Food for a crowd. Usually, that means for a party, but in my case, it means feeding two teenage boys. I’m always on the hunt for something that’s delicious, filling, pleases everyone (my 17 year old was not all for this incredible curry), and not too-pricey (these guys could each eat half a cow if I’d let them).
Our Favorite Meat Lasagne
One meal that’s always a fan favorite is lasagna. When my daughter, the vegetarian is home, I have to make a meat-free version. But, when she’s away at university, the carnivores can play. While the actual process takes a while, you could do it in stages, or take some shortcuts. Since I work from home, the time is no skin off my nose (or computer).
If you don’t have time to make your own sauce, then use a couple of jars of prepared sauce. I like to look for ones that don’t have sugar in the first (or any) ingredients. Using a good quality store-bought sauce will add to the cost of your lasagna, however. Just keep that in mind. You could also exchange ground turkey or chicken for the extra-lean ground beef. That’s your choice. One more option is to use zucchini (sliced long) instead of pasta for a low carb version.
Some other tips:
- Make sure to season your ricotta. It really makes a difference.
- If you like a saucy lasagna, like we do, be generous with the sauce. If you don’t, go easy on it.
- I use pre-shredded cheese blends. Call me lazy, but I’m not sitting there shredding four different kinds of cheese to save 50 cents.
- I like to cook a few extra lasagne noodles in case they break or stick.
- If you’re making your own sauce, either make ahead, or leave at least 2 hours for it to simmer. If you’re using jarred sauce, you’ll only need about 1 hr for simmering.
- I add the balsamic to cut the acid of the tomatoes in lieu of adding sugar.
- You can prepare the lasagna up till cooking ahead of time, then refrigerate and cook later. Just add about 20 minutes to your cook time.
- If you’re very ambitious, get some tinfoil lasagna pans and make a bunch of casseroles at once for freezing.
Without further ado, the best Meat Lasagna…
What You’ll Need
For the sauce:
3 lbs of lean ground beef
1 large onion, diced
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp (or to taste) red chili flakes
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 28 fl oz cans of diced tomatoes (preferably imported)
1 28 fl oz can of whole tomatoes with basil (or puree, or a bottle of Passata, depending on how chunky you like your sauce)
Freshly ground salt & pepper, to taste (about 1 tsp each)
1/2 cup red wine
1 splash balsamic vinegar
For the lasagne:
12 whole wheat lasagne noodles, prepared al dente as to package directions
1 475 tub of light ricotta
one large egg
1/4 cup of parmesan plus 2 tbsp
1 tsp mixed grinder garlic & herb seasoning, such as Ethnic delights (my favorite), or whatever you can find like it
1 package of Italian blend shredded cheese, such as Kraft or Sargento
Some fresh basil leaves for garnish, optional
What You’ll Do
For the sauce:
In a large deep skillet with a lid, brown the meat, continually breaking it up into small pieces with the back of your cooking spoon (do you have a favorite cooking spoon? I do.) Once the meat is browned (but not over browned, or else it will be dry), add in the onions and garlic, and stir to combine.
Cook on medium-high heat until the onions begin to be translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the chili flakes, and season generously with salt and pepper. Add the dried oregano, and stir again. Cook for another minute or so, then add the tomatoes, the wine and the splash of balsamic vinegar. Stir, and bring to the boil. If you have a ‘Simmer Burner’ on your stove, place the there on low, and leave the pan partially covered to boil off some of the excess liquid. Cover fully after about 20 minutes, and stir occasionally.
Homemade meat sauce
After 2 hours, taste for seasoning, and if you like a thicker sauce, uncover, and let simmer for a few more minutes.
When your sauce is nearly ready, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cook the lasagne noodles to the package directions.
In a small bowl, mix all of the ricotta, the herb & garlic seasoning, the egg, and the 1/4 cup parmesan.
OPEN THE BAG OF SHREDDED CHEESE (now, isn’t that the EASIEST) instruction you’ve ever been given?
Get out a large pyrex or other lasagna pan (I’m terrible with measurements, but I’m pretty sure it’s the one just larger than 9 x 12. Don’t hate me. Numbers are my enemy.) To keep your oven clean (since I don’t clean ovens. Or anything), put the lasagna dish on top of a foil covered cookie sheet. Don’t worry, you can thank me later.
Line up your ingredients like an assembly line-sauce, noodles, ricotta, shredded cheese…
Place a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of your dish. Then, layer three noodles lengthwise, and one (cut-to-size) at the end widthwise on top of the sauce. Add more sauce on top of that layer (be generous or not, depends how you like it). Using about 1/2 of your ricotta mixture, dab blobs of ricotta on top of the sauce (This is where it gets messy. Just smush it around. It’s all going to melt together anyways.) Sprinkle 1/3 of the bag of shredded cheese all around. Then do the hokey pokey.
No seriously. Well, you can if you want. Or, you could just repeat
Uh oh. No more ricotta. Which is good. Because you’re at the top. Sprinkle with the last 1/3 of the shredded cheese, and the 2 tbsp of parmesan. Use the basil leaves to make a pretty design on top.
Our Favorite Lasagne, before baking
Bake at 375 for about 30 to 45 minutes, or until it’s all bubbly. Take out of the oven, and let sit for about 10 minutes before cutting.
Oh, and seriously, someone should really decide how to spell lasagna, I mean lasagne. For consistency sake, I used ‘a’ for the dish, and ‘e’ for the noodles.