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Saturday, January 2, 2010


My family has always had a long standing tradition on Christmas Eve.  We all would gather at my aunts house and order Valentino's pizza (a pizza place found only in the Midwest).  To this day, my family still follows that tradition.  There was a time, though, before that tradition started, when we all lived in the same small town and we would go to my grandma's house for Christmas Eve.  Those days where filled with 9x13-inch pans of lasagna. Yummy, cheesey, meaty lasagna.  She kept her lasagna very simple.  Meat and cheese and noodles.  Through the years I have tried to create my own recipe for lasagna.  I have made it numerous times with many different ingredients.  I have added zucchini, spinach, sausage, meatballs, chicken, olives, mushrooms...the list goes on.  In the end, a simple meat and cheese lasagna like my grandma's, seems to always be my favorite.

Lasagna takes times.  It's not a meal you can throw together in 30 minutes or less.  That's probably why I don't make it too often.  That, and as Chris pointed out last night after we were finished eating, "I could eat this until I was big and fat".  Trust me though, it's worth all the time you spend in the kitchen and all the fat and calories you consume!

This recipe is for an 8x8x2-inch baking dish and makes 4-5 servings. Enjoy!


1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 sweet onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 links Italian sausage (sweet, mild or hot), casing removed
1/2 lbs. ground beef 
2 1/4 cup pasta sauce (you can use jarred sauce, your own recipe, or see sauce recipe below)
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon parsley (fresh or dried)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 small egg yolk
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
1/2 lbs lasagna noodles (about 9-12 noodles...the number depends on if you want 3 or 4 layers.  I tend to make a few extra "just in case")

In a small bowl, mix ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, oregano, basil and egg yolk together.  Store in refrigerator until ready to build the lasagna.
Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions.  Drain.

In a large skillet, over medium low heat, saute onions in the olive oil until tender and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Turn the heat up to medium and add the sausage.  Saute for 1 minute and then add the ground beef.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until meat is no longer pink, about 5-6 minutes.  Once meat is cooked through, add the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray an 8x8x2 baking dish with non stick cooking spray.  Pour about 2 Tablespoons of sauce in the bottom of the pan and spread out evenly.  

Now you are ready to build the lasagna.  Set aside 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese for the top layer.  Start with a layer of noodles.  Then spread the ricotta cheese mixture on the noodles (about 3-4 Tablespoons).  Sprinkle with a little mozzarella cheese then top with meat sauce mixture.  Repeat two more times (if you still have enough for another layer, go ahead an use it).  Top with remaining cup of mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.  Let the lasagna rest for at least 5-10 minutes before cutting into it.

Jenn's Speedy Pasta Sauce

1 shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1-28oz can crushed tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/2 Tablespoon dried oregano

Saute the shallot in a large pot over medium low heat, for 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add crushed tomatoes, sugar and herbs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Let simmer for at least 20 minutes.  (I like to add about 1/4 cup red wine too.)

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