For some reason, it also brings back memories of my aunt Diane and uncle Dana in their early years of dating and marriage. It was the 80s, they had an apartment and a CD player, and just seemed like super cool people in my 10-year old mind! They would suggest car games like "burn out" where we'd turn on the heat full blast and close the windows, to see who the first person (usually me) would be to give up and beg to turn off the heat or open a window. My aunt would have my brother, sister and I over for sleepovers, and make lasagna and homemade sourdough bread, which made her a little bit of a hero in my eyes.
I vividly remember the bridesmaid dresses at their wedding, dresses sewn by my mom - dark blue taffeta with lots of puffs and bows, and little pearls sewn on bows on those puffy sleeves; I remember thinking those pearls made the bows look like Dominoes. Did I mention it was the 80s?
Whenever I make lasagna, I also think of a lasagna soup I used to make years ago. It was exactly what it sounds like - all the usual ingredients you'd find in lasagna, but in a soup instead, with the pasta added at the end so it didn't get too soft (and no, it did not have great big lasagna noodles in the soup - I think I used rotini or shells). I haven't made that soup in a long time, but I remember it being a big hit with my friends overseas when we'd all get together for dinner. Lasagna soup and endless garlic bread made for great dinner parties with all my foreign friends, with apple crisp and ice cream usually making an appearance for dessert, too.
Another dinner I remember making for them was beef stroganoff, a recipe I made up as I went, but it ended up pretty good - the biggest problem, though, was that I bought the ground beef from a butcher down the street instead of at a more reputable grocery store, and it ended up having little bits of bone all throughout. And probably more than a few lumps of flour from my unskilled attempts to thicken the cream sauce. But other than THAT, it wasn't bad. Since my friends didn't break any teeth on the bone chips, I'm sure they've all forgiven me for that. :)
Since I've mentioned this lasagna in a few posts now, I thought I should go ahead and get this recipe posted. I could talk about the flavorful addition of the mushrooms and spinach, the melty cheeses, the wonders of no-boil noodles, the fact that this was Garfield's favorite food... But come on. You guys know what lasagna tastes like. And I'm sure everyone has their own favorite version, this just happens to be mine, because, well, it's just awesome!
So instead of talking about it anymore, I'm just going to leave you with the recipe...
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 14.5-ounce cans Italian diced tomatoes
- 1 28-ounce can tomato puree
- 4 tablespoons fresh, chopped basil
- salt and pepper
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 cups grated mozzarella, divided
- 1 15-ounce container part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 box no-boil lasagna noodles (16 noodles)
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach leaves
- 3 cups sliced mushrooms
In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and a pinch of salt, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ground meat and cook, stirring to break up the meat, until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato puree and basil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for about 30 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.
In a bowl, combine the beaten eggs, 2 cups of the mozzarella, the ricotta cheese and the Parmesan cheese, and stir until well blended. Set aside.
When the sauce is ready, preheat the oven to 375 F, and spray a 9x13 (or slightly bigger) pan with non-stick cooking spray. Build the lasagna per the following steps:
- Spread 1 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the pan.
- Lay 4 noodles down. Top noodles with 1 1/2 cups of the sauce. Top sauce with 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Top cheese with 1/3 of the sliced mushrooms. Top mushrooms with 1/3 of the spinach.
- Repeat step 2.
- Repeat step 2.
- For the final layer, lay down the last 4 noodles. Top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the reserved cup of mozzarella.
Cover the pan with foil and bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes to brown the cheese on top. Let sit for about 10 minutes before cutting.
Yields 10-12 servings.