Yesterday was our daughter’s first day of school … her first day as a college junior. I can’t even believe she’s 20 years old and in the second half of her college career. As I always do on the first day of school, I asked her what she’d like for dinner. Kylie requested to celebrate her first day. Of course, I always make what she requests on that day, so lasagne it was … even though it was going to be hot in San Diego and Dennis and I were trying to talk her into something on the grill. Kylie’s boyfriend, Jacob, would be joining us for dinner as well. He once told me Italian food is his favorite (mine too!) so I was looking forward to making this for him also. Of course, I was looking forward to cooking a nice dinner for my husband, Dennis, as well, as he is always my biggest fan. I must say, though, that Jacob is a close 2nd! The compliment I received from Jacob on last night’s dinner was the best. He said “I think Olive Garden needs to start making your recipe. This is the best lasagna I’ve ever, ever had.” As you can imagine, Jacob is welcome at our home any night for dinner. He is always so complimentary and thankful.
I decided to use whole grain lasagne noodles in hopes my daughter would not notice. She’s definitely not into eating whole grain pasta or gluten free, for that matter, but she loved it. I figured if I covered the top layer with enough cheese, she wouldn’t be the wiser. I was wrong.
I started by cooking the noodles and then setting them in rows on a large sheet pan to let them sit until I was ready to use them. I sprayed the pan with non-stick spray and laid my noodles down. I then placed a piece of tin foil that I sprayed both sides with on top of the first layer of noodles. I repeated this process until all the noodles were on the pan.
Next, I started making the meat sauce for our lasagne. I started by browning two pounds of extra lean (96% lean) ground beef, seasoned with kosher salt and pepper. Once the meat was browned and crumbly, I drained the fat from the skillet. Meanwhile, in another smaller skillet, I sautéd one half of a sweet yellow onion, which amounted to 1/2 cup. Once the onion was soft and translucent, I added 6 cloves of minced garlic and let that cook for 45 seconds. I then poured the onion and garlic into the meat and stirred it together.
After the onion and garlic were mixed into the ground beef, I added my tomatoes (whole and diced), sauce, paste and red wine. As far as the tomatoes are concerned, I like to use a large can of the San Marzano tomatoes or a can of whole plum tomatoes. I keep them whole for my lasagne because I like the added chunkiness this gives my dish. For the wine, I usually choose a cabernet or merlot. I absolutely love the way the sauce smells while it’s simmering when it has wine added. I also love the subtle wine flavoring you get while enjoying this dish.
Once I dumped the tomatoes and poured the wine into the skillet, I added my chosen seasonings, which were fennel seed, Italian seasoning, kosher salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. I mixed the seasonings in and let the sauce simmer for 45 minutes to thicken enough for me to build my lasagne.
While the sauce was simmering, I mixed my part skim ricotta with eggs and set it aside. I always mix two 16 ounce containers of part skim ricotta with two eggs for my lasagne because somehow I seem to run a little short using just one container. I don’t end up using the entire two containers worth, but I would rather have too much than have to spread it on really thin. You can see in the picture below how much I had leftover. I set it in a container in the fridge to use in the next couple days. For what, I’m not sure yet, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.
I also grated a cup of part skim mozzarella cheese and pulled the mozzarella slices out of the refrigerator. I decided to use sliced mozzarella (also part skim) on the inside of the lasagne and to top it with shredded. Grated parmesan was also used in this dish between the layers and as a garnish, along with chopped basil.
For building the lasagne, I first sprayed a 9×13 dish with non-stick spray. I then added a ladle of the meat sauce to the bottom of the dish. To that I added three lasagne noodles. On top of the noodles, I added a good amount of the ricotta cheese, enough to cover the entire noodle base. On top of the ricotta, I placed six mozzarella cheese slices and then I poured half of the meat sauce and then sprinkled 1/4 cup grated parmesan over that. Next, three more noodles. Then, ricotta, sliced mozzarella, meat sauce, parmesan. Then the top layer of noodles, plus the shredded mozzarella.
This is how the lasagne looked before placing it into an oven, preheated to 375 degrees. I sprayed the underside of a piece of tin foil to prevent the cheese from sticking to it and placed the foil over the top. I left the foil on for the first 25 minutes of cooking time. I then removed the foil and let the lasagne cook another 25 minutes before pulling it out of the oven to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
2 pound extra lean ground beef (96% lean)
9-12 whole wheat lasagne noodles, depending on your pan size
1/2 cup sweet yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes (whole)
1 14-1/2 ounce diced roma tomatoes
1 14-1/2 ounce can tomato sauce
2 6 ounce cans tomato paste
1/2 cup Cabernet Sauvignon wine
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1-1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of red pepper flakes
12 slices part skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
32 ounces ricotta cheese
basil for garnish
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Cook lasagne noodles. Set aside on large sheet pan, separating layers with foil sprayed with non-stick spray.
- Add ground beef to a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook until browned and crumbly. Drain the fat and place the meat back into the skillet.
- Simultaneously, while meat is browning, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a smaller skillet. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook 45 seconds. Add to skillet with meat.
- Pour in tomatoes, tomato sauce, and wine. Add seasonings and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Mix ricotta cheese with eggs and set aside.
- Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread one cup of meat sauce on the bottom of the dish.
- Add three-four noodles. Spread enough ricotta mixture to cover all of noodles, being careful not to spread to thin. Lay 6 slices of mozzarella on top of ricotta. Add half of meat mixture and spread. Top with 1/4 cup grated parmesan.
- Repeat Step a (under 7).
- Top with 3-4 noodles and add shredded mozzarella.
- Spray the inside of a piece of tin foil with non-stick cooking spray and cover baking dish.
- Place in preheated 375 degree oven for 50 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove foil.
Until next time, Kris