Lasagna: The Company Dinner

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

Sauce:

  • 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.

Onion garlic seasoningPlace 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.

Immersion Blender

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.

Ricotta filling:

  • 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)

To assemble:

Preheat the oven 375F.

sauce layer Spoon just enough sauce to cover the bottom of the pan.

noodle layer Add a single layer of noodles.

CHEESE Spread with 1/2 the ricotta mixture, sprinkle with 1/3 the mozzarella and parmesan. Repeat layers and top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.

**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.**

Enjoy.





19 Comments

  1. ashley kelley on January 11, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    How do yopu freeze? Cooked or uncooked?

    • HeatherSolos on January 17, 2012 at 10:45 am

      Uncooked, but make sure you cool and freeze it quickly.

  2. JollyJill on August 25, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    The outcome was really impressive. Amazing indeed. Thank you for the recipe.

  3. Menu Monday 11/16 | Home Ec 101 on November 16, 2009 at 10:24 am

    […] –  Company Spaghetti with meat sauce, 7 layer salad, garlic […]

  4. Trixie on September 16, 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Oh dear, I don't think I've seen a better looking lasagna. My husband is a big lasagna lover (as am I). I'll be adding this to our menu next week.

    Trixie

  5. Caroline on September 16, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    What's the difference between using crushed tomatoes and tomato paste in the sauce? I mean I know they are different, but the sauce recepie I use calls for tomato paste, but when my SIL made spaghetti and meatballs for my dad's bday last week, she used crushed tomatoes.

    I've also heard that you don't have to cook lasagna noodles, that the sauce and other 'wet stuff' in the lasagna will soften them during baking.

    • Heather on September 16, 2009 at 10:12 am

      Tomato paste is much more concentrated than crushed tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes are simply that, crushed tomatoes. The paste is created from tomatoes that have been simmered for a long time, removing most of the water. There are a lot of tomatoes in that one tiny can.

    • HeatherSolos on September 22, 2009 at 5:08 pm

      Caroline, I've been told that you can skip the boiling, if your sauce is is watery. With this version, I'd worry that there isn't enough free liquid to cook the noodles. Now, if you were using fresh pasta, I'm sure it would be just fine.

  6. ToyLady on September 16, 2009 at 11:04 am

    A potato ricer is the perfect tool for squeezing frozen spinach, if you have one collecting dust because you ran out and bought one while in a fit of "I'm going to make my own gnocchi if it kills me."

    I'm just saying.

    • HeatherSolos on September 16, 2009 at 3:00 pm

      I don't own a potato ricer, but that makes perfect sense. Gnocchi should go on my Fearless Friday list, but it'll have to be gnocchi-that-doesn't-require-the-purchase-of-any-special-tools, gnocchi.

  7. rachel on September 16, 2009 at 3:16 am

    YUM 😉 Great recipe sweetie!!!

  8. Jeanette on September 16, 2009 at 2:44 am

    Oh my! a couple of days ago I was looking for a good sauce recipe. (gearing up for another freezer cooking session) Thanks for posting! I just might have to try this one out!!!
    sweetjeanette.blogspot.com

  9. CanadianCarrie on September 16, 2009 at 1:07 am

    My family of 4 would never eat that much in one sitting. I would buy the smaller aluminum lasagna take out pans and freeze them! This recipe looks soooooo delish, and no cottage cheese! woohoo! On my list for fall menus.

    • HeatherSolos on September 16, 2009 at 2:45 am

      We don't eat it in one sitting, but we had a birthday party for the boys on Sunday evening and had 5 additional guests. I doubled the batch and we're working on the second. Oh it's tough, let me tell you. Whoo, hate this skating out of cooking dinner deal. Whoo boy! 😉

  10. julie on September 15, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    I love lasagna-but have to change from a tomato based sauce to a white sauce-I'm allergic to tomatoes………….

    Julie
    Meridian,MS

    • ThatBobbieGirl on September 15, 2009 at 9:44 pm

      Allergic? Oh no!

      My son isn't allergic, but he gets nosebleeds if he has too much fresh tomatoes. (Or peaches)

      Do you just use a basic white sauce, or what?

      • julie on September 15, 2009 at 9:30 pm

        yeah=-usually too tired or unorganized to make my own LOL so i”ll use a jarred white sauce (either garlic or plain alfredo)……need to try it from scratch though………

    • HeatherSolos on September 16, 2009 at 2:44 am

      Aw Julie, I'm sorry to hear that. Food allergies can be such a pain sometimes. It's a good thing, in the US at least, that there are so many options. A white sauce sounds really good. So sort of alfredo-y?

  11. Tabitha on September 15, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Aaaaand now I'm hungry.

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