Betsy came into town for work one week, and so I thought the occasion called for something more elaborate than I would normally make on a weekday evening. Like eggplant parmesan, lasagna is not at all difficult to make--it just takes a little bit of time as there are a few distinct steps to it. This version I made recently is by no means definitive but it is definitely delicious, so here it is.
Begin by sauteing 1 pound each of ground beef and ground pork sausage (sweet or spicy, whichever you like) in a really big pan over medium high heat. Add 3 cloves minced garlic after about 3 minutes. Continue sauteing until the meat is browned--about 5 more minutes. By the way, the ground meats may put off a lot of grease--you might want to pour some of it off at this point to avoid an overly oily finished dish.Add 1 28-ounce can of whole, peeled tomatoes. I usually use this brand, because they're imported and I like the sassy lady on the label. Any brand will do though--drain them before adding to your meat.Break the tomatoes up in your pan with a wooden spoon and add in one of those tiny (6-ounce?) cans of tomato paste. Let this simmer together along with 1/2 cup red wine (or however much you feel like sparing from the glass you're drinking while cooking) uncovered for about 30 minutes while you do other things.
While your sauce is simmering nicely, you can make the ricotta filling and prepare the sheets of pasta. Start by chopping 1/2 cup each of parsley and basil. Reserve about 1 tablespoon of parsley for the top of the dish. Mix 2 1/2 cups of ricotta cheese with salt and pepper. After it is well blended, add the basil and parsley, 1/3 cup grated parmesan, and two beaten eggs. Mix it up really well. Set aside until it's time to assemble the lasagna.What about that pasta? Get a big pot of salted water to boiling and add a package of dried lasagna sheets. Actually, you probably won't need all of them, but I don't know how many fewer to tell you to use, so just boil up the whole box. You can always reserve a little of the fillings and make another, smaller lasagna, which is totally what I did. Anyway, boil up your pasta until just barely al dente.When they are done, separate out the sheets over cutting boards or a clean counter, and let them cool without sticking together while you get ready to assemble everything. By now your sauce should be looking pretty damn good.Begin assembly with a single layer of lasagna pasta at the bottom......then smooth some ricotta filling over the pasta.Try to get it all covered up. You have plenty so don't be shy.Then add a thin layer of mozzarella cheese for gooey deliciousness--about 1/3 cup is plenty but you can do as much as your conscience permits.Next distribute half of your meat mixture.And then do it all over again! You will be making two layers. After the meat goes another layer of pasta......then ricotta, then mozzarella, then the rest of the meat. Finish with a handful of grated parmesan.Stick it in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. When it comes out all browned and lovely, sprinkle the top with your reserved 1 tablespoon parsley. This is a great way to make and keep friends--all you need besides the lasagna is a decent personality and a good green salad.