The Best Lasagna A lot of people think Italian food is easy to make – just throw your favorite ingredients in a pot, cook, and serve. Well, I wish that were the case, but unfortunately there is much more preparation, thought, precision, and timing involved. On the whole, though, Italian food is more difficult to “mess up” than most other foods, and one of the easiest dishes is Lasagna. So give this one a shot and let me know how it turns out!
Ingredients: As always, the quality of the ingredients makes a huge flavor difference, so choose wisely! Organic is always good.
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 6 crushed/minced Garlic Cloves
- 1/2 pound lean Ground Beef
- 2 sliced Bell Peppers
- 1 minced Onion
- 2 (32 oz) cans of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Tomatoes
- 1 container lowfat Cottage Cheese
- 8 oz of Mozzarella
- 5 – 7 leaves of bruised and chopped Basil
- 1 sprig of bruised and chopped Rosemary (and 1/8 teaspoon Cayenne if you like a little kick!)
- 1/4 Cup of Red Wine (or Balsamic Vinegar)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Optional – cherry tomatoes, 1/4 cup of Sugar, meatballs, spinach, eggplant, bacon, prosciutto, mushrooms, kitchen sink….
Step 1: Grab a big pan, put the heat on medium/high, and add the Olive Oil. Let it heat up for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant – about 1 minute. Add chopped Bell Peppers and minced Onions, and saute until Onions are translucent and Bell Peppers are slightly browned (2-3 minutes), stirring frequently. Take off the heat and put in a bowl.
Step 2: As this is cooking, prepare your lasagna pan. If you have Non-Bake Lasagna noodles, great! Just line the pan with them. If not, prepare while your sauce is cooking (next step). Just boil in water until al dente, about 10 – 13 minutes. Then drain, and line the pan with the noodles. Completely cover the bottom of the pan. I like to line the sides as well, because it makes for easier cleanup after your done with the pan. Add and spread the cottage cheese to cover the noodles in a thin, even layer. Leave until the sauce is finished. So why Cottage Cheese and not Ricotta like most authentic recipes? Cottage cheese is superior for several reasons – it is cheaper, is is not as “grainy” tasting, it is lower in fat (for the most part), and it tastes better to me. But that’s just me. Step 3: Sauce. Your sauce is the key ingredient for most Italian dishes and can completely change the meal. Good sauce can make the most overcooked pasta and beef tasty, and vice versa, so you will want to get it right. The key ingredient to the sauce is the beef, so get quality, lean, organic beef. It is the best for your health and for the taste buds. It will also produce less grease and fat, so it’s a win/win. Use the now empty pan and keep the heat on medium/high. Add the beef and stir frequently until browned, about 5 minutes. Pour off any excess fat/grease. Pour in the Red Wine (or Balsamic Vinegar) and the tomatoes with the juice, and crush to texture with a wooden spoon. Add any optional ingredient and cook appropriately, then add the herbs. Why bruise herbs?
Add Salt and Pepper to taste. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Taste along the way to make sure you are on the right track.
Step 4: Once your sauce is done, spoon it onto the pasta and cottage cheese. Put an even layer, about 1/4 of your entire sauce (if you are doing 3 layers of pasta).
Then add your shredded Mozzarella. Getting the good stuff makes a big difference here, so rather than buying it pre-shredded, try it whole and shred it yourself. Once finished, add another layer of pasta, then cottage cheese, then sauce, then mozzarella. Repeat until ingredients are gone and you are left with a layer of sauce and mozzarella on top. Finally, put a sheet of aluminum foil on top and bake at 350 for 45 minutes, taking the foil off at the 30 minute mark. Keep an eye on the lasagna so you brown the cheese on top but don’t burn it! Take out of the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes to settle and redistribute juices and flavors. Cut and serve.