Lasagna

This one takes a long time, but it’s worth it. The basic recipe makes a deep 9 x 12 pan full, modify it to make more. I like to make several smaller pans full and freeze most of them, since this is so much work. I also usually buy aluminum pans from the grocery store, because they’re deeper and then I don’t have to scrape baked-on cheese off my glass pans.

  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 chopped onion
  • either 2 cloves chopped garlic, or a heaping teaspoon of jar garlic
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 5 oz can tomato paste
  • 2 bay leaves, broken in half
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil leaves
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp dried parsley leaves
  • 1/8 tsp fennel seeds (about 10)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp black pepper, depending on taste
  • Salt to taste
  • A bag of sliced mushrooms, if you like them
  • 1 box wide lasagna noodles
  • 1 12oz bag fresh baby spinach
  • 32 oz small curd cottage cheese (lowfat is okay, don’t use nonfat)
  • 16 oz ball of mozzarella cheese (lowfat is okay, don’t use nonfat) in 1/8 inch slices
  • Grated parmesan cheese

So here’s how it goes, and you have to have all the separate pieces done before you put it together:

Make the sauce. Cook the onion, garlic and hamburger in a bit of olive oil, maybe 2 tsp. Add all three kinds of tomatoes, stir. Add the spices (and those are approximations, be creative with the spices!). Cook for an hour over low heat; it should simmer but not boil. Add the mushrooms, cook another hour to two hours.

Meanwhile, boil a big pot of water with a little olive oil in it. When it’s seriously boiling, add the whole box of lasagna noodles and stir til it comes back to a boil. Stir every minute or two so they don’t stick. Stop cooking them a bit on the hard side, just before ‘al dente’, because they’re going to get cooked more in the lasagna.

When the pasta is done, drain it and put it in a bowl; if it’s going ot be a while, put a cover over them to keep them moist.

When you’re ready to put the whole thing together (usually when the sauce is done, 2-3 hours along), set up a workspace. You need easy access to the sauce, the pasta, a bowl of spinach, the sliced mozzarella, the tub of cottage cheese, and the parmesan.

Just before you start putting it together, put the whole bag of spinach in a microwavable bowl and nuke it for two minutes on high.

Now you’re ready to put it all together! In your deep casserole dish(es), here’s the order:

  1. A small spoonful of sauce spread all over the bottom so the first layer of pasta doesn’t stick
  2. A layer of lasagna noodles; overlapping the edges a bit is okay, but it should just be one layer thick.
  3. A couple of spoonfuls of sauce, spread to cover the noodles
  4. Slices of mozzarella, maybe 3 slices torn in pieces scattered over a 9 x 13 inch pan; don’t worry about leaving space between, they’ll melt and there’ll be plenty of cheese.
  5. A couple of large spoonfuls of cottage cheese, spread around
  6. Sprinkle with parmesan. Maybe 1/8 cup?
  7. Another layer of noodles
  8. About half the spinach
  9. More mozzarella
  10. Repeat from step 2 until you run out of stuff. You have to kind of judge how much you have of each thing, how deep your pans are and how many pans you have. If possible, end up with the meat/3 cheeses step, so that the cheeses are on top to melt and bubble and brown.

This is the point where you can cover and freeze the lasagna, if you want. Or put it in the oven on a baking sheet at 350 for about an hour, til the edges are bubbling and the top is browned. If the top browns first, cover with aluminum foil. If the edges bubble, you can brown it with the broiler. Serve and enjoy.

Frozen lasagna- put it in the fridge for 12-24 hours to thaw, then cook as above. Cold lasagna might take an hour and a half to cook, depends on how thick it is and your oven.

You can make it vegetarian by taking out the meat, or adding tofu. You can add a layer of zucchini, slightly broiled on a cookie sheet after being brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper; don’t cook them too much or they’ll mush. Ditto slices of eggplant. You can pretty much do what you want with this- add stuff, subtract it, change up the spices, use ricotta instead of cottage cheese (I think it’s too sweet, but you might like it.) Have fun!

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Red and Black Soup

  • 3/4 lb sweet italian sausage, crumbled
  • one chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped OR two heaping teaspoons of jar garlic
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 14 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup orzo, cooked al dente

Cook onion and garlic, add sausage, cook til done.

