I have been a star of dinner parties when making this Italian classic. It is very impressive when you bring this beautifully smelling dish in the middle of your table. Not too many people knew lasagna in my home country than and everybody just loved it. And where did I learn how to make it? From my friends in Holland! A little crazy crossroad, isn’t it?
Whatever the story and location, this is a simple, all-in-one-dish dinner that nobody will complain about!When I first came to U.S.A., we stayed at our friend’s house for the first few weeks, before we settled in our own apartment. One evening I offered to cook dinner and decided to make “my lasagna”. My dear friend Leo invited his 87 years old Italian mother to join us! Oh dear! My “Czech version of Dutch lasagna” made it though. except, I didn’t know how to work the ricotta cheese and it thinned the sauce a little. Other than that, approved! Leo’s mom was too kind!
My traditional lasagna
1 pack of lasagna pasta (any kind you like)
1 pound of ground meat (mix)
2 links of Italian sausage (hot or sweet)
1 can of diced tomatoes
1/2 leek sliced
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic
1 table spoon dried oregano
1 marinara sauce or
1 large can of whole tomatoes
1/2 cup of ketchup
4 large mushrooms sliced (optional)
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil
1 cup of shredded mozzarella
salt and pepper
In a large pan heat olive oil and saute onion until soft. Add dried oregano, 2 diced cloves of garlic and sliced leek and let cook until soft. Add ground meat and Italian sausage (without the casing) to the pan and separating with wooden spoon, fry until browned. Season with salt and pepper. If you like mushrooms, add them now and saute for another minute.
When the meat is cooked through, add whole can of diced tomatoes (juices included) and large can of whole tomatoes (unless you decided to use store bought marinara sauce) instead. Break whole tomatoes carefully in your hand before adding to the pan. Turn down the heat and let cook for ten minutes. Season with ketchup.
At the end, finish the sauce with freshly chopped basil, add pressed rest of the garlic and my little secret – heavy cream. It smooths the sauce like a little cross over “bechamel meets marinara”. Stir, cook an additional minute and turn off.In an oven proof dish ladle a little bit of sauce to cover the whole bottom, cover it with lasagna noodles (I never cook them ahead, they cook through with the sauce – another secret I learned in Holland). And not, you don’t have to use the “no need to precook” kind. Any kind of lasagna pasta works the same with this recipe.
Just cover the sauce with dry pasta. You may have to crush the corners or ends so it fits to your skillet. Cover your sauce with pasta and add a second layer of sauce. Sauce must cover the entire pasta! Add layer of shredded mozzarella, pasta, sauce, and so on until your dish is full. Top layer must be the sauce.
Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top and put in the oven. Again, if you used 8×8 dish, and that’s enough for 4 portions of lasagna, it can easily fit into my favorite kitchen appliance (you guessed it) toaster-oven. So no need to pre-heat your big oven.
Turn your timer on 45 minutes at 375 F (you may want to put your dish on a sheet or aluminum foil, if you topped it all the way to the top with sauce, since it may go a little overboard while cooking.
That’s all you need to do and walk away.When lasagna is done, take out your dish, let it cool for a few minutes, bring it to your table and let your family to dig in. Bon Apetito!
Note: you can use layers of Ricotta instead of shredded mozzarella. Just don’t make the same mistake I did the first time (I never worked with ricotta cheese before). Before you use it for your lasagna, mix Ricotta with 1 whole egg and season it with salt and pepper. This way you wouldn’t end up with watery sauce like I did the first time .
Wine pairing suggestions:
I paired this dish with (naturally) Italian Chianti called Cetamura from Badia a Contibuono in Tuscany. This wine’s acidity pairs perfect with the tomato sauce in lasagna. Those Italians, they know what they are doing!