The hearty sauce for this lasagna recipe is made from scratch and provides enough for a very large pan of lasagna. However, if you’re going to go the trouble of preparing a pan of lasagna, double the recipe and freeze one to bake at a later date. Also, don’t get overwhelmed looking at the ingredient list. The only things that get chopped are onions, garlic, and parsley. Everything else is a simple shake, stir, or squash in.
This is one of those meals, where you could sneak a book into the kitchen and rattle pans once in a while and people will assume you’ve been hard at work the whole time, even though there is a significant down time while the sauce simmers.
If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of lasagna, serve the hearty meat sauce over spaghetti noodles or toss with ziti and mozzarella. Add some fresh spinach or sauteed mushrooms, bell pepper or zucchini and skip the immersion blender for some variety. It’s not rocket science, as long as you don’t stray too far from the bones of this recipe, you’ll have a fantastic meal.
Company’s Coming Lasagna
- 1 lb hot or mild bulk Italian sausage
- 1 lb lean ground beef
- 1 onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic – minced
- 1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 6oz can tomato paste
- 2 6.5oz can tomato sauce (or just use one 15oz one, it’s not critical)
- 2 TBSP white sugar (cuts the acidity of the sauce, omit if you use seasoned tomatoes as they frequently already contain sugar)
- 1 1/2 tsp dried basil (or use 2 – 3x as much fresh
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 4 TBSP chopped fresh parsley – divided
In a large, heavy pot brown the beef and sausage over medium heat, drain and set aside. I set the meat on paper towels to soak up any remaining grease. Do not wash the pot, all of the browned bits from the beef and sausage add flavor to the final sauce. If you’d like, give the pan a quick wipe to remove any excess grease.
Place the pot back on the burner over medium heat and add the diced onion, dried basil (wait if you are using fresh), Italian seasoning, fennel, salt, and pepper. Once the onion begins to soften, add the minced garlic.
To the onions, garlic, and seasoning add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, sugar and if you choose, fresh basil. Return the meat to the pot, stir until well combined and lower the heat to low.
Cover and simmer for 1 – 1.5 hours. Alternately, place all the ingredients in a large crockpot and cook on low all day.
While the sauce simmers, boil 8oz of lasagna noodles according to the package directions.
Also, assemble the ricotta filling.
Add 2 TBSP of parsley at the very end of cooking, unless you skip the blender step. In this case, add all the parsley.
I don’t like big chunks of meat in spaghetti or lasagna sauce, except for meatballs. I never said it was rational, it’s just one of my quirks. So, I give the whole sauce a good whir with an immersion blender. I use this thing for everything from soups to smoothies; stick blenders can be found for as little as $25. I’m sure high-end ones are great, but I’ve been happy with my el cheap-o for several years. Add the rest of the parsley and stir.
Now it’s time to assemble the lasagna.
- 16oz ricotta
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
- 1 lb pkg frozen spinach, drained completely, squeeze the ever loving life out of it! I mean it
Mix all ingredients well.
That was rough, eh?
Other ingredients for lasagna assembly:
- 1 lb mozzarella – grated
- 1 generous cup grated Parmesan (use a Parmesan Romano mix if you’d like)
- boiled lasagna noodles (the number depends on the size of your pan, use your judgement)
Preheat the oven 375F.
**optional tip** add a layer of thinly sliced zucchini, mushrooms, and summer squash.
Cover tightly, but do NOT let the foil touch the cheese or you’ll yank off all the yummy goodness when it is removed. Alternately, add a layer of parchment paper between the lasagna and foil, this works very well.
Bake for 25 minutes, remove the foil and bake for an additional 25 minutes. If the cheese isn’t nicely browned, broil just long enough to add some color.
**Warning, all the cheese makes this dish nuclear hot, allow it to cool some before serving.**