Jeanne Bice LOVED to cook – and guess what – so do I – especially at this time of the year when it starts turning cold outside. There is nothing better than having a yummy home cooked meal on a cool autumn night.
I think my favorite ‘comfort food’ has got to be lasagna. Growing up, I could always tell when summer was over and Christmas was around the corner when my beautiful mother would make a big pan of her delicious lasagna. I’m not sure if the recipe is originally hers, but to me, it will always be ‘my mama’s lasagna’! As the weather has started to really get cooler here in the United Kingdom, I thought it was time to dust off Mom’s recipe, fire up the oven, head to the grocery store – open the wine – and invite some friends over for a yummy meal – and I wanted to invite all of you as well for cooking with the duke of ducks!
Now, for any of you who have cooked your own lasagna before, you know there are a LOT of ingredients in it! And my mothers lasagna has a lot of cheese in it – which I LOVE – and it makes it a little more runny and gooey – can you say Quack-A-Licious?!?!
1-2 pounds ground hamburger meat (I actually use one pound of hamburger meat AND 1 pound of Italian sweet sausage – just to add some more taste to it!)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of Chopped Onions (optional – but SO good!)
2 4-oz cans tomato sauce
2 No. 2 Cans Italian Style tomatoes (the big cans!)
2 small cans tomato paste
3-4 teaspoons salt
¼ – ½ teaspoon of pepper
1-3 teaspoons oregano
1 or more packages of lasagna noodles (I used the new ones that you don’t have to boil ahead of time – and they REALLY work – give it a try!)
1 ½ pounds of Mozzarella cheese (I use the pre-sliced ones – it’s MUCH easier!)
1+ pounds of ricotta cheese (you can never have too much of this!)
1 – 2 cups grated Parmesan cheese (the more the merrier!)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (I cheat and buy it already grated)
Here’s a picture of the ingredients. You might not recognize the brand names in this picture since these are all English products – but feel free to get whatever brand of the ingredients you’re used to cooking with regularly.
I’ll be honest with you and tell you that I do NOT like to chop up onions by hand – it’s a lot of work – and my eyes start tearing up like a running faucet! J So I use a food processor to do the dirty work – and throw the onions – and the garlic – in the processor. It doesn’t get rid of the smell of onions – but a big glass of wine certainly helps!
After processing the onions and garlic, it really is all pretty easy! Brown the meat in a little olive oil with the garlic and onions in a big pot – then add tomato sauce, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, pepper & oregano.
Once it’s all stirred up, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes. And what the heck – have more wine!!!
Next is my favorite part – putting it all together! If you’re using the new style of noodles that you don’t have to pre-boil/cook, start with those – but make sure to put a little layer of sauce on the bottom of the Pyrex 12x8x2 dish first (or whatever branded pan you have) – these type of noodles need the moisture beneath them to fully cook. Arrange layers of noodles, then the slices of mozzarella cheese. On top of that, spoon on lots of creamy ricotta cheese. I use my clean hands to help spread the ricotta cheese as evenly as I can.
Next is the meat sauce layer – this is when it starts smelling SO yummy!
And then top the meat sauce layer off with some Parmesan and Sharp Cheddar Cheese.
And guess what?! Keep doing the same order of layering until you’re at the top of the dish. I always make sure I end with grated sharp Cheddar cheese. And in all honesty, I have a second, and smaller, Pyrex dish on hand – because I usually have too many ingredients for just one dish. You can cover the 2nd dish and freeze it for later use! Here’s what the dish looks like when it’s finished:
It then goes in a pre-heated 350-degree oven for 40 – 50 minutes. Just make sure it’s really heated through – and piping hot – before serving! And to make cleaning-up easier, I always line the floor of the oven with foil – because when this lasagna is baking, it has so much cheese in it that it tends to bubble over!
And of course the most fun part of cooking is when you get to eat your finished creation!!!
My good friends who joined me for dinner, had their adorable Boarder Terrier, Oscar, with them. He really wanted to try Mama Hoy’s lasagna!!!
Good luck with the recipe. I think that lasagna is even better the next day – so if you have any left over, pop it in the fridge if you’re going to eat the leftovers within two days – otherwise you can wrap it up and freeze it – and enjoy on those cold autumn nights!!
Quacker Hugs & Love From Across the Duck Pond!
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