My recipe for “free-form” lasagna is based on Rachael Ray’s “lazy lasagna.” Lexi loves Rachael’s shows, and I happened to catch part of the one where she made this. I remember thinking at the time that I wanted to try this since you don’t have to go through as much prep work as you do for a more traditional lasagna.
There are a couple of major differences between Rachel’s recipe and mine. I add quite a bit more cheese than she does. No offense, Rach, but for me that’s what lasagna is all about – the cheese. Also, I do not follow the directions for her sauce and instead make my own. I suggest you do the same if you have a sauce that you love. My sauce does take a while to prepare, and I like to make it at least a day before so the flavors can intensify.
- 1 lb. lean ground sirloin (90/10)
- ½ lb. sweet Italian sausage, ground
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- ¾ cup celery, chopped
- ½ cup carrots, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, diced into small pieces
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
- 28 oz. can tomato sauce
- ½ cup good red wine (don’t cook with anything you would not drink!)
- 2 tablespoons dry Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon ground thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon sugar (to balance the acidity of the tomatoes)
- Garlic salt, to taste
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Worstershire sauce, to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic, and sauté until the onions start to become translucent (a few minutes or so.)
Add the ground sirloin to the pan and follow with the garlic salt, pepper and several dashes of worstershire sauce. Stir until the meat has browned. Pour the mixture into a colander and drain well.
In the same skillet, add the sweet Italian sausage and cook until brown. Make sure you break up the meat into small bite-sized pieces as you cook it. Drain well once it’s ready.
While the meats are cooking, start making the sauce. In a large pot add the plum tomatoes with the juice and break up the tomatoes some with a fork. Add the tomato sauce, red wine, Italian seasoning, thyme, bay leaves and sugar and stir.
Add the meat to the sauce, mix together well and taste to see if you need to add any more seasonings. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. (*Note: As mentioned earlier, I usually make the sauce the day before, and simmer it for several hours. It just seems to taste better the next day.)
Ingredients for the lasagna
- 7 cups spaghetti sauce (from the recipe above, or else use your own sauce of choice)
- 1 lb. lasagna noodles, broken into irregular pieces (usually 4-5 breaks per noodle)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- ¾ cup ricotta cheese
- 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese, finely shredded
- ¾ cup parmesan/reggiano
- Freshly ground nutmeg (I do about 10-12 fast grates on the microplane)
- Salt and ground pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you made the spaghetti sauce a day or so ahead, remove it from the refrigerator and let it come up to room temperature. Add the broken lasagna to boiling, salted water and cook for 5 minutes. Drain.
In the meantime, melt the butter in a saucepan and slowly add the flour. Mix until smooth, and add the milk, a little bit at a time, constantly stirring until it thickens. Blend in ¼ cup of the parmesan/reggiano. Season with the fresh nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Mix the pasta with the sauce, and add half of it to a greased 9” x 13” casserole dish. Dollop 12 tablespoons or so of the ricotta cheese on the pasta and sauce mixture and then top with the shredded mozzarella.
Add the rest of the noodles and sauce. Top with the white sauce, and then sprinkle on the rest of the parmesan/reggiano.
I bake this for 25-30 minutes, and then broil it on high for approximately 5 minutes until the top is brown and bubbly. Pair with a tossed salad, some garlic toast and a glass of good red wine.
Brad does not share my undying love for lasagna, but he’s not a hater either – he is probably more middle of the road. Not only did he go back for seconds, he happily ate this a few more times during the week!
Eat, drink and be merry!