Sometimes when I am feeling ambitious, or guilty, I pull out all of the stops and make a show stopping meal. I seldom do this on a school/work night however, but this week I made an exception.
I had tortured my family with 3 consecutive bad meals and I felt a bit bad about it. This morning when I made my kids breakfast, I haphazardly poured a bowl of Cheerios and a glass of milk and placed it on the table. My son’s reaction?
“Nice, Basilmomma….REEEEAL nice! Going to blog your cereal pouring technique today? You should..it’s a real winner!”
Yes, I reprimanded his rudeness. Yes, I turned and laughed inwardly. It was funny. Maybe not at 6 am with NO coffee in my system yet, but funny it was.
So at lunch today I researched the ultimate dinner. What my family feels is a real reward meal. They know that it takes a bit of time to prepare and they actually appreciate it.
I made…Lasagna. Not just any lasagna, but one with a silky , smooth Bechamel and a meaty red sauce. I emailed my husband a shopping list and when he walked in the door at 4:30 carrying grocery bags he was actually excited!
My kids watched me chop, mix and layer with eager anticipation. They were giving me 100% of their attention. I was thrilled!
Then it hit me: They were starving. Hence the full attention.
1 hour later I pulled this steaming dish of goodness from the oven, let it rest and plated it for my family with roasted broccoli and a lightly dressed salad.
I have made many lasagna recipes in my short little life, but this one was by far my favorite. I wish I could take the credit though, but I found it on the Readers Digest Canada website under 4 Reader’s Digest Lasagna Recipes. This makes a full pan of lasagna, enough for an army
Variation: For a vegetarian version, add (1.3 lb.) fresh, chopped spinach to the béchamel sauce. Replace the meat with (3 cups) cooked lima beans sautéed in pesto.
- Meat sauce:
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1½ lb ground veal
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 large white onion, chopped finely
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 celery stalks coarsely chopped
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 2 X 28 oz canned whole Italian plum tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 12 fresh basil leaves
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp chili pepper flakes
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 orange, zest only, grated
- To taste salt and pepper
- 2 Italian sausages
- Pasta and cheeses:
- 12 dried lasagna noodles
- 1 lb Ricotta cheese
- 1 lb Mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 2 tbsp Romano cheese, grated
- Béchamel sauce with cheese:
- ⅓ cup butter
- ⅓ cup flour
- 2 cups milk
- To taste salt and pepper
- To taste grated nutmeg
- 4 oz.Old Cheddar cheese, grated, I used medium cheddar
- For the meat sauce:
- Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed pot saucepan over high heat and brown veal for 5 minutes.
- Add salt to taste.
- Add onion, garlic, celery, peppers and carrot.
- Cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the canned tomatoes, dried tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings.
- Reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes.
- Break up whole tomatoes with the back of a spoon and stir sauce occasionally.
- Add the grated orange zest and cook another 5 minutes.
- Cook sausages in a frying pan.
- Remove, slice and set aside.
- For the béchamel sauce:
- In a saucepan, melt butter then add flour.
- Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly.
- Add the milk while stirring.
- Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
- Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
- Blend in the Cheddar cheese, stirring well.
- Set aside to cool.
- Assemble the lasagna:
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Cook the lasagna noodles in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente.
- Rinse in cold water, oil lightly and set aside on a clean towel.
- Pour a layer of meat sauce in the bottom of a lasagna pan.
- Cover with a layer of noodles, then half of the combined cheeses (tossed together) and half of the béchamel.
- Continue with another layer of noodles and the rest of the meat sauce.
- Cover with one more layer of noodles, the remaining béchamel sauce and the sliced sausages. Finish with the remaining cheese mixture.
- Garnish with fresh basil leaves.
- Bake in center of oven for 40 minutes.