Wednesday, October 9, 2013

DIY: The Most Delicious Quickie Lasagna

The other night my kids had an activity early-ish in the evening and I wanted to make them something to eat for dinner that didn’t require me to use the telephone and did not involve breaded coating, my goodness WHY do these kids have an activity every single night?  Don’t the people who run these things know that evenings are reserved for families!?!?  Never mind that I signed them up for these activities, and also volunteered to help out.  Okay.

The kids would be home by 4 and I wanted to eat at 5, so I reached for my tried and true lasagna recipe, the one that I raised my husband on. 

What?  You say?  Lasagna for dinner?  On a weeknight?  All the trouble!  The mess!  The boiling!  The sauce!  It’s MADNESS!!!  And to that I say, pipe down, Edith.  You too can make quickie lasagna and still get your kids to church on time.  Or band practice.

First, throw away your romantic dreams of cooking this dish under the Tuscan sun and luring beautiful Italian men into your sensual clutches.  This lasagna is amazing, but it might make any Italian food purist weep.  The ingredients I use here are not fresh, or from scratch, and the assembly procedure is a little unconventional of Nonni’s lasagna recipe.  But the recipe was passed to me from my mother, so it’s got history, and it is ho-made, because I made it and you can, too.

So get your stuff ready, and let’s make some Quickie Lasagna, girl.  The kids are on their way.

Ingredients:

(All measurements are eyeballed and approximated.  Stay calm; this is lasagna, not soufflĂ©.)

1 ½ pounds ground beef.  This is about a softball-sized hunk of raw meat.  Yeah, you can use turkey.  Go on, get weird.

3 c. cottage cheese, small curd.  My recipe says small curd.  I have used large curd, and nobody was the wiser.  I hate the word and the idea of curd, though, so I stick with small.

2 eggs, beaten.  Poor, abused eggs.

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese.  Just use plain old grocery store, in-the-bag mozzarella cheese.  I cannot guarantee the results if you use fresh mozz.  Why don’t you join me in the middle class while you’re at it, fancypants?

½ c. Parmesan cheese.  Again, I use the kind in the green cylinder.  You can use fresh here if you want.  But look – grinding up cheese is not really what quickie lasagna is all about.  I can’t make you love me.

Oven-ready lasagna noodles.  That means no cooking beforehand.  You could try regular noodles and not boil them ahead of time, like I claim to have done but I’m not sure that I did.  Better be safe and use the ready-to-go ones, especially if you don’t have a back-up plan for dinner.  I don’t even know what would happen if the noodles wouldn’t cook.  It sounds like it might be chewy, which might be awesome.

This, my friends, is the name of the game.

Spaghetti sauce.  This is the part where you can get fancy and use the sauce that you made at the end of the summer from your bumper crop of tomatoes.  That’s what I use.  OMG hahaha, totally joking.  I use any of a variety of canned and jarred sauces.  Sometimes I mix several half-full jars of sauce together. My taste combinations have proven legendary among those who have eaten this dish.  Even among Italians.

2 T. parsley flakes.  You can use fresh here.  Parsley is my absolute favorite, and I put it in everything.  I use fresh parsley in this recipe sometimes to torture my kids because they hate its strong smell and taste.  I did not choose to torture them on this go ‘round.  Amazingly, you don’t even notice the difference once the lasagna is cooked, which begs the question: why are you using fresh anyway?

Salt and pepper.  I do use sea salt and fresh ground pepper here, okay?  Do me a solid and pick me up an application to the country club on your way to your Botox appointment.

Got all your ingredients?  Okay!  Let’s start cooking.

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  I always forget that step, then when I’m all ready to go the oven isn’t, and I punch myself in the face because now I have to wait and how could I be so stupid AGAIN?

Brown your beef in a pan.  Drain the fat.  Return to the stove and stir in the spaghetti sauce and simmer that up until it is hot, like ten minutes.  Put the lid on!  PUT THE LID ON!  Make sure you wear the apron that your husband weirdly brought you home from one of his work trips, because you know that because you are cooking something with grease and red sauce that you will be wearing a white shirt.  Why does this always happen to me?  A psychiatrist would tell me that I have issues with self-sabotage.  She would be correct. 

Meat sauce, waiting to splash all over my shirt.

Mix the cheeses, the eggs, the parsley, and some salt and pepper together in a large bowl.  Yes.  I said the cheeses.  I mix the cottage, parm, AND mozz all together.  Makes layering easy.  If you cringe at the thought of not having a mozz-only layer, keep that one separate when you mix.  Just know that I am judging you.

Without mozzarella. 
With mozzarella: the way nature intended.

