I have been wanting to come up with a new lasagna for sometime now, and I finally did a couple of weeks ago. I was very pleased with the results of this recipe, and even made it for two friends who had each had babies...and one even ended up asking me fore the recipe!
This lasagna has a healthy sauce that incorporates a few extra veggies. Whole wheat pasta is ideal and what I normally use, but this past time I used white noodles because I was trying to go through what I already had in my pantry. From here on out, no more white pasta! It's whole wheat all the way from now on.
I referred to Giada De Laurentiis' bolognese and marinara sauce recipes when I came up with this sauce, so I must give credit to her!
This sauce recipe makes enough for 2 large 9x12 lasagnas, or 4 8x8 lasagnas. This is wonderful, because with the same amount of effort of making one dinner, you can have extras to freeze. I made 4 8x8 pans. We had one for dinner, froze one for the future, and froze two for giving to my friends. I love cooking ahead like this! That said, I'm listing the quantities to make the large recipe, so if you only want 1 9x12 or 2 8x8 lasagnas, then just half everything.
Sauce adapted from Giada De Laurentiis' Bolognese and Marinara Sauces in Everyday Italian
I N G R E D I E N T S :
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper, plus more for seasoning
2 lbs. ground beef
2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (I used home canned tomatoes given to me)
2 dried bay leaves
extra garlic and onion powder to taste
1/2 tsp. dried basil (I just sprinkled some in, so it might have been more. Fresh is always best, too!)
1 Tbsp. parsley
2 blocks mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 boxes lasagna noodles (whole wheat is best)
1 large container ricotta cheese (you may also use cottage cheese, if you prefer)
parsley for garnishing
D I R E C T I O N S :
In a saucepan, brown ground beef, on medium-high heat, stirring often, until beef is cooked thoroughly. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 tsp. of salt and pepper. Saute until all of the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add cooked ground beef, tomatoes, and bay leaves, and sprinkle garlic powder, onion powder, and basil and parsley. Simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour.
When sauce has nearly completed cooking, go ahead and boil the lasagna noodles according to directions.( If making entire recipe, you will probably need to boil each box separately because of the large amount of noodles. ) Drain and set aside.
Once sauce has finished cooking, remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper, if desired.
If you want a smooth sauce without chunks, like I did, blend sauce with an immersion blender once it has completed cooking.
(This sauce can also be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To assemble lasagna, spoon a small amount of sauce on the bottom of your lasagna pans. On top of that, make a layer of lasagna noodles, then spoon some ricotta cheese (or cottage cheese) over the noodles (I usually just drop dots onto it, but you can also spread it to cover the noodles). Sprinkle onto that a layer of mozzarella cheese, and then another layer of sauce. Repeat noodles, cheeses, and sauce 3-4 times, until noodles are used up or you've run out of room in your pan. For the final layer, you'll do one final layer of noodles, ricotta cheese, sauce, and then a good layer of mozzarella, and end with a layer of parmesan. Sprinkle some parsley over the top, if desired.
Bake freshly prepared lasagna uncovered for 45 minutes - 1 hour (check to make sure lasagna isn't getting overcooked on top) on 350 degrees. If it begins to brown on top, cover with foil for remaining few minutes.
For lasagnas you want to freeze:
Wrap lasagna pan(s) with two layers of aluminum foil, and label. Let cool for a few minutes on the counter or in the fridge, and then freeze until ready to use.
To prepare frozen lasagna, I usually just preheat the oven to 350 and cook it for 2 hours, covered most of the time. I remove the top layer of aluminum foil before baking and bake it, covered with one layer of foil, for 1 1/2 hours, and then I remove the remaining layer of foil and bake it uncovered for the last 30 minutes. You can also thaw the frozen lasagna in the fridge overnight beforehand and then bake it for a shorter amount of time. I prefer to just bake it completely frozen.