Hi everyone, Nelson here today. Yesterday we had the pleasure of hosting some friends that we’ve mentioned in the past. This is an Italian family that we’ve known for years. Our oldest boys went to school together starting in grade one and we just connected.
This family always shares wonderful treats with us, like homemade canned tomatoes, home roasted espresso right from their family’s village in Italy, delicious desserts, and the list goes on.
I still had some of their home-canned tomatoes, so I decided to make Lasagna for dinner. Yes… I know it’s a risk to make Italian food for Italians when you’re not Italian, but I believe that by using quality ingredients and taking the time to do things right, it’s not difficult to create a great dish.
I have a lot of respect for Italian cuisine, so I never mess around with ingredients or process when cooking Italian. I started off with quality Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano and Ricotta from Grande Cheese, a local cheese shop. Then I picked up fresh ground beef and Italian sausage from our favourite butcher Micatoni’s. The pasta sheets were De Secco, a premium imported brand… and of course the tomatoes, the extra special touch from our friends. The sugo (tomato sauce), was made earlier in the day. You can use our Nonna-Approved Tomato Sauce, another favourite recipe, or if you don’t want to make your own sauce, you can even use a premium jarred sauce (preferably from a farmer’s market).
Lasagne is not a quick weeknight meal (and if anyone tells you it is, I’m pretty sure it won’t taste nearly as good as this one). But, if you’ve got some time, this dish is so worth it. Our friends gave it their thumbs up, and knowing how well they cook Italian food, this was the ultimate compliment for me.
As nonna would do…add a touch of love to your food and you can’t go wrong. Invite over some friends, enjoy a glass of wine and share a beautiful meal. Eat well, friends.
- 1½ lbs lean ground beef
- 1 lbs italian sausage, casing removed (you can do this yourself)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ medium cooking onion, diced
- 1 tsp + 1 tsp course sea salt
- 1 tsp + ½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- 35 oz or 992 g ricotta cheese
- 2 large eggs
- ⅓ cup (packed) fresh parsley, chopped
- 1¾ lbs or .8 kg mozzarella, freshly grated
- ¾ cups Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
- 17. 6 oz or 500 g high quality wide dry lasagna sheets (we used De Cecco brand imported from Italy)
- 10 cups quality tomato sauce (Make our Nonna-approved version, use a favourite recipe or buy a quality brand)
- In a large pot, heat your tomato sauce almost to a boiling point and turn off the burner.
- Place a large pan on the stove.
- Add Olive oil and heat for about 2 minutes on medium high.
- Add diced onions and sauté for one minute.
- Add garlic and keep sautéing for one minute or until the onions are translucent.
- Break apart the ground beef and sausage over the onions and garlic.
- Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper, and mix well.
- Cook the meat completely, about 10 minutes.
- Add 5 cups of sauce to the meat and mix well.
- Cook meat sauce for 45 minutes.
- Set the meat aside to cool a little.
- Preheat oven to 375 ºF
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- Add 1 tsp of salt to the water.
- Carefully place the dry pasta sheets in the water and let them boil for 8 minutes.
- Pour the water and pasta sheets into a colander and rinse with cold water.
- Separate the sheets and place them on towels to dry. Pat the top down with paper towels.
- In a medium bowl, add the ricotta cheese, eggs, parsley and ½ tsp of black pepper.
- Whip the ricotta cheese mixture with a wooden spoon or a whisk.
- You are now ready to build your lasagna.
- Prepare a large 6 quart baking dish or baking pan.
- Add the ingredients in the following order (feel free to change the order if you prefer).
- Layer set 1: Tomato sauce, pasta sheets, ricotta mixture, meat sauce, mozzarella, grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Layer set 2: Pasta sheets, ricotta mixture, meat sauce, mozzarella, grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Layer set 3: Pasta sheets, tomato sauce, mozzarella, grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
- Lightly spray aluminum foil sheets with cooking spray and cover your baking dish.
- Bake 35 minutes covered.
- Uncover and bake 20 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cover with aluminum foil.
- Let stand for 20 minutes before serving.
- You can also use fresh pasta sheets. These are a great addition.
- Lasagna has traditionally been labour of love. You can obviously cut back on some steps and even the quality of your ingredients. If you have the time and can splurge a little extra for quality, I encourage you to put in the little extra. Get the meats from your local butcher instead of the overly commercial grocery store. Get the imported pasta or even fresh pasta. Make your sauce or buy premium from a farmer's market. Shred your own cheese or buy it at a cheese market. These are all small steps that will elevate your lasagna to another level!