Every family has their traditions, and mine is no different. For Christmas Eve, I host dinner, and I always make the same thing: Caesar salad (for which my husband is primarily responsible), lasagne, and baguettes. It’s always good and filling — especially the lasagne.
The recipe I use is loosely based on what an ex-boyfriend made way back when. I think it’s the first and only time I dated a guy who even came close to really cooking, and he taught me a few things. The fact that he was Italian didn’t hurt! His lasagne is similar to many “normal” lasagnes except that it includes a bechamel sauce to make it extra yummy and rich, and he always used pepperoni in place of ground beef.
Since I love creamy, and I don’t like meat, this recipe works out perfectly. It’s hard to be exact about having a half meat and half non lasagne when using crumbly beef. Pepperoni, on the other hand, works quite nicely.
3 cloves garlic
1 T olive oil
3 14 oz cans diced tomatoes (look for a low sodium one)
1 T dried parsley
1/2 T dried basil
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t pepper
Heat saucepan on the stove until it’s hot. Remove paper skins from garlic and chop. Add the olive oil to the pan and heat a minute or so until shimmery. Add the chopped garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute. Add the tomatoes, dried herbs, and pepper. Simmer for 10-15 minutes while you make the bechamel. Use an immersion blender to puree to the thickness you prefer.
4 T butter
4 T flour
2 c milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 t nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 t pepper
Turn the stove to medium and heat a heavy saucepan. Add the butter and flour and whisk to combine. Stir constantly until it just starts to get a hint of brown color. Add the milk all at once and whisk until thoroughly combined (this will help you avoid lumps). Grate the nutmeg into the milk mixture, and add the bay leaf and pepper. Simmer, stirring periodically, until it has thickened (usually about 10 minutes). While the bechamel is thickening, make the filling.
12 oz ricotto cheese, part skim
6 oz mozzarella, part skim – shredded
6 oz Parmesan, grated (NOT from the green can)
6 oz Koskisko or other solid cheese like Gruyere
1/2 t dried parsley
1/2 t dried oregano
1 t dried basil
13 lasagne noodles, uncooked
Mix the ricotta, 4 1/2 oz Parmesan, all the mozzarella, 4 1/2 oz of the other solid cheese, eggs, and herbs together in a bowl, and use a spatula to combine well.
Combine lasagne in a 13×9 pan. Use a ladle to spooon about 3/4 c sauce onto the bottom of the pan to cover (you may need a bit more or less, depending on your pan). Add a layer of lasagne noodles. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the filling mixture at a time, and press into the noodles to cover, using a bout half the mixture in total. Add half the bechamel sauce (after removing the bay leaf!). Add more ladles of sauce to cover.
Repeat the layers, ending with the sauce. Atop the last layer, add the remaining shredded cheeses to form a crust.
Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown and bubbly. Let it sit for about 20 minutes before serving or it will fall all over the place (not that I know from experience).