Introduction: Homemade Lasagna

About: depotdevoid is short for The Depot Devoid of Thought, the place where you go when you lose…
Welcome to my take on how to make a fantastic lasagna.  As this is one of my top five favorite entrees, I've spent a lot of time thinking about different ways to make it and experimenting with ingredients.

There are two main differences between this lasagna and most peoples' recipes.  First, I tend to pile on the veggies, without making it a vegetarian dish.  I find that ground beef adds great flavor, but you really need lots of vegetables to balance it.

Secondly, I spent years making a full cake pan sized lasagna, only to have the family get tired of the same leftovers for the next several days.  The solution?  Smaller pans and more of them!

Let's get started!

Step 1: What You'll Need

First off, the tools:
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
  • Large pot
  • Large skillet
  • Garlic press
  • Two stirring spoons (one for the sauce, one for the noodles)
  • Four bread pans
Next, the ingredients:
  • Lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 pound ground beef (don't get the lean, you want fatty for this!)
  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 1 smallish head of broccoli
  • 1 medium to large yellow onion
  • Lots of mushrooms (I don't have an exact measurement here, maybe 3/4-1 pound?)
  • One whole garlic (head? clove? what's it called?)
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • Tomato sauce (about a quart)
  • 1 32 oz tub of low fat cottage cheese
  • About a pound of your favorite cheese (I like a mix of mozz, cheddar, and parm)
  • Spices of your liking (I use salt, pepper, and generic "Italian seasoning" mix, though I'll throw in some fresh basil if I have it)
Once you've got that together, let's make some lasagna!

Step 2: Cut the Veggies

A quick note for the rest of this ible:  I was preparing a double batch (one to save and one for a dinner party), so the portions are going to look a bit large!

I usually chop my veggies in reverse order to the way I put them in the sauce. 

Zucchini first, it should have the ends removed, be cut in half, then cut into slices about 1/2-3/4" thick.  That way, when it's cooked it retains a bit of its firmness and texture.

Broccoli comes next, first slicing off the browned bit on the bottom and then tearing each of the florets into smaller peices--no need to actually cut broccoli as that usually makes more of a mess than it's worth.

Mushrooms should be cut pretty thick, though not as thick as the zucchini.  About 1/4-3/8" is good.

The onion should be skinned, have the ends removed, then diced.  Watch your fingers, I know I've cut myself while cutting onions more often than with any other vegetable.

Finally, skin the garlic and set it aside.

Step 3: Prep the Noodles

Between cutting the veggies and making the sauce is a good time to prepare your noodles.

First, line the bottoms of the pans with uncooked noodles.  They will cook and soften as the lasagna cooks, and in the process suck up some of the liquid, keeping it from being too wet (a definite problem when you use as many veggies as I do).  You'll probably have to break the noodles a bit to get them to fit in the pans.

Next, put the rest of the noodles into a pot of water, along with about a tablespoon of olive oil to help prevent sticking.  Turn the heat to medium high and leave them going while you cook the sauce.

Step 4: Cook the Sauce

Grab your largest skillet (we got a big one just for cooking Italian food).  Start off with just the ground beef, and add your spices.  I go pretty heavy on them, as I know it's going to have to do for the beef and a lot of veggies as well.

Once the beef has mostly browned, crush all the garlic into the skillet and add the onion.  Cook this until the onion starts to get a bit translucent, and add the broccoli.  Cook for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms.  Let this go for a while, letting the mushrooms and broccoli get soft, and add the zucchini.  I like my zucchini a bit crunchy, so I only cook it until it gets hot, then add the sauce.  Bring the whole thing to a boil, let it simmer for a few minutes, then turn off the heat.

Assuming your noodles are cooked by this point, you're ready to assemble the lasagna.  If not, turn up the heat for a while and boil them until they're soft.

Step 5: Layer It On

Time to assemble the lasagna.  The layers go like this:
  1. Noodles
  2. Cheese
  3. Sauce
  4. Spinach (really pile this on--it's great and it shrinks a lot when it cooks)
  5. Cottage cheese (cheaper than ricotta, and with better flavor and texture in my opinion)
  6. Noodles
  7. Cheese
  8. Sauce
  9. Spinach
  10. Cottage cheese
  11. Whatever noodles you have left (usually it's more than enough, so just pile 'em on)
  12. Heavy layer of cheese to finish it off
This is usually enough to bulge a bit over the top of the pan, but that's okay--as the lasagna cooks it will shrink a bit.

Step 6: Cook And/or Freeze

I really like making the lasagna in four smaller pans like this.  That way nobody gets tired of lasagna and you can have a nearly fully prepared dinner just waiting for you in the freezer.  All you have to do is wrap the top securely with tin foil and put it in the freezer.  A day or two before you plan on eating it, put it in the fridge or on the counter top to thaw (fridge is safer, counter is faster).

When cooking, turn your oven on to 350 degrees and put the lasagna in there with the tin foil still in place.  Check on it after about 45 minutes, and then again every 10 minutes until the middle center is nice and hot.  Remove the tin foil at that point and cook for 10 more minutes, letting the cheese brown.  Remove from the oven and let it set for 10-15 minutes, then cut and serve with a slice of garlic bread!

Step 7: Final Thoughts

Thanks for checking out my little instructable!  If you liked it, don't forget to rate, comment, and/or subscribe!

Do you have your own take on lasagna?  Anything you think I might try with mine to improve it?  I'm always up for a new twist on an old meal, so let me know!

As with all of my instructables, if you make your own twist on my creation, post a pic in the comments below and I'll send you a DIY patch!