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The Easiest and Most Forgiving Dish. EVER.

November 10, 2009

I personally have never made lasagna before, until last night. Why have I never done this before? I was preparing myself for some long drawn out process with tedious step-by-step preparation that created a huge mess and a lot of dishes. Boy was I wrong!

Making lasagna was the easiest meal I have made, besides my tendency to throw whatever canned goods I have into a skillet and call it something it’s not. Ta-dah! I made ratatouille!

Think about it. Even if you want to make the most basic lasagna, buy a jar of Bolognese sauce, a jar of Alfredo sauce and some No Boil noodles. Layer them up, throw them in the oven for 30 minutes and you have a meal resembling a masterpiece you could have slaved over meticulously for hours.

Lets talk about the wonder that is No Boil Lasagna Noodles for a second. I had no idea there was such thing. At Trader Joes yesterday I just grabbed them off the shelf and didn’t read too much into them. They are the only option Trader Joe’s has anyway (a good thing and bad thing, but I stand by TJs with the rest of their cultish followers). Like the home cook I am who wants to think she doesn’t need to read directions, I start filling up a big stainless steel pot with hot tap water, throw the noodles in and then go on to do other things. After preparing the ricotta, goat cheese and spinach layer for the lasagna, something on the noodle box catches my eye: No Boil. Now what exactly does that mean? I further investigate to find there are no clear directions on the box, just a recommended recipe. In the recipe instructions it states, “Layer the noodles.” It doesn’t say cook then layer, or soak in hot tap water then layer. Just “layer the noodles.” Well, crap.

Quickly recovering from that embarrassment and removing the noodles from the hot tap water, I set up my one-gal production line to assemble my lasagna. Even me and my perfectionista attitude got the layering done in about five minutes, bringing my total cooking and assembly to about 30 minutes, not including baking. If you ask me, 30 minutes of my day is well worth it to cook a lovely meal for friends or family; and, of course, be supplied with leftovers for the next week (the part I like best).

The reason why I argue lasagna is the easiest dish is because of the creative liberties you can take with it. There is really no way to screw it up. For instance, since it was my first time making my own lasagna, I went off of Ina Garten’s recipe for Turkey Lasagna as a guide. Right off the bat I knew I wanted to substitute her fresh parsley and basil for frozen spinach. Also, I later found out while grocery shopping that the Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage I was instructed to use was hard to come by (at least at Trader Joe’s), so I went with Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage: More of my style anyway. In addition, I doubled up on the goat cheese because, well, no reason. I just really love goat cheese and thought if I didn’t use more it would be too spinachy. Everything else I tried to keep the same, and what came out at the end I am still enjoying.

Here is a rough recipe for my creative liberty lasagna:

1.5 lbs of Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage, removed from casings and chopped

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 can of tomato paste

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 15 oz container low fat Ricotta cheese

8 oz of goat cheese

1 medium sized ball of mozzarella

1 egg

1 package of sliced parmesan cheese (I do not have exact measurements for this, it is really your preference how much parmesan cheese you would like. I used about half of a small container and saved the rest for the layering)

1 package of frozen chopped spinach (I do not know the exact weight. I used the Safeway brand and it comes in a block).

Lasagna noodles

Dried parsley to taste

Dried oregano to taste

Salt and Pepper

*Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  1. Heat a large skillet with olive oil. Add the chopped onion and sauté until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic for another minute. Finally add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and chopped sausage. Stir and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper, dried parsley and dried oregano.
  2. If you are not using no boil noodles, this is the point where you would add them to the hot tap water and allow to soak for ten or so minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, goat cheese, egg, parmesan, and spinach.
  4. If you soaked your noodles, drain them and lay them out on a paper towel.
  5. Grab you pan, about 10” x 15” is good, and start your layering. Be sure to start with the tomato based sauce first so that your noodles do not stick to the bottom when it is done. Next layer the noodles, cheese, tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. Keep repeating until you are done!
  6. Slice the mozzarella and place randomly over the top of the lasagna.
  7. Place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the sauce boils and the cheese is browned.
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One Comment leave one →
  1. pdxsx permalink
    November 10, 2009 6:30 pm

    Awesome post, Brooke! Sounds fantastic! Well written, humorous, insightful and fun.

    Keep it up!

    ~J

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