Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Meat Lasagna: Italian Comfort Food


Meat Lasagna A La Nadine 
My meat lasagna is a staple in our monthly food rotation. It is one of those dishes that my family and friends often request when I ask them if there is anything I could bring with me. It can feed a family of four for 2 days or the entire extended family. I also have devised a sequence of cooking that would generate the least amount of dishes to wash. Efficiency all the way around. I used to make the tomato sauce from scratch. Click here to read how I make my tomato sauce. I tried one time to use canned tomato sauce, and frankly, it was equally delicious. So now I embrace this shortcut with no guilt. I also grind my own lean meat and freeze it. Click here to see how I do it. 


Ingredients:
Meat Sauce
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pound of lean ground beef
1 medium/big yellow onion
2 celery stalks (optional)
6 cloves of garlic
5 leaves of fresh basil
2 twigs of fresh oregano (you can substitute with 1//2 teaspoon of dry oregano)
1 15 oz of canned organic tomato sauce (I use SW brand from Costco)
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper

A box of no boil lasagna sheets. (I use the Trader Joe's Brand)

Spinach Mixture
1 lb of frozen spinach 
1 egg (you can omit if you are allergic to eggs)
1 cup of full fat ricotta (you can omit if you are allergic to dairy)
3 tablespoons of shaved Parmigiano cheese (you can omit if you are allergic to dairy)
1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

Bottom and Top Sauces
1 15 oz of canned tomato sauce
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of flour
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/8 teaspoon of pepper
1 cup of cream or milk (you can substitute with cashew or almond milk)
1 cup of fresh mozzarella 

A big skillet
A deep baking dish
A bowl
A colander

Preheat ven to 375 degree Fahrenheit 

Let us prepare the meat sauce:
Finally chop the onion, celery,garlic, and herbs. Heat the 2 TB of olive oil in the big skillet over medium high heat, add the onion and celery and let them cook till they are golden. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Do not overcook the garlic as it will turn bitter. Add the ground meat and turn the heat down to medium. Cook until brown. Add salt and pepper. Add the herbs, the tomato sauce and paste. Let it come to a simmer and turn down the heat to low. 
Spinach Mixture
Let us prepare the spinach mixture:
Take out the frozen spinach from its packaging and place in a microwave safe bowl. Thaw in the microwave. It usually takes about 5 minutes. Let the spinach cool down to touch and then squeeze the water out in a colander. it is important to get rid of all the water. Place the spinach in the same bowl again, add the ricotta, egg, shaved cheese and seasonings. Mix well until all ingredients are combined. If you are allergic to dairy or eggs, omit all dairy and/or eggs and add 1 cup of sautéed mushroom. make sure that mushrooms are not soggy.

Let us construct the lasagna:
Place 2 tablespoons of the tomato sauce from the second can (In the bottom and top sauces) in the bottom of the dish and evenly spread until the bottom is covered. You need this thin layer to wet the first layer of lasagna sheets. Now place the lasagna sheets to cover the area. I normally use around 4  sheets for every layer. Top with half of the meat mixture. Make sure that the meat mixture is even and covers the lasagna sheets. Add another layer of lasagna sheets. Now place 2 more tablespoons of the tomato sauce from the canned tomato sauce, and all the spinach mixture. Make sure it is evenly spread. Add one layer of lasagna sheets, then the rest of the meat mixture, then a final layer of lasagna sheets. Add the rest of the tomato sauce from that second can. Spread evenly over the lasagna sheets.
Lasagna is Ready for The Oven
Let us make the Top Sauce:
Using that same skillet that had the meat, (No need to rinse it) heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. You can use butter for extra richness but because we are using cream, I don't really think we need the butter. Add the flour and mix, then add the cream and seasonings and whisk with a wooden spoon or a whisk (make sure that your whisk is coated with silicon otherwise it will ruin your skillet). The sauce is thick now. If you feel that it is not tick enough, let it simmer more over the heat, and if it too thick, add more cream. Turn the heat off.

Add the white sauce mixture over the red sauce and spread evenly. Divide the fresh mozzarella cheese into smaller pieces and spread on the top. Place in the oven for 45 minutes until bubbly. Finally, turn on the broiler and broil for 1-2 minutes until the top is crispy to your liking. 

Let the lasagna stand for 5-8 minutes before cutting. I like to serve it with a simple mixed green salad to cut the richness of the lasagna and a slice of a good bread.
Enjoy!
Nadine
Reinventing Nadine Lasagna
Resources:
Click here for Reinventing Nadine Tomato Sauce
Click here for Reinventing Nadine Ground Meat:








2 comments:

  1. This recipe looks luscious. I was just reading about lasagna in Cook's Magazine and I believe I would prefer your recipe and efficiency over theirs. I will have to look around for lasagna sheets, I have not seen them around my area.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Many for your kind words and especially noticing my efficiency. The things we learn in corporate life never leave us. I find the lasagna sheet at my Trader Joe's.

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