Happy February everyone! I love the month of February. We celebrate my husband and father’s birthdays this month. We, of course, have Valentine’s Day–my fave! And my twin sister is coming to visit this month!!!!!!!!!!! (Yep, that one deserved 10 exclamation points). She’s bringing her baby boy who I haven’t seen since he was first born last summer. I’m literally counting down the minutes in excitement.
I wanted to start February off with a bang by sharing the BEST LASAGNA recipe ever! And I’ll tell you why…
I grew up in a “no cheese” household (meaning my Dad and brother don’t eat it, so my mom rarely cooked with cheese). We hardly ever had lasagna on the menu, but in the rare times it did happen, it was the BEST.
Here’s the thing about this lasagna recipe. It’s completely authentic. There’s no cottage cheese, “cream of” soups, ricotta cheese or anything else you may find in other lasagna recipes. If my mom was going to make lasagna, she didn’t cut corners. She’d make a traditional béchamel sauce, which is a fancy name for a white sauce, made with butter, flour and milk. And everyone has those ingredients. I love that you don’t have to buy anything special for this. I never have ricotta in my fridge, and I hate going to the store just for one ingredient. Plus, I don’t like ricotta in my lasagna that much anyways. Béchamel is way better.
This Classic Italian Lasagna includes the béchamel white sauce and the most amazing homemade red sauce. I add some pureed vegetables to the sauce, which gives it great flavor (and allows you to sneak in some veggies to an otherwise cheese and carb-filled dish). Another little trick I love is crumbling the meat into small pieces in the food processor. It helps keep the sauce smooth and thick, without any large meat pieces.
Lasagna is one of those recipes everyone has on file, but I’m urging you to toss your recipe aside and try this version. Seriously, it’s the closest thing you’ll ever get to ordering straight from an Italian restaurant!
- • 9 regular lasagna noodles or 12 no-boil noodles
- • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, shredded
- • 8 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded
- • 1/2 lb ground beef
- • ½ lb ground Italian sausage
- • 1 tablespoons olive oil
- • 4 cloves garlic, minced
- • 1/2 large onion, chopped
- • 1 1/2 cups fresh spinach
- • ½ of a red or green bell pepper, chopped
- • 2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
- • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
- • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
- • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- • salt and pepper, to taste
- • 4 tablespoons butter
- • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- • 2 1/2 cups milk
- • salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and sausage over medium-high heat, breaking the meat apart into pieces with a wooden spoon. When cooked through, remove the grease. Add meat to a food processor and pulse just 3-4 times until it’s broken up into very small pieces. Remove to a bowl.
- In the same skillet over medium-high heat, add olive oil. When oil is hot, add the garlic, stirring constantly for 30 seconds. Add the onion, spinach and bell pepper. Continue cooking on medium-high heat until the vegetables are softened –about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer them to the same food processor. Pulse several times until they’re nearly pureed. Return mixture to the skillet and add the tomato sauce and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add the diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Cover and allow the sauce to simmer for about 20-30 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally. Right before using the red sauce in the lasagna, stir in the reserved crumbled ground beef and sausage.
- While the red sauce simmers boil the lasagna noodles for half the time suggested on the box. Drain into a large colander and sprinkle them with a tiny bit of olive oil to keep them from sticking together. (You can skip this step if you are using no-boil noodles).
- Add the butter to a medium size saucepan or large skillet. Over medium heat. Once melted, add the flour, stirring constantly to combine 2 minutes. Gradually add in the milk, whisking until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, whisking often so it doesn’t burn on the bottom, until it thickens-- about 5-7 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
- Keep in mind that there will be 3 layers of lasagna, so mentally split the sauces into thirds as you layer them to make sure you have enough at the end).
- Start by layering the bottom of your greased pan with 3 lasagna noodles (or 4 no-boil noodles). Spread the red sauce over the noodles, followed by the white sauce, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, spreading all to the edges. Top with another layer of noodles, then red sauce, white sauce, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Add the final layer of noodles, then red sauce, white sauce and cheeses.
- Bake for 30 minutes. Allow the lasagna to sit for 15-20 minutes before serving.
To make ahead: You can make the white sauce and red sauce in advance. You could also boil the noodles in advance. If you want to assemble the lasagna before baking it, make it according to the directions, cover it with foil and refrigerate it for a few hours. Then bake as directed, but add 10-15 minutes to the baking time.
To freeze: Cover really well with a double layer of aluminum foil and freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to eat, bake from frozen for 1 1/2 hours (still covered with foil.) Then uncover and bake for another 45 minutes or so, or until the lasagna is hot and bubbly.
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