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Lasagna With Beef

An opera-singing friend from my college years was proud of what she called her Lazy Day Lasagna. The name alone tells much of what you need to know in making any kind of lasagna. It takes hours to do it right.

The first step is to make a tomato sauce with a good deal of garlic, basil, and pepper in it. While many cooks will tell you that is itself time-consuming, I prefer a light, fresh-tasting tomato gravy, which can go from start to finish in about a half-hour.

Step two is rounding up the pasta. The best possible is fresh pasta, which obviates the need to cook the pasta in advance. (Some people accomplish the same end by using uncooked, dried lasagna sheets. I’ve never felt good about that, either in the idea or the results.) If I use dried pasta, I cook it just just long enough to take the stiffness out.

Third matter is getting the cheese. Cheese is the most expensive and important part of a good lasagna. Don’t stint on either the quality or the quantity of cheese you use.

Lasagna with beef and sausage

Sauce:
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
2 28-oz. cans Italian plum tomatoes, whole
1/4 tsp. salt

Other ingredients:
1/2 lb. ground round
1/2 lb. Italian sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
8 oz. lasagna noodles–the thinner, the better
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 oz. fresh spinach, picked and well washed
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 oz. Fontina cheese
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
8 oz. ricotta cheese
4 oz. Provolone cheese (shredded)
3/4 cup finely grated Romano cheese
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream

  • Sauce:
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 28-oz. cans Italian plum tomatoes, whole
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Other ingredients:
  • 1/2 lb. ground round
  • 1/2 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. lasagna noodles–the thinner, the better
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 10 oz. fresh spinach, picked and well washed
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 oz. Fontina cheese
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Romano cheese
  • 1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 4 oz. Provolone cheese (shredded)
  • 4 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese

1. Make the sauce first. Drain the tomatoes (reserve the juice) and put them into a food processor; chop to a rough puree. (You can also do this with your fingers in a bowl.)

2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat till the oil shimmers. Saute the garlic and crushed red pepper for about a minute–until you can smell the garlic.

3. Add the tomatoes, 1/2 cup of the reserved juice, basil, oregano, and salt. Bring to a boil, and lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about half an hour to as long as an hour (longer cooking will thicken the sauce, to your taste), uncovered, stirring now and then.

4. Remove the Italian sausage from casing and blend with ground round and chopped onions in a skillet over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup water. Cook while breaking the meat up with a kitchen fork to avoid clumping. Drain to remove excess fat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

5. If using dried noodles, bring a large pot of water to the boil with 1 Tbs. salt and 1 Tbs. olive oil. Add the lasagna noodles and boil for about two minutes, or until the noodles are no longer stiff. Remove to a bowl of cold water for a moment, then remove and drain. (If using fresh pasta, omit this step.)

6. Cook the spinach in the same water you used to cook the pasta, just for a minute. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain, and spread out.

7. In a glass or ceramic baking dish (about 9″x13″x4″), pour about 1/4 cup of olive oil on the bottom and spread it up the sides. Make the following layers:

Pasta.
1/3 cup sauce.
Fontina cheese.
1/4 cup Romano cheese.
1/4 cup cream.
Pasta (turn noodles 90 degrees to the first layer, and continue alternating throughout the remainder of the setup).
Provolone.
1/3 cup sauce.
Meat mixture.
Pasta.
1/3 cup sauce.
Spinach.
Garlic.
Pasta.
Mozzarella.
1/3 cup sauce.
Ricotta.
Pasta.
1/3 cup sauce.

Pasta.
Remaining sauce.
Remaining Romano.

6. Cover the casserole with foil. Put the casserole in the center of the oven and bake for two hours. Insert a meat thermometer or fork into the center and check to see that the inside is very hot. If not, leave it in the oven another half hour.

7. Remove the foil and bake another 15 minutes or so, until the top gets slightly crusty.

8. After removing from the oven, let the lasagna rest for at least 15 minutes before attempting to slice. Use a sharp knife to slice, then remove pieces starting from the center with a metal spatula. Spoon two tablespoons of sauce over the lasagna on its serving plate.

Serves about eight.

1 Readers Commented

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  1. Lorraine Johnson on October 20, 2015

    Great recipe! Loved the spicy sauce and all the cheeses. The layering though became a challenge. Ingredients say 8 oz pasta but that is not nearly enough to make 6 layers as called for in the instructions. Also 1/2 pint of cream is listed but the directions only call for 1/4 cup, so I poured a little more on different layers. Then I improvised with the provolone because that is also not in the layering directions. It was delicious, just had to dig in the pantry to find more noodles to finish it up.

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