Finding Harmony Recipe of the Week: Make Some and Take Some Lasagna
Do you remember the first time you ever ate lasagna? Likely not if you are under the age of 50. It is as common as spaghetti, macaroni and cheese. Pretty much.
I never tasted lasagna until I was 19, working for one year in the Mennonite Voluntary Service program near Hazard, Kentucky. We had a chief cook—the “unit hostess.” Judi Brenneman was only a couple years older than me but already she was a splended cook. She expanded my taste repertoire considerably from what I experienced growing up with an ordinary Mennonite mother cook who usually served meat, potatoes (or other starch), a vegetable, and sometimes salad. Not much in the way of casseroles or foods from other countries.
But when I suddenly found myself at a table with six adults with food prepared by someone who wasn’t my mother … well, I ate it.
And of course it was delicious and I learned to eat and like so many foods that year that I put on 15 pounds—the freshman 15, even though I wasn’t yet in college. I wrote about all this in my first book, On Troublesome Creek, a memoir of sorts.
Now lasagna is one of my go-to staples. I frequently offer a dish of lasagna when taking food to a family where someone’s had surgery or a new baby or just moved in. When my children were still home and I had to travel on business, I usually made sure the freezer was stocked with a pan of lasagna that they could just unthaw and bake. But that was the trick: the unthawing. You don’t unthaw a frozen pan of lasagna in a couple of hours: it usually takes all day. I also sometimes take a dish of it when I visit my kids—they never complain and now make it themselves.
Here is the recipe, straight from my book (metric equivalents included) Whatever Happened to Dinner. When I asked my children what favorites to put in this recipe book, the first email I got back said, “You have to put in your ricotta-less lasagna recipe.”
This recipe makes enough for one 9×13-inch pan and a second bread pan. (Original recipe from Judi’s Better Homes and Gardens cookbook; adapted.)
1 pound / 500 g ground beef
1–5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon basil
1½ teaspoons salt
1 1-pound / 500 g can tomatoes, crushed or chopped
2 6-ounce / 120 g cans tomato paste
1 16-ounce / 500 g box lasagna noodles
3 cups / 750 ml cottage cheese
½ cup / 125 ml parmesan cheese, grated
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 pound / 500 g or more mozzarella, shredded
Brown meat slowly and spoon off excess fat. Add next 5 ingredients. Simmer uncovered 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, cook noodles in a large amount of boiling salted water until tender; drain and rinse. While sauce and noodles are cooking, beat the eggs, then mix the remaining ingredients together with the eggs, except for the mozzarella.
Lay two layers of noodles in a greased 9×13-inch pan. Spread with half the cottage cheese mixture.
Add half the mozzarella and half the meat sauce.
Repeat, saving a little mozzarella to top the lasagna. (Note: if you are making the extra bread pan on the side, save or set aside enough ingredients to put the “extra” lasagna together, roughly a quarter of each item.)
Note: If you use a 9 x 13 inch pan, you get one dish of lasagna, and likely have about 5-6 noodles left over. I hate wasting them. So usually instead, I use extra mozzarella and make plenty of meat sauce and just spread the cottage cheese mixture out further to make at least two, maybe 3 pans of lasagna.
Bake immediately at 375°F / 190° C for 30 minutes. Or refrigerate or freeze before baking, in which case you’ll need at least 45 minutes to bake. Cover with foil for half the baking time to save the noodles from getting dried out. (If you freeze the lasagna, it will take about a day to thaw in the refrigerator.) Let baked lasagna stand 10 minutes before cutting.
What’s your favorite dish to share with others? Or something your kids request?