Lasagna

Who knew making a lasagna could be so simple? This is the last recipe (I think) in the series we could title “the only good thing to come from that relationship”.  Although I pointedly try NOT to remember anything else at all from that time I happily make this lasagna for any time a big group is coming over and I don’t have time to stress over getting a protein and two sides on the table.  One friend in particular raved over this and said it was the”best lasagna I’ve ever eaten!” I didn’t argue.  Also this meal works well for if you’re wanting to cook up something to freeze for later or to share.  Just let it cool overnight in the fridge and it will separate out pretty neatly into quarters.  No, this recipe isn’t on the Dukan Diet however with reduced fat cheeses, whole wheat noodles and low sodium pasta sauce, it isn’t the worst thing either and nobody will tell the difference.

Messy Ingredients:

  • 1lb lean hamburger
  • 3-5 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 small yellow or 1/2 large Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 2 jars (32oz each) spaghetti sauce (use your favorite or a low sodium variety) I like “Mids” plain or cheese.
  • 1 small (6oz) can tomato paste
  • Whole wheat lasagna noodles, dry
  • 24 oz fat-free small curd cottage cheese
  • 2lb reduced fat or part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or Splenda)
  • garlic salt, oregano, pepper to taste

Part one: the sauce.

In a large pot or wide pan with high sides, brown the hamburger with the garlic and onion. Drain off the fat.  Mix in the tomato paste, spaghetti sauce  and sugar. Simmer and season to taste with garlic salt, pepper and oregano.  Leave the sauce to simmer while you prepare the filling.

Part two: the filling

In a large bowl, lightly mix the cottage cheese, 1.5lb of the mozzarella and parmesan. Lightly beat the eggs and mix them in. Season to taste with garlic salt.

Party three: assembly

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

It’s all about the layering! Remember: Sauce, Noodles, Cheese. In that order.

Begin your assembly in an 11×15 casserole dish. Do NOT attempt to use anything smaller. It won’t work, it will be a mess, you won’t like it.  So, spread a little less than 1/3 of the sauce in a layer over the bottom of the dish evenly.  Then lay out the dry lasagna noodles side by side long-ways across the dish, on top of the sauce. With a spatula, spread about half the cheese mixture on top of the noodles and be careful not to press too hard and make the sauce ooze up between the noodles! Follow that with about 1/2 (or a little less, you want enough to cover at the end) the remaining sauce. This time, break the noodles and place them side by side so that they fit the pan short-way across. It’s OK if they don’t meet perfect or overlap a little. Spread the rest of the cheese mixture on top of the noodles evenly. Top with the remaining sauce, covering the cheese layer completely. Bake for 1.5 hours. In the last 10 minutes of baking, take the lasagna out and spread the last 1/2 pound of mozzarella on top, put it back in the oven to brown.

TIP: place a foil-lined cookie sheet on the rack below your lasagna to catch what bubbles over. Yes, even with such a large dish there will still be bubbling over and it will make a mess of your oven.  Honestly, if nothing bubbles over then fine you just sterilized your pan. Nothing wrong with that!   Allow to cool at least 15 minutes so it firms up some. It will be a little runny still fresh from the oven but good and firm after spending the night in the fridge.

Warning: once assembled, this pan is heavy. I mean, REALLY heavy so bend your knees, lift with your legs! This will serve 8-12 people easy.  What I usually do is have some for dinner, refrigerate it overnight, cut it in half and wrap the back half up to freeze.  The two of us still get 2 or 3 meals out of the front half.

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