Add the rest except the orzo (which you can cook concurrently) and simmer half an hour or so.

Drain the orzo (if you just made it) and add, cook five more minutes.

Patti LaBelle’s Macaroni and Cheese

You can’t make a small amount of this. I usually buy a large foil lasagna pan at the store and take it to a potluck.

  • 1 tbsp vegetable Oil
  • 1 lb macaroni
  • 8 tbsp butter
  • 1 (seperate) tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup muenster cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup mild cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 8 oz. Velveeta cheese, cubed
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350.
Lightly butter a 2 1/2 qt baking dish (or your foil pan)
Cook macaroni according to directions til it’s al dente – don’t overcook!
Melt 8 tbsp butter and stir it into warm macaroni
In a large bowl, combine all four shredded cheeses (NOT the Velveeta!)
Reserve 1/2 cup of the mixed shredded cheeses.
Mix the macaroni, the rest of the shredded cheeses, the Velveeta, the half-and-half, the salt and pepper, and the eggs, mix well.
Put it in your casserole dish/foil pan
Sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup cheese
Dot with the last tablespoon of butter
Bake 30-35 minutes or til the edges are golden brown and bubbly.

 

 

Spaghetti #2

This is the spaghetti my mom used to make, with some changes over the years.

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 chopped cloves fresh garlic or a heaping half teaspoon chopped/crushed garlic from a jar
  • 1 lb hamburger
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz can tomoto sauce
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 bag fresh sliced mushrooms
  • spices- these are approximate, put in what you like: 1/4 tsp fennel seeds; 1/2 tsp oregano, black pepper, salt; 1 tsp basil, parsley; 2 bay leaves, broken in half
  • Pasta. I usually use linguine or fettucine; I really hate spaghetti. Any pasta will do, choose your favorite.

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a big skillet, add onion and garlic and brown.
Add hamburger and brown.
If your skillet is not big enough for all the ingredients, once everything is brown transfer it to a cooking pot; make sure to scrape out all the delicious brown bits and add them.

Once you’ve got everything in the pot it’s going to cook in, open the whole tomatoes and add the juice to the pot; put in the sauce and paste, and stir.

Put the whole tomatoes from the can into a bowl and cut into 1/2 inch chunks, approximately, and add to pot.

Stir and add spices, let cook for an hour.

Add the chopped bell pepper, cook for an hour.

Add the mushrooms, taste and adjust spices. Cook it all for one more hour (more or less) and start making the pasta about half an hour before you want to serve the spaghetti.

 

Spaghetti #1

This is the quick version of spaghetti, takes about an hour on the stove (although a little more time makes it better) but in order to do that, you have to use a couple of shortcuts…

  • 2 bags Trader Joe’s Italian-flavor Frozen Beef Meatballs (no, really, they’re good for this, trust me)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Garlic (2-3 cloves fresh and chopped, a heaping half teaspoon of crushed or chopped in the jar)
  • 14 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • Small can tomato paste
  • 1 cup cheap chardonnay (or buy a 4 pack of godawful tiny bottles of Glen Ellen or Gallo, one of them is perfect and you don’t have to open/use a better wine.)
  • I bag sliced mushrooms
  • 1 6-8 oz can sliced black olives
  • Spices- this is totally up to you, and I make it up as I go along, so these measurements are not exact. 1/2 tsp oregano, black pepper, salt. 1 tsp basil, parsley. 1/4 tsp fennel seed (and don’t skip this one, fennel is awesome.) 2 bay leaves, broken in half and dropped in.
  • Some kind of pasta that you like. I hate spaghetti noodles, so I use penne or farfalle or linguine. Whatever.

In a big flat-bottomed pan, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil.
Brown onions and garlic.
Add meatballs and heat a bit.
Add tomatoes, sauce, paste and wine, stir up together.
Add spices and stir together.
Drain and add black olives, stir.
Let it cook half an hour or so, taste and adjust spices if needed.
Put water on to boil for as much of the pasta as you want to cook; I usually cook the whole pound and use it for another dish after the meatballs and sauce are gone.
When you put the water on to boil, add the mushrooms to the tomato sauce and meatballs, stir every ten minutes or so to cook the mushrooms evenly.
When the water boils, cook the pasta, drain and serve with delicious meatballs over it.

Fresh grated parmesan cheese is awesome over this.