"The best times you are going to have in life are at the dinner table and in bed." Old Italian saying. So relax, and enjoy the simple things!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Foodie Friday: Meat Lasagna: You're Born, You Die...You Get a Lasagna!

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meat lasagna
Meat Lasagna

My family’s tradition is when you're born or if you die you get a lasagna. Italians live within extremes it’s always: Vita o morte. Back and forth, friends and family are always getting married, having children, and passing away. The only thing that is definite in Italian life is dinner. Everyone has got to eat and that is were the lasagna comes in...It is always the perfect meal to have on hand. Pretty much everyone likes lasagna, adults and children. It feeds a lot of people, or you can just take out a piece at a time, and live on it for a week. It can go directly from the freezer to the oven and be a complete meal with a side salad and a glass of red wine within an hour.
What is the occasion for this lasagna? It is a good one. My son’s favorite teacher’s wife just had a baby. It is their first child and my son, along with many of the kids in this science teacher’s class, have been caught up with his expectation... Every time this teacher’s phone would chirp he would say, “Baby... no, baby..”  Until it finally happened a 7 pound, 22inch baby girl.   
The recipe that follows is a very traditional meat lasagna. What is great about this recipe is that the lasagna always comes out firm. Because I use tomato paste not sauce in the meat and I put eggs in the Ricotta filling, along with cooking it the whole time uncovered - there isn’t any excess water. 

The other trick I do when making lasagna is to only put Mozzarella on the top of it. Mozzarella is a very runny cheese, it only works as a topper. 

This is a simple recipe because the lasagna is made with “no boil”noodles. The important thing to remember when using this type of noodle is to go heavy on the tomato sauce. The noodles soak up the sauce, and if you don’t completely cover the noodles they will get dry. 
The other trick to good lasagna and I believe to good Italian food in general, is don’t put too much filling or topping, especially cheese. Get over the American notion that more is better. If you over fill a lasagna it will be runny. If you put too much cheese on a pizza it get’s soggy. 
More cheese is not better...it is just more calories, more fat... and it suffocates the flavor of aromatics. Too much cheese makes food heavy... please lighten up on the cheese. If you ordered a pizza or lasagna in Naples, Italy, most Americans would be shocked. Topping as sparse, sauce is sparse, but the crust is divine, and the ingredients that are on it... are fresh and of good quality.

First layer on top of sauced pan.

Scoop meat with a slated spoon.

Meat Layer

Put cheese layer on top of meat.

Put noodle layer on top of cheese.

Pour sauce on top of lasagna.

Top with cheese.

If freezing include cooking instructions.

Traditional Meat Lasagna
by Diane Balch
prep time: 1 hour serves: 8-12
If you are giving this away: 1 aluminum pan approx. 13 1/4’’ by 9 5/8’’ by 2 3/4’’ otherwise use a pyrex lasagna pan. This makes 1 and 1/2 lasagnas.  Sometimes I just mix the left over sauce, meat, and cheese with pasta and serve it, instead of making a small tray too. 
For meat mixture: 
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion minced
2 pounds of meatloaf mix ground meat (combination beef, pork, and veal)
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning mix or Emerill’s
1 small can of tomato paste
For cheese mixture:
2 large eggs beaten
1 32oz container of part-skim Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon of salt
For layering:
2  24oz jars of good quality marinara sauce (Rao’s is recommended)
1  9oz package of Barilla No Boil Lasagna Noodles
12 oz of shredded part-skim Mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese grated for the top of lasagna
Directions:
1) If you are cooking this after preparation, pre-heat oven with rack in the middle to 400 degrees. If you are freezing the lasagna do not cook it first.
2) Put olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. 
3) Sauté onion until wilted, slightly brown.
4) Add ground meat and season with salt, pepper, Worcestershire Sauce, oregano, and Italian seasoning mix. Cook until no longer pink.
5)  Add tomato paste. Mix until it is incorporated. Set meat aside.
6) Beat eggs in a large mixing bowl.
7) Add Ricotta, parsley, Parmesan, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper. Mix with eggs using a spatula. Set aside.
8) Spread about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of the lasagna pan.
9) Lay down about 4 lasagna noodles. Make sure you slightly overlap them.
10) Starting in the middle of the noodles scoop the meat mixture on top of the noodles using a slated spoon. Make sure all liquid drains from the meat before you put it on top of the noodles.  Slowly spread the meat out toward the sides of the noodles. Do not over fill. If you have about 2 inches high of meat covering the noodles all the way around without spilling over the edges stop.
11) Put a layer of about 4 noodles on top of the meat. Make sure you slightly overlap them.
12) Starting from the center, put the ricotta cheese mixture on top of the noodles. Slowly spread the cheese out toward the sides. Stop when you have about 2 inches high of cheese all the way around without spilling over the edges.
13) Put the top layer of about 4 noodles slightly overlapping on top of the cheese. 
14) Pour a jar of sauce over the top of the lasagna. Make sure all noodles are covered in sauce, especially the edges.
15) Spread the mozzarella cheese evenly over the top of the lasagna. Top it with about 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.
16) Put directly into the oven uncovered, and bake until the cheese starts to get brown in spots and the sauce bubbles, approximately 20 -30 minutes.
If you are freezing the lasagna. Cover the top first with a layer of Sarah Wrap then with a layer of aluminum foil. Post on the foil the cooking instructions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees with the rack in the middle position.

2) Remove both the Sarah Wrap and the foil before cooking.

3) Cook either frozen or thawed lasagna until the cheese starts to brown in spots and the sauce bubbles, approximately 30-40 minutes.

If you have any left over ingredients mix them up with some tomato sauce and put them over pasta. You can also mix the ingredients with pasta, cover with Mozzarella and bake it. 
This post is part of "Foodie Friday" and I would like to spotlight Lorilee Lippincott of Loving Simple Living for her Thai Curry Recipe last week. It was simple and delicious. My whole family loved it, especially my husband who is trying to loss weight. He has an app to calculate calories, and this dish with rice is only 370 calories per serving.This is an excellent dish to serve on Meatless Monday. Please check out her blog for other healthy, easy, vegan dishes along with her reflections on Simple Living.

LovingSimpleLiving.com

8 comments:

  1. so glad you liked the curry! The soup this week is good for weight loss too. It has coconut in it which is high in fat, but it is balanced protein/carb/fat meal that leaves you feeling full for hours.

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  2. Thank you for participating in Show Your Stuff Blog Hop, You are invited to come back:
    http://juliejewels1.blogspot.com/2012/02/show-your-stuff-11-animal-cracker.html

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  3. omg thank you so much for sharing this it looks absolutely incredible I am soo pinning this!!

    I am hopping by from Foodie Friday!

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    1. Enjoy it. It really always comes out firm if you don't overstuff it. The meatloaf mix makes it extra yummy!

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  4. Thank you for sharing on Must Try Monday. I will be sure to add less cheese...I always think the more the better!

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    1. You can go pretty heavy on the cheese on top of the lasagna, it is in the inside were you will get a runny mess. Thanks for your comment.

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  5. Diane,
    I enjoyed your post and the Lasagna looks amazing. I really like your tutorial it helps with getting the layers just right. Hope you are having a great week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Happy St. Patrick's Day!
    Miz Helen

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    1. Thank you so much Helen. I really think there are many good recipes available, but it's technique that people really need.

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