I LOVE lasagna, but I don’t make it very often. The one recipe I had was rather laborious, and the result just wasn’t satisfactory, though I could never figure out just what was wrong with it. So I hadn’t bothered making it in, oh, years, probably.
Then last week I bought a package of ground beef at the supermarket. On the front was one of these peel-off labels, on the back of which, once you peeled it off, was a recipe for lasagna. The idea of making lasagna sounded appealing enough that I decided to try it.
I was a little concerned about using prepared spaghetti sauce. I was even more concerned about the fact that the recipe didn’t say to cook the lasagna noodles first. The recipe I’d used before had you do that. This was a pain because the cooked noodles were slippery and tore easily. In the past I’d seen boxes of lasagna noodles that mentioned that they didn’t need to be cooked beforehand, but when shopping for this dish I couldn’t find any like that. Uncooked noodles are much easier to handle, but would they cook sufficiently during baking?
Yes, as it turned out. The noodles came out fine. In fact, the whole thing came out fine. Even with basic, store-brand spaghetti sauce, the flavor was very good. Maybe not quite as good as you can get at a good Italian restaurant, but good enough. And the preparation is relatively simple.
A note on pan size: the recipe calls for an 11 ¾” by 7 ½” baking dish. I made this in a pan that is 12” x 8” and about 2” high, and it was full. I advise putting a cookie sheet under the pan when you bake this, because it did bubble over a bit. Also, instead of putting all the cheese mixture in the middle, I put half where it's called for in the recipe and the other half on top of the second layer of noodles.
Nutritional note: the recipe calls for part-skim ricotta. At the supermarket I happened to read the nutritional label on the part-skim ricotta, and was appalled. It does have a little less fat than the whole milk kind, but not much less. So I used fat-free ricotta instead, and it was fine.
Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!
(source: National Cattlemen's Beef Association)
1 pound ground beef
1 jar (26 to 30 oz) prepared spaghetti sauce
1 can (14 ½ oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 container (15 oz.) part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg, well beaten
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried basil leaves, crushed
6 lasagna noodles, uncooked
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1. Heat oven to 375°. Cook ground beef in preheated large skillet over medium heat 4 to 6 minutes or until no longer pink, stirring occasionally to break up ground beef into pea-size pieces. Pour off drippings. Add spaghetti sauce and tomatoes with liquid to skillet, stirring to combine; reserve.
2. Meanwhile combine ricotta cheese, egg, cheese and basil.
3. Spread 2 cups beef mixture over bottom of 11 ¾” x 7 ½” baking dish; arrange 3 lasagna noodles in single layer, pressing into beef mixture. Spoon ricotta cheese mixture on top of noodles; sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Top with additional 2 cups beef mixture; arrange remaining noodles in single layer, pressing lightly into beef mixture. Top with remaining beef mixture, spreading evenly to cover noodles.
4. Bake at 375° oven 45 minutes or until noodles are fork tender. Sprinkle remaining 1 cup mozzarella cheese on top; tent (loosely cover) with aluminun foil. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.
Makes 8 servings.
Recycle: spaghetti sauce jar, tomato can, cheese containers if possible