Quick and Easy Lasagna

Baked-Lasagna-photo-by-Sarah-Franzen-1024x682

Photo courtesy of Sarah Franzen

So, I must be on an Italian food kick lately (maybe it’s the wintery weather that inspires me!), because I made this over the weekend for a six person, family pre-show dinner (we had lots of leftovers). It’s a great recipe for feeding a crowd (just make two pans to feed up to 18 people) and a lot easier and quicker to make than most people think, especially if you opt to use the “no-boil” lasagna noodles.

The pictures in the steps of the recipe below feature the traditional kind, but that was only because my husband “couldn’t find” the no-boil kind in the store. Other than adding about 15 minutes to the prep time, using traditional noodles doesn’t change anything in this recipe.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 package of lasagna noodles (boiled if traditional, or right from the box if the no-boil kind)
  • 1 – 2 regular-sized jars of your favorite sauce
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef (or turkey)
  • 1 lb bulk (uncased) sweet (or hot, if you like spicy) Italian sausage
  • 1 TBSP garlic powder
  • 1 TBSP onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp ground pepper and salt
  • 1 lb part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1/2 lb. 4% milkfat cottage cheese
  • at least 1 lb of grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

imageIn a large sauce pan, heat a TBSP olive oil on medium high heat and add your ground beef and Italian sausage.

 

 

imageCook and stir until browned, but be careful not to burn. If your meat isn’t especially lean, be sure to drain off any fat before the next step.

imageAdd in all your spices and your jarred sauce.

I sometimes throw in some diced tomatoes, canned or fresh, if I want a little more texture.

Let it cook until it comes to a simmer, with little bubbles, but not a full boil.

Set aside for a bit while you ready the noodles (boiled and drained for traditional, removed from the package for the no-boil kind).

Also, at this point it’s a good idea to get the cheeses out.

Get out a rectangular pan. image9×13 inches is great. Mine is glass, which I think works better than metal, but I’ve seen other use the coated metal pans just fine.

imageSpread a thin layer of the meat sauce on the bottom of the pan.

 

 

 

 

image

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ricotta cheese (NOT the cottage cheese), the basil, oregano, and egg. Mix well.

Now you’re ready to assemble the lasagna.

image

Atop the thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan, arrange noodles length-wise and slightly overlapping.

 

imageSpread half the ricotta mixture on the noodles, followed by half the cottage cheese. That’s a secret ingredient, as it makes the cheese part of the lasagna really creamy. Sprinkle the whole with a little of the shredded mozzarella. Cover all this with another thin layer of meat sauce.

imageMy sweet Mama taught me to put the second layer of noodles on horizontally (another neat trick) to help the lasagna maintain its structure on the plate, once it’s baked and sliced. Because the noodles are too long for the width of the pan, every noodle has the opposite end folded under and tucked in. Repeat with another layer of cheese and a layer of sauce, and then a final layer of noodles length-wise again.

imageTop with one last layer of meat sauce, and then sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella on top. I like to put the whole thing on a foil-lined cookie pan, to catch any bubbled-up spills.

Pop it in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, uncovered for traditional noodles, and covered with foil if you used no-bake noodles.

That’s it! The entire process from start to finished product on the table takes about an hour and 15 minutes. Add a salad or some crusty bread if you want (and a nice glass of red wine!), and you have a great, filling meal that’s enough for a crowd but fit for company, too. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Quick and Easy Lasagna

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