September 15, 2012

Classic Italian Lasagna - A.K.A Best Lasagna EVER

Holy cow, I found this recipe a couple years ago on the fabulous Mel's Kitchen Cafe website and it completely rocked my world. I have made it several times since finding it. I bring it to every friend that has a new baby because it's an amazing dish that provides to-die-for leftovers. I have also frozen this dish uncooked to bake for an easy weeknight dinner. Basically, what I'm trying to say is: this recipe is a keeper!

The recipe has two sauces that make the lasagna so creamy and rich. It's a must, it will make tons of dishes to clean but in the end it will be totally worth it.

Red Sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large onion, diced
2 - 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1- 6oz. can tomato paste
1 - 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

White Sauce:
3 cups milk (not skim, I used 1%)
5 tbsp flour
4 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

1 box of lasagna noodles, boiled for half the time on the box. (Mel uses no-boil noodles, Barilla brand)
1 pound ground sausage, I use 1/2 pound mild, 1/2 pound hot
1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz. parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease 9X13 pan.

In a large skillet, fully cook the sausage breaking into small pieces. Drain the grease and set aside.

Red Sauce:
In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat add 2 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter.  When the butter/oil mixture is hot add the garlic, stirring constantly. When the garlic is lightly browned, but not burned, add the onion.  Continue cooking veggies until they are soft and browned and the fluid has mostly cooked out. Remove from heat and toss into a blender, food processor or using a stick blender and blend the veggies until they form a paste. Return the veggies to the saucepan and add the tomato sauce, paste and diced tomatoes. Then season with salt, pepper and italian seasoning. Cover and let sauce simmer for 30 minutes. Right before using the red sauce in the lasagna stir in the reserved fully cooked sausage.

While red sauce is simmering cook the lasagna noodles. Only cook them for 1/2 the time listed on the box. Run the noodles under cool water when they are finished cooking. Coat with a tiny bit of olive oil and set aside.

White Sauce:
Melt four tablespoons butter. When the butter is melted add the flour, stirring constantly to combine the mixture. Let cook for a minute or two. Next, slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Add the salt and pepper. Continue slowly stirring the white sauce, ensuring it doesn't burn. Cook for about 5-7 minutes and the sauce with thicken quite a bit. Mel adds a pinch of mozzarella for good luck and SO DO I!

The hard part is now over! Begin layering! On the bottom of the greased pan spread a little red sauce and layer your noodles across the entire bottom of the pan. Then, layer red sauce, white sauce, parmesan and mozzarella. Do this for 3 layers and then pop in the oven 30 minutes!

Notes:  This recipe actually calls for ground turkey instead of sausage but I wanted to add a little heat to the dish. I have also used beef, and half beef half sausage. All have turned out great.

I have also added sliced black olives to this and it adds a great layer of flavor; only problem is my husband doesn't like olives. Sometimes we put olives on one half just for me.

I personally love second day lasagna better than first. ...weird I know.

I made this for a friend who had recently become a new mom. She had the terrible experience of having to get her gallbladder removed a week after her sweet boy was born. So instead of bringing it over ready to eat I brought it over frozen for when her diet was back to normal.  So, baking instructions for freezing goes as follows: Bake covered and frozen at 350 degrees for 1 hour 15 minutes, then bake uncovered for the next 45 minutes.
**make sure you don't put a frozen GLASS pan into a hot oven that is a recipe for disaster. Your pan will break. I put my lasagna in the oven and then turn it on so that the oven and the pan heat up together**

Recipe: Slightly adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe


Cass said...

Hey! I can leave comments on my own blog now! Yahoo!

Gma J said...

This is one I am going to make for sure!!