My second encounter was the remarkable cooking of a post-college roommate. She did Gnocchi and Tiramisu long before anyone made it trendy. With a few simple ingredients, Rosanna produced winner after winner every single time. On occasion she would make lasagna. I remember thinking, "What an awful lot of work fussing with that pasta and making that scratch sauce and assembling it all."
Until one day, it occurred to me that the only thing pasta needed to prepare it for eating was water and heat. So what's keeping me from skipping boiling the pasta, go directly to the casserole dish and add some water? Nothing. I tried it and it works. Many years later "oven-ready lasagna noodles" appeared on grocery shelves. I tried them. THEY WERE AWFUL. I went back to the way I'd been doing it all along.
Purchase regular lasagna noodles. Even Rosanna did this, but said her mother would frown on it. Do not pre-cook them, but just place them directly into the casserole dish and add water when the dish is completely assembled. A few times I've run out of lasagna noodles and substituted handfuls of spaghetti noodles laid down to about the same thickness as the lasagna. That works too, hungry men don't notice and candlelight works wonders.
The second thing I do is divide the process into two days work and simplify the sauce-making. When we have spaghetti, I make a large batch of sauce, earmarking the excess for lasagna. Later that week I extend the sauce for making lasagna by adding another two cans or bottles of commercial spaghetti sauce or diced tomatoes. I usually have enough for two 9 x 13 pans...one to eat right away and one to freeze. Sometimes when there's nothing else to do, I'll make a huge amount of sauce producing six or more lasagnas and freeze all but one for supper. This comes in handy over the holiday season when wolves and their accomplices are prowling my kitchen more than usual.
Purists, no doubt, would gasp. But let it be known that the leftovers of this particular lasagna brown bagged it off to work with GG. He called me from work to say his boss, (I can't remember his name, but it sounded as beautiful as Luciano Pavarotti), walked into the office and announced, "There's lasagna in here. Somebody has lasagna." GG shrugged, opened his tote, pulled out the little plastic lunch bag tucked inside another plastic bag, peeked into the heavy lunch container and replied, "You're right. I have lasagna." Now I don't think GG shared his lunch with his boss, but at least Decadent's Lasagna smells authentic.
Sauce: Enough for two 9 x 13 pans.
I started with this:
- 2 pounds of lean ground beef
- 4 -680 ml. (24 oz.) cans or bottles of commercial spaghetti sauce
- 2 large onions chopped
- several crushed and minced garlic cloves
From this, six people had a fine spaghetti supper. I had about 2-3 liters of leftover sauce.
The next day I did this:
- 2 -680 ml. (24 oz.) cans or bottles of commercial spaghetti sauce
- 1 - 500 gram container cottage cheese
- 2 - 520 gram bars of mozzarella (it won't necessarily get all used up)
- parmesan, as much as you like :)
- 1- 1 1/2 cups chopped frozen spinach
- 2 eggs
- lasagna noodles, the casseroles pictured here used 3 layers, can use 4
- 1 cup water
This is how I assembled the casserole.
- Meat sauce.
- Meat Sauce. Mozzarella. Cottage Cheese and Egg with Spinach.
- Meat Sauce. Mozzarella, Cottage Cheese and Egg with Spinach
- Meat Sauce, Mozzarella, Parmesan.
Break up the spinach.
Beat the two eggs.
Mix the cottage cheese into the beaten eggs.
Mix in the spinach. This made 3 1/2 cups.
Evenly divide and spread the spinach mix over the first and second layers of noodles.
Shred mozzarella directly onto the lasagna.
More noodles. See. These noodles are not green. They're not made with spinach.
Here Decadent is crumbling previously frozen mozzarella directly onto the lasagna. Cheese when frozen crumbles. Freeze cheese when it goes on sale. No one will ever know the difference when it's cooked.
Here I am shaking parmesan onto the lasagna.
All assembled, now pour 1/2 cup of water into each of the casseroles. If adding an extra layer of noodles, add just a tad more water...but not much.
Ready to go...cover it tightly with foil.
Bake in preheated oven 350 F x 1 hour. Remove the foil covering for the final 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the casserole rest about 10 minutes before cutting into it.