It’s been…… 4-5 years since the last time I made lasagna. So why all of a sudden did I make it now?
Recently, my kid was on a mid-winter break from school and I had continuous exposure to The Garfield Show and that did it! (In case you don’t know, Garfield is a fat, lazy cat who lives to eat and his favorite foods are pizza and lasagna.) After hearing “lasagna”, “lasagna”, “lasagna”, “lasagna”, “lasagna”, “lasagna”, “lasagna”, “lasagna”, “lasagna”, “lasan-ya”, “lasagnnnnnnnya”, repeatedly, over and over for days—it was like brain wash—I’ve just had it. “Must make lasagna!” “Must make lasagna!” is all I could think of.
Oh, and what’s the lasagna lesson? Don’t ever, ever make a lasagna recipe that has no Béchamel sauce in it!
Béchamel sauce is a milk sauce that is cooked and thickened by a roux (Cooked butter and flour). I’ve made several different recipes in the past years that didn’t include the sauce in the layers. Hmm, maybe that’s why I didn’t miss lasagna so much, now that I think about it… The béchamel makes the whole thing so much smoother and silkier. It’s really fantastic! I will never, ever make lasagna without béchamel again. Never, ever.
It might look like a a lot of work but it really isn’t.
The meat cooks in 10 minutes—not much effort there.
The ricotta only gets to be mixed with the eggs—easy peasy.
The marinara is store bought. Pfff.
The pasta doesn’t have to be cooked, only soaked in hot water for a few minutes to soften.
You layer them all,
and the dishwasher does the rest.
Ta-da. Lasagna, assembled ahead, ready to get baked later before dinner.
And here’s dinner…
My recipe is based on this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis.
For a 13 x x9 inch pan; serves 8-10 people
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups whole or 2% milk
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground beef
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups (store-bought) tomato/marinara sauce
1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
3 large eggs
1 pound lasagna sheets, soaked in boiled, salted water for 2-3 minutes*
3 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
Béchamel sauce: In a 2-quart pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the milk and nutmeg, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick and creamy, about 10 minutes. (The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon.) Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (unless you plan to bake the lasagna later that day).
In a large sauté pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil, add the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Cook the meat, breaking any lumps and continue to cook until it is browned and some of the juices had evaporated. Remove from heat and mix in the marinara sauce. Set aside.
In a medium size bowl, mix the ricotta and eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Assemble the lasagna:
Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the béchamel sauce.
Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish.
Spread 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 of the meat-marinara blend, spoon béchamel on top, and 1/3 shredded mozzarella. (Save the parmesan for the final, top layer.)
Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and repeat the other layers.
Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and repeat with what’s left of all the layers, plus the Parmesan cheese.
Place the lasagna dish on a large baking sheet, put it in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and bubbling.
You can assemble the lasagna ahead, cover and store in the fridge. If you do that, you might need to add 10-20 minutes to the cooking time.
* To soak the lasagna sheets: 1) do this in batches, not all at once, 2) drizzle some oil on a baking sheet, lay the softened, soaked pasta sheets on the greased baking sheet to prevent it from sticking.