Did I entice you with the title? Now, I know I'm making a really bold statement here. While it's nearly impossible to mess up on lasagna (what can go wrong with that heaping amount of cheese!), you definitely can distinguish the ones that are down-right exquisite. For me, those are usually the ones made with a tomato sauce that's been simmering away for hours on end, pasta that's perfectly al dente, smothered in exceptional cheeses...you know what I'm talking about, right? Well, this particular layered square of goodness that I had recently does not meet any of those criteria, and yet I still claim it as "The Best Lasagna Ever!" Why? Bc it was made with love...haha, a lil' cheesy, am I?
You see, I've been very busy lately so I haven't been in the kitchen as much as I normally would be. My wonderful husband, therefore, took it upon himself to make me one of my favorites. He did everything, from grocery shopping, to finding recipes (Anne Burrell's at that! How fancy!), and cleaning the dishes! Am I the luckiest girl or what?
Believe it or not, he labored away for about 4 hours! Now, don't worry...it seriously should not take that long! He's just a lil'
incompetent rusty in the kitchen. I desperately wanted to take over help him, but he just shoved me out and told me to go study. However, I did sneak in from time to time to take pictures and to check up on him, of course. Here's how it all went down...
- 1 ½ 16 oz. box of lasagna noodles
- 2 Tbs Olive oil
- 1 Ib of ground Beef 96% lean
- ½ yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic smashed, divided
- crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 12 oz package cremini mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
- 2 zucchini cut in ½ lengthwise
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 2 cups part-skim ricotta
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano divided
- 2 eggs
- 6-7 basil leaves cut into chiffonade *
- 1 24 oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce
- 1 pound grated mozzarella
- Salt to taste
- * In my opinion these basil leaves were the star of this dish!
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles until they are soft and pliable, 6-7 minutes. Work in batches. Remove pasta from the boiling water and lay flat on a sheet tray to cool.
- Coat a large saute pan with 1 Tbs olive oil and bring to med-high heat. Add the beef, onions and cook until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Coat the pan again with 1 Tbs olive oil and add 2 cloves of garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper. When the garlic becomes golden and aromatic, remove it from the heat and discard. Toss in the mushrooms and season with salt. Cook the mushrooms until they are soft and dark brown, 4-5 min. Remove from pan and reserve. Repeat this process with the remaining garlic and the zucchini. *
- In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, ½ the Parmigiano, eggs, and the basil. Mix to combine well and season with salt.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- To assemble: In the bottom of a 9 by 13 baking dish, add a couple of ladlefuls of sauce and spread out in an even layer. Arrange a layer of noodles to completely cover the sauce. Spread ⅓ of the ricotta mixture over the pasta. Place another layer of pasta. Spread a layer of sauce on the pasta and sprinkle ⅓ of the beef mixture over the sauce, add ⅓ of mushrooms, zucchini, spinach. Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella and Parmigiano over the veggies. Repeat the layers until all the ingredients have been used up. Top with remaining noodles and sauce. Sprinkle with Mozzarella and Parmigiano. Cover with foil.
- Place the lasagna on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until hot and bubbly, about 1 hour. Remove foil and bake additional 15 min. Let cool for 20 min before slicing. **
- * Although this step seems tedious, it's SO worth it! The garlic infused veggies make them that much more special!
- ** Yes, it's so tempting to dig in right away, but if you want to get a nice slice that retains its shape instead of collapsing, WAIT! The original recipe instructs to make and bake the lasagna the day before for optimal slicing. Just heat it up again before slicing.
Ok. So I know that the directions are like a mile long. However, it's not so bad (says the girl who did not make it). Yes, if you've made lasagna before, it's a bit time-consuming and tedious mostly due to the assembly part, but it's definitely not difficult. This recipe was rated easy by FoodNetwork, if that means anything to you.
One of my favorite kitchen tools - Japanese Mandoline!
It's assembly time...It doesn't need to be so precise. It'll be good regardless.
Oh boy...what a glorious sight....ooey-gooey cheese....
Yup, I waited patiently before slicing. A perfect slice! Worth the wait, right?
Don't you just love all the extra veggies and the use of lean meat (not part of the original recipe)? The man sure loves me ;).
What do you think? How did he do?