I get a big charge out of trying new recipes.
Merle loves eating experiments, but not all the time.
We both like lasagna. Whenever I come upon a recipe for it that sounds appealing, I can’t resist trying it—from spinach to creamy chicken to zesty sausage to roasted-vegetables-no-noodles. Merle gamely tries each one. But, I can count on it, sometime near the end of the meal, he always asks, “When will you make the old original recipe? You know, the best one.”
The old treasure seemed like the right meal for last weekend’s play-off football games. I absolutely resisted every impulse I had to alter anything about this old icon—except for 2 things which I was pretty sure Merle wouldn’t notice or mind:
1. I cut back the meat and upped the tomatoes. I’ve been rebalancing the meat-to-veggies proportions in most dishes I make these days so they look something like this— meat VEGGIES
And it worked here.
2. I did not cook the lasagna noodles even though the recipe called for that. I’ve been annoyed by this step because I hate to wash pans, especially when they seem unnecessary. And we like al dente pasta, so why cook it twice?
I made the lasagna Saturday afternoon so the noodles would have a good 24 hours to sit in the fridge and in the tomatoes to soften up a bit. And they did.
And Merle loved the outcome. No little questions about whether I had messed with the ingredients or procedure, thereby damaging the end result.
Here are 2 lasagna recipes I recommend:
1. “Convenient Slow-Cooker Lasagna”
From Fix-It and Forget-It 5-Ingredient Favorites (page 157).
1 lb. ground beef
29-oz. can tomato sauce
8-oz. pkg. lasagna noodles, uncooked
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 ½ cups cottage cheese
1. Spray the interior of the cooker with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Brown the ground beef in a large non-stick skillet. Drain off drippings.
3. Stir in tomato sauce. Mix well.
4. Spread one-fourth of the meat sauce on the bottom of the slow cooker.
5. Arrange one-third of the uncooked noodles over the sauce. (I usually break them up so they fit better.)
6. Combine the cheeses in a bowl. Spoon one-third of the cheeses over the noodles.
7. Repeat these layers twice.
8. Top with remaining sauce.
9. Cover and cook on Low 4 hours.
2. My old treasure, for your oven:
¾ lb. ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
6-oz. can tomato paste
28-oz. can stewed tomatoes, or 2 14½-oz. cans stewed or diced tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
¾ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
10 or more lasagna noodles, uncooked
½ lb. sliced Swiss cheese
12 or 16 ozs. low-fat cottage cheese
some good-sized shakes of grated Parmesan cheese
1. Mix beef and onion together in a 2-quart microwave-safe container.
2. Cover. Cook on High 1½ minutes. Stir well to break up clumps of meat.
3. Repeat. If meat is still pink, repeat Step 2 again.
4. Drain off any drippings.
5. Stir in tomato paste, stewed or diced tomatoes with their juice, and seasonings.
6. Cover. Microwave on High for 3 minutes.
7. Stir. Microwave on High for another 3 minutes.
8. Stir. Microwave on High for another 3 minutes. Set aside.
9. Lightly grease a lasagna pan or a 9 x 13 baking pan.
10. Place half the uncooked noodles in the pan, covering its bottom.
11. Cover with half the Swiss cheese.
12. Cover with half the cottage cheese. Drop dollops over the sliced Swiss cheese. Then spread out the dollops with a knife, covering the Swiss cheese as well as possible.
13. Cover with half the tomato sauce.
14. Repeat Steps 10-13.
15. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan.
16. You can stop right here and refrigerate the dish until you’re ready to bake it. (Be sure to cover it.)*
Or you can bake it now—at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Check the middle to see if it’s hot after the edges get bubbly. If not, bake it another 10 minutes or so, keeping close watch so it doesn’t dry out around the edges.
16. When the lasagna is fully hot, allow to stand 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
* When you’re ready to bake the refrigerated lasagna, uncover it, and bake at 350 degrees for up to an hour, or until hot through and through.