One of my first posts on Road Tips back in 2005 featured a recipe I came up with for lasagna. I've found this recipe to be a tried and true winner over the past few years. You can see the original post here.
Yesterday, we celebrated the 70th birthday of my father-in-laws "lady-friend", Shirley. (I always have problems with what you'd call a man's companion who is in their 60's or 70's - they aren't girls, so I can't really call 'em girlfriends.) Anyway, about a month ago, Cindy volunteered that we'd make food for the party. About two weeks ago, she sprung on me that there would be about 30 people there. Jesus Christ!
I wanted to do the basic "hamburger, pork chop, brat" - thing on the grill. But Cindy wanted to go all out for Shirley's birthday. Actually, she wanted ME to go all out for her birthday. Nothing like volunteering someone while throwing them under the bus at the same time.
Cindy wanted me to smoke a brisket, but that would be too time consuming and I wouldn't have the space in the smoker for that much meat for 30 people. Besides, the party was going to be at Shirley's place in North Liberty. I couldn't take my smoker up there and try smoking a couple three huge briskets for 18 hours.
Next, Cindy wanted me to do these tortilla wraps filled with either turkey, ham or roast beef, cheese, a dill spread and romaine lettuce. Well, my God - I would have been making those for 6 hours straight to feed 30 people.
Finally, Shirley said that she wanted Italian and Cindy suggested a number of things, but we settled upon lasagna. So I started out on Friday afternoon with the prep work and finished making the lasagna in the pan. Four pans total. I put the pans in the fridge overnight and we took 'em up to Shirley's to bake on Sunday. They turned out great and everyone was happy.
I was telling my nieces, Amanda and Graham, last week about my marinara recipe and how I use the same recipe as my base for lasagna. Well, actually, I use it as a base for all my Italian foods that I make with a red sauce.
So as I finish up my recovery from hip surgery, here is one last regurgitated post - my lasagna recipe. And in order to feed 30, I basically had to quadruple everything in the recipe. I'm telling you - it was a minor pain in the ass.
I did something different this time, too. I added a thin layer of pepperoni - about 15 sandwich-size slices over the ricotta and mozzarella before adding the meat and sauce on both layers. It added a nice little zip to the lasagna. And it went over well with those who tried it.
Actually, I'm rather surprised at how well it turned out!
- 1 pound bulk ground Italian sausage
- 1 pound ground beef
- 3 tbs fennel seed
- ½ cup water
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
- 4 tbs olive oil
- 1 can (28 ounces) whole or peeled tomatoes
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 tbs Italian Seasoning mix
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 - 16 oz. can tomato or pasta sauce
- 6 to 8 oz. beer (American lager, such as Budweiser)
- 1 small can (6 oz) tomato paste
- 10 to 12 lasagna noodles
- 2 cups grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (for topping at end)
- 2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1 cup Cottage Cheese - drained
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
- 1 tbs Italian Seasoning mixture
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
In a large pan, add 2 tbs of olive oil and heat on medium high. Add the fennel seeds and let them get warm, but not hot. Stir a couple times. After about 3 to 5 minutes, add the ground sausage and mix. Add 1/2 cup of water and add ground beef. Reduce heat to medium low. Brown sausage and beef slowly; drain off excess liquid when browned. Set aside in a bowl.
Drain the can of whole or peeled tomatoes in a bowl and mash up the tomatoes with a fork. Set aside.
In a 4 quart stove top pan, add two tbs of olive oil and heat to medium high. Add chopped onion and garlic and sauté for three to five minutes, stirring occasionally.
Back the heat back down to medium low. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, Italian seasonings, sugar, salt, and beer. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little more beer if too thick. (Good tip - don't drink the leftover beer until you're sure you don't need to add more! Or better yet - make sure you have a LOT of beer in the house!)
In a bowl, combine ricotta cheese, drained cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, eggs, 1-teaspoon salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly.
In a baking dish large enough for the lasagna noodles to fit in, fill with lasagna noodles and add hot tap water and let sit for 15 minutes. Noodles should be pliable but not cooked all the way through. Make sure not to tear the lasagna noodles.
Spread a thin layer of tomato or pasta sauce on the bottom of a greased 14" x 10" x 2" lasagna pan or baking dish.
Place a layer of noodles in bottom of the baking dish or lasagna pan over sauce, overlapping the pasta noodles. About five total. Cover with a layer of tomato sauce, then spoon 1/2 of ricotta mixture. Cover with mozzarella. Spoon the combination sausage/beef over the cheese and spread out. Repeat for second layer. Be sure to leave some mozzarella for the top of the meat/sauce, and top off with Parmesan or Romano cheese.
Cover with aluminum foil and set in refrigerator for two to four hours (can be in for up to 24 hours). Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking (up to one hour if in for more than 4 hours).
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake covered with aluminum foil for 25 minutes, pull covering off and continue baking for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow lasagna to sit for 15 minutes before serving.
(Note - you can also freeze this for later use. It lasts in the freezer up to six months if you have it wrapped tightly in aluminum foil.)