Friday, 20 June 2014

Queen B's Lasagna

This is truly one of the ultimate recipes in my collection. I haven't posted it here because I have known this recipe inside out for well over 10 years. This recipe has pretty much never failed me. Plus there are some options when it comes to preparation with this recipe so you can make it work to suit the needs of your day.

To make recipe in slowcooker:

Follow the instructions for preparing the sauce. Then instead of assembling the lasagna in a deep baking dish you will assemble it in the slowcooker following the order until you have enough layers. Leave the final cheese layer off.  This much can be done the night before, and chilled overnight.

To prepare place insert into slowcooker, turn onto low for up to 6-7 hours, or high or about 3-4 hours.

To finish turn oven onto a high heat and sprinkle final cheese layer over top of the lasagna. Bake uncovered in oven until cheese is melted and golden brown. Let stand 10 minutes on a heat safe surface. Carefully cut and serve.

Freezing:

This recipe can be prepared using disposable tin roasting pans and frozen for up to 3 months. With or without the final cheese layer on top. Just don't forget to add it if you leave it off when freezing!

To prepare, take the frozen lasagna out of the freezer the night before and move to fridge overnight.

Increase cooking time to 2 hours, checking after 1 hour, and every 20 minutes there after. It is heated through when sauce is bubbling around edges and cheese has a toasted look.

You can double check the internal temperature by inserting a butter knife into the center, counting to five and then either touching it with your finger or popping it in your mouth. If it feels warm/hot enough to eat, then it is. A very scientific method I assure you.

Make Ahead:

Follow the instructions for freezing or the whole meal can be prepared up to two days in advance, if carefully wrapped in fridge.

This recipe makes 1-2 family sized lasagnas, or like 4-5 mini sized ones for two-three people, I use a bread pan sometimes to make those.

Queen B's Lasagna 

Ingredients:

1 Can diced tomatoes
1 Can plain tomato sauce
1 Small can of tomato paste
1 Large white onion, finely diced
3-4 Cloves garlic finely minced
1 Green pepper
1 Red pepper
 2 Teaspoons black pepper or more
2 Teaspoons salt or more
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons basil
1-2 Tablespoons oregano
1 Teaspoon thyme
1 Teaspoon garlic powder
1 Teaspoon onion powder
2 Tablespoons parsley
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
1/2- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Mustard
1 Pound ground beef

2 Cups Cottage or Ricotta Cheese
1/2 Cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
1/2 Cup Mozzarella
1/2 Cup Mixed other Cheeses (Swiss, white cheddar, Asiago, Provolone etc)
1 Box Lasagna Noodles

Plus if you want. . .

4-6 white/button mushrooms diced
1-2 cups fresh spinach
OR 1/2 package frozen chopped spinach
1/4 pound ground pork or sausage
2 Whole dried bay leaves*

* If using bay leaves to season the sauce while it cooks don't forget to remove them before assembling the lasagna. Bay leaves do not break down and soften while cooking, which means they stay sharp and can pose a choking hazard if left in completed dishes.

Special Tools:

Hand immersion blender, not completely needed, but can be used to make a really smooth sauce.

Instructions:

Get a large stock pot on the stove over medium heat, add the olive oil.

While the olive oil heats, dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add onions and garlic to pot, season with salt and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Transfer sauteed onions and garlic to a small bowl, set aside.

Add ground beef (and if desired, ground pork or sausage). Season with salt and pepper. Scramble cook until cooked through, trying to ensure beef cooks down into even sized pieces. Once cooked through, drain away excess fat, and transfer to a bowl.

Finely dice or pulse in a food processor the green and red bell pepper. 

Return onions and garlic to the pot. Add the bell peppers. Cover and cook 5 minutes.

Drain liquid from can of diced tomatoes, add diced tomatoes to the pot. Add the can of plain tomato sauce and tomato paste to the pot as well. Stir well to evenly blend. 

If desired, use the immersion blender now to puree the sauce until smooth. A large food processor bowl can also be used if it is heat safe.

Stir in the basil, oregano, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, Parmesan cheese, brown sugar, and mustard. If you are planning on using any of the optional ingredients, add them now as well. Reduce heat to low. Cover and allow sauce to simmer at least 15 minutes. Taste after 10 and adjust anything as needed.

While sauce is simmering, cook lasagna noodles according to package instructions. When cooked, drain, rinse under cold water, and toss with a little olive oil. Set aside to cool a bit.

To assemble:

I usually use a 9X13 Deep dish brownie style pan for this, but a tin foil roaster of a comparable size or a large slow cooker insert are all workable.

Lightly oil baking dish with cooking spray. Especially the edges.

Shred all the cheeses and get the cottage or ricotta cheese ready to go.

Begin by adding enough sauce to the pan to coat the entire bottom in a thin layer. 

1)Place noodle on top of sauce, across or lengthwise doesn't really matter, and use kitchen shears to cut the noodles to size if needed. Layer the noodles so they just barely overlap to create an even layer of noodle over the sauce.

2) Carefully spoon more sauce over the noodle layer to coat. 

3) Sprinkle about 1/2 tablespoon of Parmesan over top of the sauce. 

4) Arrange some cottage/ ricotta cheese sparsely over top. The cottage and ricotta layer shouldn't be a solid white layer, the sauce should still be very apparent and showing through.

Repeat steps 1-4 until you are out of noodles or the pan is about full. 

To finish the lasagna, spread a thick layer of sauce all over the top of either a final noodle layer, or cheese layer. (You can wrap it up and freeze it now).

To cook, sprinkle the shredded cheeses over top of the lasagna evenly, garnish with some parsley if desired and bake in an oven between 375 and 400°F for about 1 hour, or until sauce is bubbly around edges and cheese is golden.

If cheese begins to get too dark before lasagna is cooked through, cover with tin foil.

To serve, let cooked lasagna stand at room temperature at least 10 minutes.

Use a sharp knife separate the lasagna from the edges of the pan all the way around. Carefully and making sure to cut down through all the noodle layer cut out desired portions. Use a wide spatula to life the lasagna out of pan and onto plates. Be firm and confident or else the lasagna is like to try and make an escape attempt before it goes to the plate. 

Enjoy!

Other Places:

Something Mexican instead?

Guacamole

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