Really Good Lasagna

Lasagna is one of my all time favorite dishes to make (and eat.) Perhaps that's because it's so easy but still impressive and tasty - just layer together almost any delicious ingredients with lots of sauce and cheese and you really can't go wrong!

I made a really good batch last night. I was having a friend over for dinner, and hoping to have the whole thing in the oven by the time he arrived. At the last minuted I realized I didn't have lasagna noodles (oops!). I called my friend and asked him to pick some up on his way over. In the meantime, I prepared the layers....

Sauce. I used tomato paste (two small cans in all) mixed about 50/50 with water, and seasoned with salt, garlic powder, and white wine vinegar. I've really begun to enjoy using this concentrated tomato paste - it's a very versatile ingredient. I'll have to try making my own from local tomatoes this summer.....

I had a bunch of mushrooms in the fridge that were just about to go bad, so despite the fact that my guest doesn't like mushrooms, I sliced them up and sauteed them in olive oil. (how can someone not like mushrooms? I don't understand it, but one must respect the tastes of one's guests.) I figured I could make half with mushrooms, half without.

Here's the beef! Local and organic, cooked with an onion, and liberally seasoned with dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, and salt. These pictures are a little backward. I used the same pan for the mushrooms and the beef. Out of respect for my guest I cooked the mushrooms after the beef (so he wouldn't get any mushroom residue in his meat.)

I didn't have any ricotta, but I did have some sour cream that needed to be used, so I mixed it with a little cream cheese, Romano, water, oregano, garlic powder, and salt. It made a wonderful white sauce.

And of course it wouldn't be lasagna without lots of mozzarella cheese!

I was lucky to find some of this local spinach from Snug Haven Farm at the Regent Street Co-op. It's really good, thick, and hearty. I was glad to have something green to add to the lasagna - I've been craving green vegetables, and they're all too rare this time of year. I rinsed it in hot water to wilt it a little bit.

As soon as my guest arrived with the noodles, I cooked them up and I was finally ready for the fun part!

Step one was to grease the bottom of the pan with a little olive oil, layering on some noodles, and a little more than half of the ground beef.

A nice layer of spinach came next....

....some red sauce.....


....more noodles.....

....then the rest of the beef on one side, and my mushrooms on the other. I was secretly glad to have them all to myself - I love mushrooms!

Next came the white sauce....It was a trick, but I managed to spread it pretty evenly.

Now the final layer of noodles.....

....the rest of the red sauce....

....and finally the rest of the mozzarella and some Romano cheese. It went in the oven for about 30 or 45 minutes.

It could have browned on the top a little better, but other than that it was perfect. Bubbling hot and smelling amazing!

It's hard to get a good picture of a piece of lasagna - it tends to fall apart. No matter, it was completely delicious! I made a lot of it too - I'll have leftovers all week!! How I love leftovers!

Really Good Lasagna

This recipe has the beef and mushrooms mixed throughout the whole thing. If you have a mushroom-phobe in your midst, you can always divide it like I did.

2 small cans tomato paste
A little white wine vinegar
1 cup sour cream
3-4 tablespoons cream cheese
1 small yellow onion
1 pound ground beef
1/2 lb button mushrooms
3-4 oz spinach leaves, washed
1/2 lb mozzarella cheese, grated
3/4 cup Romano cheese, grated
1 package lasagna noodles
Garlic powder
Dried oregano
Dried thyme
Dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

First, prep all the ingredients: Cook noodles. In a bowl, mix tomato paste about 50/50 with water and season with white wine vinegar, salt, and garlic powder. In a small saucepan, mix sour cream, cream cheese, and 1/4 cups Romano cheese with about a half cup of water and season with oregano, garlic powder, and salt. Heat the white sauce gnetly and stir until cream cheese is melted and it has a nice thick saucy texture. Slice the onion and saute in olive oil. When onion has begun to cook, add ground beef and cook until browned. Season with herbs and salt. Set beef aside. Slice mushrooms. In the same pan with the beef juices, saute mushrooms until nicely cooked.

Now, layer the ingredients. Grease the bottom of a large baking dish with olive oil and place a layer of noodles on top. Layer on about half the ground beef, followed by half the mushrooms, half the spinach, half the tomato sauce, and a little more than half the mozzarella. Follow this with another layer of noodles, the rest of the beef, mushrooms, spinach, and then all the white sauce, and another layer of noodles. Top it all off with the rest of the tomato sauce, mozzarella, and the remaining 1/2 cup of Romano. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the lasagna is bubbling hot. Turn the oven to 425 for the last 10 minutes to brown the top. (I obviously didn't do a good job of this.)

Let the lasagna stand for at least 5 minutes before you cut it.

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