Can you believe that we are only 19 days away from Christmas? Since we are all busy preparing for the holidays, I will be writing shorter posts for the next two weeks and sharing some recipes that are great for entertaining during this busy time of year.
Lasagna is one of my favorite dishes to prepare during the holidays. A beautiful pan of piping hot and cheesy lasagna is perfect when entertaining a large group of people. Make it ahead, bake it and add a salad, a loaf of Italian bread and dessert and you have an incredibly satisfying meal. Don’t forget to add a nice bottle of red wine!
This recipe is my favorite after trying countless recipes over the years. You will need an extra deep dish lasagna pan for this version (9 X 13 x 3). I use this one by Mario Batali. It is made of porcelain enamel over cast iron, so it is a heavy little buggar (especially when loaded up with the lasagna!). However, it cooks very evenly, which is important with a deep dish lasagna.
There are many flavors layered in this lasagna and that is what I like so much about it. Be sure to use crushed tomatoes in puree that are more like a thick tomato sauce and not the ones that are just finely chopped. Progresso is one brand that I suggest. You want a rich and thick tomato sauce that adds a wonderful flavor to the dish.
There is very little meat in this recipe, so it is easily adaptable to be a vegetarian lasagna, if that is what you prefer.
Yield: Serves 8 - 12
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
I prefer to cook this lasagna on convection bake since it is prepared in a very tall pan. It cooks more evenly.
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups finely chopped peeled carrots
4 tablespoons minced garlic
8 ounces lean ground beef (I use local, grass fed beef)
8 ounces mild/sweet Italian sausages, casings removed ( I use local pork sausage)
2 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree (Progresso is one brand I use)
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
15 lasagna noodles (about 12 ounces)
2 15-ounce containers part-skim ricotta cheese (I use Calabro)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces)
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, squeezed dry
2 large eggs
4 3/4 cups grated part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1. Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and garlic; sauté until softened, about 12 minutes. Add beef and sausages to pan; sauté until cooked through, breaking up meat with back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer until flavors blend and sauce measures about 10 cups, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Cool.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees or 325 for convection bake (I prefer convection bake for this lasagna). Cook noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 7 minutes. Drain; cover with cold water.
2. Combine ricotta and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese in medium bowl. Mix in spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in eggs.
3. Drain pasta and pat dry. Spread 1 cup sauce over bottom of 13x9-inch glass baking dish. Place 5 noodles over sauce, overlapping to fit. Spread half of ricotta-spinach mixture evenly over noodles. Sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella cheese evenly over ricotta-spinach mixture. Spoon 3 cups sauce over cheese, spreading with spatula to cover (sauce will be thick). Repeat layering with 5 noodles, remaining ricotta-spinach mixture, 2 cups mozzarella and 3 cups sauce. Arrange remaining 5 noodles over sauce. Spread remaining sauce over noodles. Sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese evenly over lasagna. (Can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.) Cover baking dish with aluminum foil. Bake lasagna 40 minutes (or 36 minutes for convection bake); uncover and bake until hot and bubbly, about 40 minutes (or about 36 minutes for convection bake). Let lasagna stand 15 minutes before serving.
Inspired by a recipe from Bon Appetit