When your sauce is heated up and the cheeses are all mixed together, get out your lasagna pan (or any old 13 x 9 baking pan will do) and do this little trick:  pour a tablespoon or two of sauce in the pan and spread it around so the bottom of the pan is coated with a thin layer of sauce.  I do it for no good reason other than I feel like the noodles will stick to the bottom if I don’t.  I don’t actually know if they would or not because I am not a risk-taker like that.

The secret to this lasagna may or may not be this step.
I don't really know.

Now comes the fun part, if fun to you is making layers out of sauce, noodles, and cheese.  Whatever.  I don’t judge.  I know I said before that I do.  Don’t judge me.

Your layering goes like this: Noodles. Cheese mixture. Mozzarella (if you kept it separate). Meat sauce. Repeat forever and ever or until you run out of ingredients.  The sauce should be your last (top) layer.  This recipe is good for two layers of noodles/cheese/sauce.  You could do more if you like to spread things around, but I make it easy on myself and only do two layers because the name of this recipe is Quickie Lasagna, not Labor Intensive Lasagna.

I like to include a wide shot so
you get the full effect of my cooking genius.

Cheeses layer.  It goes over the noodles!

Sauce and noodle layer.  They go over the cheeses!
This is so exciting.
Ready to go in the oven.  It already looks delizioso.
That's Italian for delicious.  Yes.  I speak Italian.

I started this particular lasagna at 3:17 and the time was 3:38 when I put the pan in the oven.  It takes about an hour to cook, and give that baby time to rest before you eat, I’d say another ten-to-fifteen.  It’s done when it looks a little bubbly and the edges are brown.  Take the time to clean up your pots and pans, honey, because you just earned yourself an hour to do whatever you want, whether you pour yourself a bottle of wine or write a hilarious blog post that will win some sort of awesome blogging award.  Or probably not.  Most likely not.

Guess what time we ate this the other night.  GUESS.  Five-oh-two, suckers.  We had
lasagna piping hot from the oven and fresh bread and butter ready to go on an early Tuesday evening.  BOOM.  I had salad ready too but on this particular evening I didn’t feel like hearing whining and gnashing of teeth from the kids about eating salad, so I left it in the fridge.  Little compromises.

And maybe you’re thinking to yourself, hey man, what’s so quick about this dish?  It took you an hour and a half from beginning to end.  And to that I say, look lady, I can’t help it if you don’t like to wait for things to cook.  This thing only took twenty minutes to throw together.  And this is what you’re eating:

My goodness, that is beautiful.

And if you don’t think that’s worth it on a Tuesday night when you have to be out the door at 5:45, then I can’t help you anymore.

42 comments:

  1. Your blog made me laugh as usual, and I will have to try this some time. I love dishes that you can make, put in the oven, and then clean up round #1 before your family eats and you have to clean up round #2. But alas, I have just started a diet that requires me to not eat anything that's....well...good. :-/

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    1. Becky: Yes! That's what I like, too. I love the way you've worded it: rounds #1 and #2.

      Good luck on your diet. Lasagna will always be there when you're ready for something good to eat.

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  2. I've never made lasagna with those no-boil noodles before. I've always been afraid the packaging was lying to me, and I'd do all the assembly and bake it, and it would come out with the noodles still hard as a rock. Then again, I guess those noodles wouldn't still be on the market if they didn't work. I need to quit over thinking things!

    Judge me as you must, but I am a golden brown, bubbly cheese on top type of person. There you go - I admit it. But I do still combine some mozz in with the cottage cheese and parm mixture because I want stringy goodness all throughout.

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    1. I've used the no-cook ones and they totally do work. I've also done the real noodle-no boil method. Also works - although best if you put the whole darn assembled thing in the fridge overnight and then bake the next day.

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  3. I love your recipes. Totally trying this. One of the reasons I never make lasagna is the time involved. Never mind that I'm home most days with 0-1 children and could easily do it. I'm still taking this easy route.

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    1. I've never made lasagna any other way than this. I don't even know how you could make it more complicated other than pre-boiling your noodles. And I'm totally with you for staying away from difficult dishes - my family has no idea if I spent 5 minutes on a meal or 5 hours. Why waste any more time than I have to?

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  4. This is hilarious. And delicious-looking. Pinned, yo.

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    1. Yay!! I'm a Pinterest queen! :) Let me know how it turns out.

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  5. Can you please be a food blogger on the side? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.
    I've never made lasagna before because I just KNOW I will mess up the layering. Because, reasons. But anything with the word 'quickie' in front, I'm game.

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    1. You can do this! There are only three layers. And honestly once you bake it, everything mushes together anyway, so no one is the wiser. ;)

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  6. I love your recipes. Good food and lots of laughs. What more could someone ask for.

