” along the way. But – I can promise you that it is good. It actually surprises me every time I make it, which is not infrequently, that this sauce is as good as it is. (It’s dry ingredients and canned tomato products!! How??) Sometimes, simple is best.

  • 2 Lbs ground beef (You’ll drain it, so 80/20 is fine.  No need to pay for the lean stuff.)
  • 2 – 14 oz cans tomato sauce (Contandina preferred)
  • 2- 6 oz cans tomato paste (Contandina preferred)
  • 2 – 4 oz cans sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 4 Tbs Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 16 oz whole milk ricotta
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, or more, divided
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1.5 boxes of oven ready lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 350° and lightly grease a 9”x13” baking dish.

In a large pot on medium heat, brown the ground beef until no longer pink and it has a little color on it.  Drain in a fine strainer.  Return to the pot.  Add tomato paste and stir to coat, letting it cook and the color darken slightly, about 2 minutes.  Add the tomato sauce, drained mushrooms, and bay leaves.  Stir to combine.  Add 4 palm fulls (Tbs?) of Italian seasoning, shake the onion powder over the sauce to lightly coat the top, stir it in.  Repeat.  Stir it in.  That seems like maybe it was a teaspoon total, right? Maybe?  Do that same thing, also twice, with the garlic powder. (I told you, we don’t really measure.)  Stir in the half cup of water and simmer on medium or medium low (watch for bubbling! It’ll make a mess!) while you make the ricotta mixture.

Crack the egg into the bottom of a large bowl and whisk lightly.  Add the ricotta, parsley and about 1/3 cup (two palmfuls?) parmesan, season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir to combine. 

Build your lasagna:  Add a ladle or two of sauce (remove the bay leaves as you find them) to the bottom of the greased baking dish.  Put down a layer of lasagna noodles, then spread with some of the ricotta mixture.  I usually try to get 4 layers of pasta, so you’ll need to keep your portions in mind as you go.  Use about 1/2 of the ricotta mixture per layer.  If you can, alternate the direction of the pasta with each layer.  You might have to break the noodles to fit, but it holds together better when you cut it if the layers are alternating. So: Sauce, pasta one direction, ricotta, pasta the other direction, sauce, pasta, ricotta, pasta, all remaining sauce.  Top the sauce with the mozzarella and then the remaining parmesan – or more, if you’d like. 

Cover the dish with foil (spray it with nonstick spray first! Helps the cheese not to stick), then bake on the middle rack for 25 minutes.  Remove the foil, then continue baking until your desired level of brown on top.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing so the cheese tightens up a bit, it will hold its shape better.

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