I love “lazy” Sundays. Not really lazy, but the ones where we don’t have to run around all day. My daily dosage consists of reading the paper with coffee, curling up with a good book, gardening, playing games with the family or today where I can cook or bake something from scratch.
My Nonna (Italian for Grandmother) lived close-by growing up and I was amazed at how she made everything from scratch. Everything. Pasta, Sauces, Gravy, Soup, Broth, Cakes, Cookies, etc. No boxed/jarred/packaged products. Heck, she even grated all of her own cheeses. Her salads and sides were from her garden. The dining room table was covered with all type of homemade pasta drying on a cheese cloth. Amazing woman and an amazing cook! She spoke broken English but I watched her closely when she cooked because she had NO recipes to follow. So here is my take on her Lasagna from scratch with a few “cheats” thrown in.
Onion, Celery, Carrots – chopped (Probably a few cups total)
2 cloves Garlic – minced
1 pound protein (ground beef, ground turkey, ground Italian sausage, soy crumbles) whatever floats your boat
2 – 24oz. of your favorite tomato sauce
2 – 8oz bags of grated cheese (I used an Italian Blend but you could use straight up Mozzarella)
1 package of Barilla Oven-Ready Lasagna (sorry Nonna but I am a 21st century woman with other things to do)
Here we go:
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté the garlic, onion, celery and carrots until soft. Here is a tip from my uncle who is a chef and an amazing cook: grate the carrots if you like the sauce less “chunky”. Carrots cook slower than the onions and celery.
Add your meat and cook until brown. I use a less fatty ground beef (85/15) so there is very little grease-no need to drain.
Add 1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce. Again, one that you would use on pasta and doctor it up a bit. Add dried oregano, parsley, salt and pepper. Whatever you like.
In a separate bowl mix the Ricotta Cheese and 1 bag of grated cheese (bag says it is 2 cups)
Now here is the fun part:
Take your greased 9×13 dish and use about 1 cup of sauce (from the second jar) to spread along the bottom. Like so:
Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Take the foil off and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes to brown the cheese. Let it rest on the stove top for another 5-10 minutes before cutting into it. I serve mine with a mixed salad and some breadsticks.
*Side note: The meat sauce that is prepared above can also be used as the sauce for your favorite pasta. It’s ridiculously easy, delicious and versatile. You can add whatever ingredients you like, the house will smell amazing and the family will think you slaved all day. Use it with Spaghetti. Add it to Mostaccioli, place it in a dish, cover with cheese and you have baked Mostaccioli. Stuff shells with it. My Nonno would eat the “sugo” (sauce) just on crusty Italian bread. It even freezes nicely.