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    1. Thank you Jennifer! Now if I could get my photos to look as good as yours, I'd be all set. :)

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  7. This is awesome! New fan here. I love lasagna and this is perfect.

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    1. Great! :) So glad to have you here! I hope you have the chance to try it out!

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  8. This whole dang post is delicious.

    p.s. When is chewy not awesome?

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  9. Yum! This is one of my all time faves, minus the parsley! This post made me laugh, and made me hungry as I sit here eating a Lean Cuisine for Lunch.

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    1. Ooof. Does Lean Cuisine make lasagna? So happy to make you laugh! :)

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  10. Some of the best things are ho-made. Wait, oh, did I...never mind.

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  11. You are truly hysterical and since i'm a busy mom I might actually try this instead of Top Ramen on youth group nights :)

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    1. OMG - that's EXACTLY when I made this dish! Youth Group night. :)

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  12. This totally cracked me up. I use the non boil noodles as well and, in a pinch, I've used the regular noodles but haven't boiled them. So far, nothing has been chewy in a bad way. BUT from now on, I'm going to mix All The Cheeses because THAT is genius.

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    1. Who would have thought that mixing cheeses was that big a deal? But it is. Oh, it is. :) I think I'm gonna use regular noodles next time just because.

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  13. Recipes are usually boring except for up in here, yo! You crack me up. P.S. Did you save me some??

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    1. I did! We froze about half of it because lasagna is one of those things that makes a ton of leftovers. If you come visit, I will make a fresh one, though. :)

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  14. Andrea, this looks pretty legit to me and I'm one of those "real" Italians. My lovely Grandmother, by the way, and my lovely Mother and my lovely self all use the sauce first method. It's what you do. It's about not sticking and not drying out the pasta. We do that for stuffed shells, too. Mmmmm.

    I'm with Tammy, though, on the final layer - has to be cheese. Always more cheese.

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    1. Can I tell you that the next week I made frozen stuffed shells and one of the instructions was to spread a layer of sauce on the bottom of the pan first? I was so excited about that. I guess because it proves to me that I am a real cook, not just some hack. Who serves frozen stuffed shells.

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  15. I love this post and I am totally making this lasagna. Thanks for the laugh and the recipe! :-)

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    1. You're welcome! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! And laughing always helps while you cook. I know. I crack myself up all the time.

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  16. And now I totally want lasagna.
    Also? You write awesome recipe - er, DIY - posts. :)

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    1. HA! Thanks Kim! I consider all cooking as DIY.

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  17. Yum! I love lasagna and this looks easy enough for me, who sucks in the kitchen!!

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    1. Anyone can make this. Anyone. I once had my son do it from start to finish. He was ten at the time.

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  18. OMG can I say I LOVE YOU?!!!
    I've been missing a good ole' homemade lasagna lately and I'm so gonna copy this one ASAP, I'm no fancypants but I love you hahaha.

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    1. Oh, good! I'm no fancypants either, so you should succeed with this recipe and amaze your loved ones. :)

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  19. I had heard this post was genius, and I wasn't disappointed. I was, however, disappointed in the fact that I have NOT had lasagna in about a year and a half. I'm going to rememdy that and we're having lasagna with gf noodles for Thanksgiving. TAKE THAT. (Also, I've never seen anyone else make it with cottage cheese except my mom. But the mixing of cheeses? Brilliant.)

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    1. I love having non-traditional meals for traditional holidays, like your lasagna for Thanksgiving. We sometimes do lasagna for Christmas dinner, and no one has ever complained. Let me know how it works out for you! Thank goodness for gf noodles!

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  20. THANK YOU!! I have all the fixings and was wondering if i could pull it off. I love your style of writing!!! You made me laugh because you remind me of me! Don't judge me !!!

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  21. Madam...
    I am an older male, and I was interested in making some lasagana.
    I found your recipe. You are hereby instructed to go grab your husband by the ear and tell him he's the luckiest sumbitch in the world. I have not stopped laughing...your writing is truly delightful, hilarious and doth indeed, dear lady, lift the spirit.
    To have a bright sprite like you in one's life must be reckoned as a gift of great price, for you ripple with mirth as does a clear brook in the Spring.
    I must find your other scribblings, for in them is the laughter that cures, the humor that invites one into your private world of giggles and rollicking unexpected guffaws.
    You wield the power to bring the much sought muse of relief that walks hand-in-hand with deep need, to all who fall 'neath your spell.
    Upon this tiny speck of space dust, you are unique...thus it behooves us all to murmur a soft "Thank you;" for you, dear lady, and for the great creative force that fashioned you.
    With respect and affection,
    Bob M.

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