The summer before my first year of college I worked at a little Italian bistro in Lexington called the Bistro on Main. The cook was an old school American-Italian woman (think Tony's Aunt on Who's the Boss) that had really great recipes. One of her specialties was her lasagna. It seemed like it took days - a huge process. She started by making a huge batch of meatballs, then she crumbled those in between the layers of pasta and cheese, then she served it topped with a ladle of red sauce. I loved the texture and the flavor that the meatball mixture gave to the lasagna.
I created this lasagna recipe with that idea in mind, but fewer steps. It is more or less a basic lasagna recipe, but I added bread crumbs to the meat mixture, along with tomato paste to achieve a sturdy (not sure if that is the correct way to describe...?) meat mixture - similar to a meatball. If you have extra energy (or some red sauce stock piled in the freezer) by all means, serve a ladle of red sauce over the top.
This is Mike's new favorite - I've been stocking our freezer, making extra batches of dinner each night. I need some more inspiration for freezer meals as we approach the busy Valentine's season for the store... ideas please!
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2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup white onion, minced
3 pounds of ground beef
6 cloves of garlic
1 - 16 oz. can of tomato paste
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dried italian herbs
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup of fresh bread crumbs
2 - 8 ounce blocks of mozzarella
20 ounces of cottage cheese
1/2 cup of grated parmesan (or grana padano)
one box of lasagna noodles
Begin by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil.
To make the meat mixture, in a large saute pan, cook onions in olive oil for 3-4 minutes, until soft. Add beef and cook until browned. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add seasoning and spices - stir to combine. Add tomato paste, stirring well to combine. Add a touch of water to loosen, if necessary.
Make fresh breadcrumbs in the food processor - about 2-3 pieces. Add bread crumbs to the meat mixture. Remove from heat.
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook just short of directed time.
Next, make cheese mixture. Shred the mozzarella cheese. In a large mixing bowl, combine mozzarella, cottage cheese and parmesan.
Assemble the lasagna in a large baking dish. Start by putting a thin layer of the meat mixture on the bottom. Add a layer of noodles. Next, add 1/3 of the meat mixture, then 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Top with a layer of pasta, then repeat 2 more times, ending with a layer of cheese.
Bake at 350 for 45-1 hour, depending on size of pan. Remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes before cutting. Best if made the day before and reheated.