Gooey Cheesy Goodness…

06LasagnaServedbfLOalso known as my mom’s lasagna.

Well; let’s call it my take on my mom’s take  on lasagna, I’ve added some stuff my dad would’ve never allowed in the house (not that he would ever have eaten anything like lasagna) in the first place.

Is it Italian? Nope. But then, neither am I.

Mom would brown and drain some ground beef, make a red sauce, cook the noodles, and then layer all together with swiss and cottage cheese (don’t judge – it was GOOD) before baking. I use ground beef along with hot and sweet Italian sausage, add lots of onion and roasted red peppers, don’t bother cooking the pasta, and use a combination of shredded mozzarella, American Grana, and provolone along with the swiss and cottage cheeses. I also take three days to prepare this – you can do it in one, but the extra time is more than amply paid for by the beautifully blended flavors and perfect texture.

•Lasagna noodles – NO, not the ‘No Bake’ – just plain old lasagna noodles
•1/2 pound ground beef
•1/2 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
•1/2 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
•1 or 2 onions, chopped
•1 or 2 red, yellow or orange peppers, diced
– OR you can use, as I did, my balsamic roasted peppers
•About 48 oz. of your favorite tomato sauce – here’s my fave
•1 whole carrot, peeled
•Bay leaves
•Pasta/Italian seasoning
•Crushed red pepper
•Olive oil
•24 oz. small curd cottage cheese
•Mozarrella cheese, shredded
•Sharp provolone cheese, shredded
•Grana cheese (or Parmesan), shredded
•Swiss cheese, sliced

04JMSpagSaucebfLODAY 1:
Heat some olive oil in a large pot, and sauté the onion and fresh peppers (if using) for five to ten minutes, until the onion is tender. Drain and set aside.

Add ground beef and sausages to the same pan and cook, breaking up, until done. Drain well and wipe out the pot.

01LasagnaCheeseLayersbfLOReturn the onion, peppers (add the roasted peppers at this point, if you’re using them) and meat mixture to the pot along with the tomato sauce and spices. I also add the peeled whole carrot for sweetness. Stir and simmer over low heat for about an hour, stirring often. Taste and correct the seasonings – add a bit of sugar, if needed, and simmer for another thirty minutes or so.

03LasagnaReadyToBakebfRemove from heat and allow to cool. Stash in the fridge overnight (for best results) – or proceed with the lasagna.

DAY 2:
Reheat the sauce on low to loosen it up a bit. Grate the mozzarella, grana, and provolone cheeses and toss together – I used about three cups total.

Heat the oven to 300º.

Spread a bit of the sauce across the bottom of a 13×9 pan and top with uncooked noodles – about 3-1/2 noodles centered in the bottom should work, they’ll expand when baked.

04LasagnaFirstBakebfLOCover the noodles with more of the sauce, then the sliced swiss cheese, a third of the shredded cheese, and half of the cottage cheese.

Repeat with noodles, sauce, Swiss, shredded, and the rest of the cottage cheese. Top with one more layer of noodles and cover it all well with more of the sauce. As a side note: I bake my lasagna on a foil-lined, rimmed pan to catch any sauce or cheese that may ooze out during baking.

LasagnaBakedbfLOCover the lasagna tightly with foil and bake for 90 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool (if you peel back a corner to take a peek, you’ll see how the noodles are perfectly cooked, and have expanded to fill the pan – cool, no?). Now, and I know this is the HARD part, stash the cooled pan of goodness in the fridge overnight. Patience.

LasagnaSlicedbfLODAY 3:
Heat oven to 300º.

Remove the lasagna from the fridge and bring to room temperature. Pop in the oven, still tightly covered, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until heated through.

Take lasagna from the oven and raise temperature to 375º.

Remove the foil cover and top the now twice-baked, warm lasagna with a final layer of swiss cheese and the shredded cheese mixture. Pop back into the oven and bake until the cheese on top is melted, gooey, and, frankly, just plain perfect – about thirty minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about fifteen minutes – now would be a good time to toss your salad and toast your garlic bread.

Trust me, it’s worth the wait.

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