planning for leftovers


Our freezer has gotten very low on emergency lunches, so it was clearly time to make a lasagna. Few things are as comforting on a cold day as being able to pull a container of lasagna out of the freezer, nuke it, pour a glass of wine, and have a hot, cheesy satisfying lunch. And to make that happen, of course, we have to have lasagna for dinner first. Oh, the sacrifices we make.

I make lasagna pretty much exactly the way my parents did when I was a kid (it was my favorite), except for the addition of no-boil lasagna noodles, which are God’s gift to casserole makers. Sometimes I’ll do a variation with pesto and white sauce, and I often add fresh spinach, but this particular one was just the basics: red sauce with meat and mushrooms, ricotta, mozzarella and noodles. End of recipe. I do not add egg, or cottage cheese – I feel very strongly about these things. That grainy ricotta texture is important here.

Oh – to go with our lasagna, we threw together a spontaneous salad of mixed spinach and lettuce greens and shaved fennel, with a lemon-mayonnaise dressing. It was FANTASTIC. If I ever figure out how I did it I’ll write the recipe down. Wow.

Now, back to the lasagna:

cooking hamburger

Just to be clear, I do not use jarred marinara sauce. I don’t care if that sounds snobby, but I just don’t – your mileage may vary. But really, making it fresh ain’t that hard. I usually start with ground meat; in this case, two pounds of beef from our freezer cow. I added a bunch of sliced button mushrooms, a few cloves of garlic, a good pinch of dried thyme and some salt, and let it all simmer together.
making sauce for lasagna

We had some red wine left over that was tasting a little weird, so I added that to the meat and let it simmer nearly dry, then opened the tomatoes. The Co-op was having a canned tomato sale, so I had just stocked up. I added one big can of diced tomatoes and another of puree, then some water to rinse out the cans.
tomato sauce

The whole big potful (that’s my superlarge pea-green Mario Batali pot, a wonderful thing for big batches of sauce like this) simmered for a while, then we put the lasagna together:

Take a 9×13 inch pan, and add:

  1. Ladleful of sauce
  2. 3 noodles (we use Ronzoni, which forbids overlapping, unlike Barilla, which requires it)
  3. enough sauce to cover the noodles
  4. half the container of ricotta, dolloped over the top
  5. a few slices of mozzarella
  6. repeat from #2 once or twice, depending on the depth of your pan
  7. top with noodles, sauce and the rest of the mozzarella. Make sure plenty of sauce has been added to keep the noodles wet – crunky noodles are not delicious. I’ve produced enough crunky lasagnas to know.

Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes at 375°. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and let it set for a bit so you stand a chance of actually cutting a piece. Put individual pieces in freezersafe containers and pack them away for another day, but save plenty to eat immediately.


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