Italian-style food is one of my favorites. I just love a good pasta. For Mother’s Day I was given a pasta maker. Larry and I, along with my son, Stephen and his wife, Jackie, gathered in the kitchen to try this thing out. We had a good time figuring out how to make the dough and put it through the machine to form strands of spaghetti.
I learned to not over-think the process and there is nothing to be gained by not trying. We ended up with some delicious spaghetti that night and I can’t wait to try another type of pasta.
I also tend to over-complicate things and will end up making a super fancy recipe with many steps when a simpler version with not near as many ingredients or dirty dishes would have been almost as good.
That’s the case with lasagna. You can make your own pasta and simmer a homemade sauce all day long. Or you can just skip a bunch of steps and time and have a very yummy semi-homemade version.
The following recipe is one I have used often while the kids were growing up and I was time challenged. You can throw it together pretty quickly and it tastes great.
Remember, just because it doesn’t take long to put together and bake doesn’t mean it can’t be something to be proud of.
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 16 oz. package of lasagna noodles
1 24 oz. can of pasta sauce (or you can make your own with a recipe you can find online)
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
16 oz. of shredded mozzarella cheese
Brown ground beef, drain fat. If you have some garlic lying around, chop it fine and throw a teaspoon or two in while browning the ground beef.
Fill a large pot with 6 - 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add about 1 tsp. of salt. Drop in the lasagna noodles one at a time, stirring frequently so they don’t stick to each other. Cook about 6-7 minutes until they are al dente. Drain.
Add the canned pasta sauce and tomato paste to the ground beef and stir well. Simmer for about 10 minutes while you are preparing the rest of the dish.
Add one large egg to the cottage cheese, and about 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese. If you happen to have some grated parmesan cheese you can add about 1/2 cup of that, too. Stir well.
Take a bit of the ground beef/pasta sauce mixture and put about 1/3 cup on the bottom of the casserole dish. Lay three lasagna noodles side by side. Top with a few spoons of the cottage cheese mixture and spread it out. Add a cup of pasta sauce and smear it over the cheese. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese. Repeat this three more times, ending with the cheese on top. If you are lucky, you won’t run out of any of the ingredients used in the layering process, but if you do, it’s no biggie.
After all, it’s just lasagna and you are going to be devouring it soon and not leaving any evidence of your misjudgement.
Bake, covered with foil, at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, removing the foil and finishing baking uncovered for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it sit on top of the stove for about 10 minutes to set up and finish cooking, if you can wait that long. Add-ins to the sauce to make it even tastier include browned Italian sausage, mushrooms, bell pepper, or replacing the cottage cheese with ricotta, which gives a more authentic lasagna but increases the final cost.
This is a simple, basic lasagna that can be modified to reflect your taste. If you are more confident in your ability or just a risk-taker, try add some ingredients that appeal to you.
You will be surprised at what you can cook and how great it makes you feel.
Chris Lundstrom is just a normal person who loves to cook for her friends and family. Email suggestions or comments to chrislundstrom88@ gmail.com.