I met my husband online in 2006. We lived more than 800 miles apart and talked for several months before meeting in person. I loved him before I saw him and wanted to make him mine.
A few weeks before he was scheduled to fly in for my college graduation (and our first meeting) I visited the University of Texas at Austin. A friendly professor hosted me and one evening his sweet wife made lasagna. She invited me into the kitchen to help. I was eager because I remembered my online love interest told me his favorite food was lasagna. And I had never made one.
She shared her recipe and I've been making lasagna for the love of my life ever since. I've changed the recipe significantly over the years to fit our personal preferences and share it now with the world.
May we all be lucky in love and lasagna.
Step 1: Ingredients
1 lb ground hamburger
1/8 cup minced dried onions (in the spice aisle, can use half a minced fresh onion)
3 15 oz cans of tomato sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder (can use two minced garlic cloves)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil (can use one tablespoon minced fresh basil)
1 2 oz can sliced black olives, drained
1 4 oz can sliced mushrooms, drained (can use fresh mushrooms)
oven ready lasagna noodles
2 lb (or 4 cups) shredded cheese (mozzarella, Italian blend, ricotta, parmesan, etc)
Brown ground beef. Drain grease.
Lasagna is a very versatile meal. You can make a lot of substitutions based on your personal preferences, the ingredients you have on hand or the amount of time and energy you have. You can substitute turkey, sausage or even chicken or vegetables like squash or broccoli for the ground beef.
Mix in tomato sauce, spices, black olives and mushrooms. Simmer for 30 minutes.
It is very important to simmer the sauce. It allows the flavors to blend together. Unless you're in a hurry. Skip the simmering and the flavors can blend in the oven. You can also used canned tomatoes, tomato paste, or -- I kid you not -- Rotel. (The original recipe I had called for Rotel.) Feel free to season to your own taste as well, or add more or less black olives, mushrooms or other add-ins. You can even just use your favorite store-bought canned spaghetti sauce, marinara or alfredo sauce.
The best way I have found to layer the lasagna is to divide the layer ingredients in half, creating two of each layer. I roughly divide the filling in the skillet to help with this. I always think I don't have enough filling. I'm always wrong. (This also helps prevent uneven layers.)
Start with your lasagna noodles of choice lining the bottom of a 9x13 pan. I prefer oven ready because they are easier. If you think you could just use regular lasagna noodles you bought on accident without boiling first, you would be wrong. If you also think you would boil the remaining lasagna noodles in that box to use because it can't be that much harder, you would also be wrong. But the great thing about lasagna is it can be as simple or as complex as you would like. Feel free to make your own noodles (I hear there are recipes for that) or even trendy zucchini zoodles.
Continue layering with half the meat filling and two cups of cheese. I used mozzarella and ricotta for the inner layer of cheese. Add the final layer of noodles, the remainder of the meat filling and top with two more cups of cheese. For the top layer I used an Italian blend and finished with some parmesan sprinkled on top because I like the way it browns in the oven. Feel free to use whatever cheese you prefer. Or whatever cheese you have available. I have used velveeta. More than once. On purpose. In a lasagna.
If you are thinking all of this was just too complicated then skip all of the previous steps and purchase a frozen lasagna. Especially if you are not trying to convince your dinner guest to marry you. Or if you are already married to your dinner guest. There are some good ones out there. Our preference is Schwan's. (We've been married ten years.) Just follow the printed instructions on the box for baking it in the oven.
If you are ever in a situation in which you feel the need to microwave your frozen lasagna, don't do it. Save your lasagna for another night. This is not the time. If you absolutely must microwave your lasagna, may God be with you. You will survive even if your relationship does not.
Some recipes would have suggested you preheat your oven first thing. At this point you could have been working on dinner close to an hour and that's a long time to have a hot oven. I should have mentioned in one of the previous steps to preheat your oven, but I didn't. If you have not yet preheated your oven to 350 degrees, do so now. If this causes an uncomfortable delay in dinner, just challenge your guest to a game of SkipBo. This will distract him or her until the food is ready and you will gain further insight on whether or not you'll be serving something straight from a box next time.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbly.
Serve to your potential mate and enjoy wedded bliss. Sometimes. Probably you'll need more than lasagna but a good lasagna doesn't hurt in my experience.
*Results not guaranteed.