Friday, December 10, 2010

Mom's Lasagna

I cooked this lasagna a while ago for a girls' night, and every time I make it, I feel like a little kid back in my mom's kitchen. Ever since I can remember, my mom would call me into the kitchen every time she began preparing a meal. She'd say that cooking was optional, but observing was mandatory, so most of time I just watched, and we chatted as she cooked. I loved these one-on-one times, and I still look forward to kitchen time with her around holidays and random weekends.

Okay, back to the lasagna! This is one of my mom's signature dishes with some minor tweaks.  I actually cooked and assembled the whole thing before I left for work in the morning, popped it in the oven after Zumba that evening, and it was just about ready as the girls showed up with bread, salad, and dessert.  Perfect if you have a hectic day and want a homemade meal waiting when you come home.

You'll need:
16 oz. box of lasagna noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium sweet onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound extra lean ground beef
1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
16 oz. tomato sauce (2 small cans)
3 oz. tomato paste (1/2 small can)
2 teaspoons fresh chopped basil
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 lb. mozzarella cheese, grated

First, get a pot of water boiling on the stove with about a teaspoon of salt, and turn your oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x11 baking dish.

Grate the mozzarella and set aside.  Don't buy the already-shredded kind because that cheese doesn't melt as well to seal everything together the way we want.  Makes a difference, I promise.

Now for the meat sauce!  Start by sautéing some onions with a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan on medium-low heat until they're tender... about 5 minutes.

Add garlic.

Stir around so the garlic won't burn, and then immediately add the ground beef.  Turn heat to medium, and break apart the meat as it cooks.  When the meat has just barely browned, add the turmeric and chopped tomatoes.  Cook for a couple more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add tomato sauce, paste, salt, pepper, and herbs. Okay, let me just add that I'll be very disappointed if you make this dish EXACTLY the same way I did.  I change it a little bit each time depending on what ingredients I have in my fridge... get creative and have fun with your sauce!  (This is when I put on some fun music and just start throwing stuff in.)  Any of your basic "Italian herbs" will work... basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme are some of my favorites.

Now give it a stir, and let all those fresh ingredients simmer together on low heat for 10-12 minutes.

While your sauce is simmering, add your pasta to the boiling water.  Don't forget a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together.  (Pretty sure the experts say this is a no-no, but I do it out of habit, and it works for me.)

Cook the noodles according to the package, and drain.  Now, take your one-of-a-kind sauce off the heat, and add the noodles to the saucepan. Gently... GENTLY... fold in the noodles to lightly coat them in the meat sauce.

Prepare your building station with your pasta mixture, baking dish, and cheese. 

Layer with pasta, meat sauce, and cheese over and over again until all of it's in the pan!

Done building!
If you're popping the lasagna in right after assembling, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  If it's been hanging out in the refrigerator all day, it may need an extra 10 minutes or so.

When you pull it out, it should be hot, bubbly, and cheesy.  :)

You might need a nap after this one... it's the best comfort food!

Sending you love from my kitchen.

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