Thursday, February 26, 2015

Easy Lasagna

 © Donna Cook – All Rights Reserved  

I love lasagna, just like Garfield the Cat. I also have the same credentials for making authentic lasagna-none. I’ve put this recipe together by trial and error. I hate dry lasagna that has only just a little bit of sauce and cheese, so this recipe probably has more of both than other recipes.

Use a deep, oversized lasagna pan, whether metal, ceramic or disposable. A 13 x 9 x 2 inch cake pan is too shallow. I could only get 2 of 3 layers into one. The pan in the photograph below has a four quart capacity and the interior dimensions are 12 x 8 x 2 1/2 inches. 

I have tried and failed for 40 years to make a good pasta/spaghetti sauce. I have finally given up and use a bottled sauce that I’ve doctored up to my own taste. The pasta/spaghetti sauce recipe follows the lasagna recipe.

The lasagna baking dish will be very heavy, handle carefully with both hands using oven mitts. If using a disposable aluminum pan, place on a cookie sheet for easier handling. A disposable aluminum pan is great for a potluck, freezing the entire batch, or bringing a gift to a new mother/sick friend. It’s easy to freeze the entire batch or individual servings. That is, if you’re family doesn’t eat it all in one sitting!

  • 5-6 cups of your favorite pasta/spaghetti sauce, with or without meat for vegetarian lasagna
  • 12 lasagna noodles, cooked according to package instructions
  • 32 oz. regular or low fat ricotta cheese
  • Optional 1-3 tablespoons of dried parsley or 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella, regular or low fat
  • Optional 1 cup Parmesan 
  • Total time:                    2-2 1/2 hours
    • Preparation time: 1 hour
    • Cook time:           1 hour
  • Servings:                     12


1.    Prepare your favorite pasta/spaghetti sauce.
2.    Cook 12 lasagna noodles according to package instructions.
3.    Combine parsley with ricotta cheese.
4.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5.    Coat lasagna pan lightly with oil, preferably olive oil.
6.    Layer lasagna, ricotta and mozzarella cheese evenly as follows. There will be four layers of pasta, five layers of pasta sauce, three layers of ricotta, and four layers of mozzarella. Here is the layering order:
a.    1 cup of pasta/spaghetti sauce
b.    3 lasagna noodles
c.    1/3 of ricotta mixture
d.    1 cup of mozzarella cheese
e.    1 cup of pasta/spaghetti sauce
f.     3 lasagna noodles
g.    1/3 of ricotta mixture
h.    1 cup of mozzarella cheese
i.      1 cup of pasta/spaghetti sauce
j.      3 lasagna noodles
k.    1/3 of ricotta mixture
l.      1 cup of mozzarella cheese
m.  1 cup of pasta/spaghetti sauce
n.    3 lasagna noodles
o.    1 cup of pasta/spaghetti sauce
7.    Cover pan with aluminum foil. I like to use extra wide for better coverage.
8.    Bake covered at 350 degrees from 20 minutes.
9.    Remove from oven and remove aluminum foil.
10. Top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.
11. Return to oven and bake 25-30 minutes or until cheese is browned.
a.    If desired, remove from oven at 20-25 minutes and cover with 1 cup Parmesan cheese.
b.    Return to oven and bake 5-10 minutes until Parmesan cheese is melted.
12. Remove from oven. Let sit 5-10 minutes otherwise the lasagna will be runny.

Photo Credit: © Donna Cook – All Rights Reserved

Donna’s Doctored Pasta/Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 - 24 oz. jar of your favorite pasta/spaghetti sauce
  • 1 - 16 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/8 to ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped
  • 2-4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 lb. ground beef or uncooked Italian sausage
  • If using ground beef, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • If using ground beef, 1 teaspoon salt
  • If using ground beef, ½ pepper, preferably fresh ground
  • If using ground beef, 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • If using ground beef, 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • Total time 2-2 1/2 hours
    • Preparation time 15 minutes
    • Cook time           1 hour at least
  • Servings – 5-6 cups sauce

1.    Heat olive oil in pot sufficient to hold all ingredients.
2.    Saute onions and garlic.
3.    If using fresh Italian sausage or ground beef, crumble and sauté with onions and garlic.
4.    If using ground beef, add salt, pepper, and fennel seeds while sautéing to release flavor.
5.    Add tomato bits, basil, and oregano.
6.    Simmer on low until flavors blend, at least one hour. I usually let it cook for 2-3 hours.

I like to serve this on medium pasta shells to get maximum sauce in each bite!

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