I love Lasagna and as far as I knew there was only one way to make it - the way my mom did. She would start early in the morning and make her sauce (a recipe I will also share another time). She would brown pork ribs and meatballs and let them simmer in the sauce all day which adds fantastic flavor. She would then use the meatballs that had simmered all day as the filling for her lasagna by mashing them up and layering with mozzarella cheese and more sauce. It was incredible, took all day, a labor intensive but so worth the wait!
There is something about the flavors and memories from childhood that stay with you forever which is why I still make lasagna the way my mom did. That being said, sometimes you don’t have all day or that many people to feed as lasagna these days I reserve for special occasions and family gatherings. I did have a box of lasagna noodles staring at me for quite some time and while I was craving the taste of lasagna thought I’d improvise and see if I could pull off a tasty filling in less time, plus I was only cooking for two. It worked, so here it is…
8 -10 Sheets of Lasagna Noodles
Sauce (the quick version)
1 Can Tomato Sauce
1 Can Tomato Paste
1 Can Diced Tomatoes, Italian style
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Pkg. ground beef
½ Pkg. pork
½ Cup Italian Bread Crumbs
2 Cloves Minced Garlic
Splash of Milk (to keep moist)
Splash of Worcestershire
You can use sliced mozzarella cheese, or a shredded Italian blend. I typically use mozzarella but for convenience in this recipe used the shredded Italian blend which worked just perfect.
What to do...
Pre-heat the oven to 375
I always start the sauce first and let simmer on low while you prepare your meatballs
Sauté 2 cloves of minced garlic in a medium size pot for a minute or so (be careful not to burn). Add your canned tomatoes, tomato paste and diced tomatoes. I also add 2 tomato paste cans of water otherwise it may be a bit thick. TASTE it.... don't be afraid to add a little wine or seasoning to taste :o).
Blend all ingredients for your meatballs in a large bowl and roll in the palm of your hand to form a ball – before I dropped them in the frying pan to brown.
I’ve seen people add oil to the pan to fry the meatballs, but this really isn’t necessary as the meatballs will give off enough fat (especially not necessary if you are using a nonstick pan).
When I make my meatballs for sauce that cooks all day, I also add veal, but for this recipe I didn’t need the added expense.
Safeway now sells ground meat blends so you may be able to find beef & pork, or beef & veal already mixed in the perfect size portions.
Fresh basil is a nice touch!
Brown the meatballs on all sides then remove and place on a paper towel to drain the excess grease. You can also pat down to remove some of the oil. Then place meatballs in your sauce and cover for about 20 minutes. You will be surprised how quickly your meatballs will cook throughout (remember they are also going to bake).
Noodles – follow the directions on the box to boil – typically takes 15-20 minutes. It’s okay for them to be a little al dente, as they will also cook in the oven. I used 10 which of course was more than enough for 2 people but I wanted leftovers, so you can of course scale back the number. 10 - 12 will easily serve 4.
Remove your meatballs from the sauce and mash in a large bowl (I mash a few at a time as needed, so I actually had a few meatballs leftover).
Once noodles are done, drain and lay flat away from you so you can roll outward. If the noodles are still wet, blot them dry as they will be easier to roll (not so slippery).
Add some of the meat mixture, a little sauce & shredded cheese to a small section closest to you and roll away from you leaving some space along the sides so the filling doesn’t all fall out. I cut off a little excess noodle before I get to the end as I don’t like triple pasta layers.
Place seam side down in a casserole dish which has been coated with nonstick spray and a little of the pasta sauce
Spoon sauce over the top and sprinkle cheese over casserole. Bake at 375 for ½ hour covered with tinfoil.
The filling was so flavorful, with the right amount of melted cheese. Add a salad and some wine and you have the perfect meal!