A few months ago I gave some great friends of ours my lasagna recipe for a gathering at their home, which we would be attending. They had not made lasagna before but needed a recipe for a full tray for about 40 people. I dictated my recipe to them, I have hundreds of recipes floating around in my head but have only written some of them down. The fellowship and dinner were great, but during that evening another friend wanted the recipe. I told him I would write it down for him and email it to him.
I did write it down for him, it just happened to be during one of those days, you know the type, it’s the type of day that can’t end soon enough, well anyway here it is I am going to share it with you.
This recipe will make a full tray and can easily feed 30 to 40 people, but if you don’t read the recipe in its entirety first it will most likely be bad and no one will eat it.
First you will need 3 boxes of lasagna noodles (2 is enough but some break and I always like to have extra.) Do not buy no cook lasagna noodles this is a much larger offense than fake truffle oil. If you buy no cook lasagna noodles I will hunt you down and console your guests. The box will say 8-10 minutes I always under cook them by a couple of minutes. Cook these after the sauce is ready and the meat is cooked so they don’t sit too long. After they have been drained place them in a bowl or throw them in the bowl it depends on your mood I suppose. Mix with a bit of olive oil to keep them from sticking. (The type of olive oil is of no concern as long as it is oily)
If you are using jarred sauce you will need 4-5 jars (And shame on you if you use jarred sauce) you will also need 3 cans of tomato paste (this helps in keeping the lasagna together)
A minimum of 3lbs Mozzarella (you will need to divide it up for 3 layers of lasagna and the top if you get that high)
2 large containers of Ricotta cheese (use your hands to spread it out, it’s fun and if no one is looking you can lick your fingers when done)
If you are planning on using meat 3lbs should do it, nothing wrong with a bit more but 3 minimum. (I prefer sausage and beef but turkey is fine as well if you’re a pansy) Cook the meat in advance, drain the juice off or add it to your sauce but make sure you have time to cook your tomato sauce down you don’t want watery tomato sauce.
Other ingredients are entirely up to you. I like mushrooms not everyone does. If you do add other ingredients like mushrooms or garden vegetables cook them in advance and I would add them to your sauce. That is if you are actually making your own tomato sauce, I truly hope you have a recipe for your own sauce, if you don’t, I really don’t want to know unless you would like one. In that case first apologize for this offense and I will send you one.
Warning: Do not add parmesan cheese, if someone wants to add it after it has been cooked that is up to the individual. If you want to add parmesan cheese you might as well make stuffed shells because those three cheeses GO IN STUFFED SHELLS and this is a lasagna recipe. Okay that is all I have to say about that.
Start with the sauce, if you are making your own sauce I salute you, my hat is off to you, you are a fine person in my book. If you are using jarred sauce I will deal with my own feelings and we don’t need to discuss it any further. In either case of sauce being homemade (yeah you are a fine human being) or jarred (I will hold my tongue) you will need to add the tomato paste, this will thicken your sauce to hold the lasagna together for better plating and presentation and it also helps prevent watery sauce. If by unholy chance you are using a jarred sauce please add some seasonings like parsley, basil, just a bit of oregano (too much will make it bitter), rosemary, thyme, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. And of course any other herbs you fancy, I like red pepper flake. Fresh herbs are always nice but dried will suffice for a tomato sauce. If the sauce is bitter you can add a few spoons of sugar and a table spoon of baking soda. If you make it from scratch this would most likely not be an issue.
This is the preparation for the tomato paste before you add it to your sauce, see if you didn’t read the whole recipe you would have screwed up big time.
Dice an onion or two and a couple of peppers (I don’t care about what color pepper, it’s up to you. Oh so you can’t think for yourself then use a sweet pepper) In a heavy skillet or cast iron skillet heat some olive oil, fine you want specifics a ¼ cup. Add the tomato paste, remove it from the can first. Sauté the tomato paste for a minimum of 30 minutes, you will be caramelizing the tomato paste. After the first 10 minutes add the diced onion and diced peppers and continue to sauté. Add additional olive oil or you can also add some wine if you have some (Red or White, which is better flip a coin) do this when the tomato paste looks like it needs liquid, you could also use broth (Chicken or Beef this also doesn’t matter, are you starting to see the pattern yet) If you want to caramelize the tomato paste longer than 30 minutes please feel free to do so don’t let me hold you back. If it was I who was sautéing the tomato paste I would do it for at least 45 minutes but that’s me, you go ahead and do whatever you want. When you have finished this process, add the tomato paste to your sauce and stir it in completely and remove from the heat. (turn the stove off and remove the pot from the source of heat.). Taste it, make sure you like the flavor. Always taste your food, but for the sake of your guests use a clean spoon each time.
Add a layer of sauce to the lasagna pan then a layer of noodles, I like to go left to right with the noodles on the short side of the pan but feel free to do as you like it’s your world and I am just happy to be living in it. Then add a layer of meat, a layer of ricotta cheese (salt and pepper the ricotta cheese) then a layer of mozzarella cheese and then a layer of tomato sauce, repeat this process until you reach the top of the pan. Once you are at the top cover the top layer of noodles with sauce but not cheese. Cook uncovered for 70 minutes at 350 degrees then remove and add the top layer of mozzarella cheese and cook for 20 minutes more.
Hint: If you are cooking the lasagna the night before, yes it’s true pasta does taste better the next day. Cook the lasagna for the whole 90 minutes without the top layer of cheese add the cheese the next day when warming up the lasagna.
Cook at 350 for 60 minutes uncovered without cheese to warm the lasagna up then top with cheese and remove when it has melted to perfection.
Lastly this is very important if the lasagna goes over incredible well tell everyone it’s my recipe. If it doesn’t come out well don’t mention my name.