Meals en Masse: Beef Lasagna

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 16

In preparation for the fact that in two months my life is about to get turned upside down and I won’t have any time or energy to do much, I’m trying to make it a little easier on myself. At least once a week I’m trying to prepare a meal that I can do in triplicate, where we eat one version and store the other two in the freezer. This week I made up a hearty lasagna to feed Papa John and Mrs. Nice, and the other two went into the freezer for some night this summer when we’re willing to brave the heat to get our pasta fix.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 1

Of course I never measure anything when I make lasagna, but I’ll try to give you some approximations here for a triplicate recipe if you’re interested in trying it for yourself (and feeling very smug later when you realize you have two giant lasagnas sitting in your freezer).

First I mixed up the cheese layer, which was 2 750g tubs of cottage cheese (you can use ricotta if you prefer, but if you’re buying in this amount the cottage cheese is way cheaper), 3 rectangular packages of chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained, the equivalent of 2 heads minced garlic (or however much you prefer), and a smattering of freshly ground salt and pepper.

Meals en Masse- Lasagne 2

Creamy cheesy goodness.

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Then you can chop up your veg. I like to choose vegetables that add substance to the lasagna without competing with individual flavours, so mushrooms (8-10), eggplant (1), and zucchini (2 small) are favourites of mine, together with sweet red peppers (2) to boost the colour.

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Next, a giant sweet onion gets chopped up and added to a large stock pot with a few tablespoons olive oil and a knob of butter.

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Once those are soft and fragrant, break up your ground meat with your fingers and tip it in. This is about 2kg extra lean ground beef. If you use medium ground you’ll probably want to drain the fat off once it’s cooked.

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When it IS cooked, tip in your veg and let those soften. Add in some of your favourite spices, like oregano and basil.

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Next, about 3 jars tomato sauce.

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Let that simmer down for a little bit.

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Grate up about 2 large bricks mozzarella. When in doubt, err on the side of too much cheese. Always.

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Now get your stuff organized for assembly. you’ll also need 2-3 boxes uncooked oven-ready lasagna noodles. Be smart and spray your pasta dishes before you use them. The glass one is the one I’m making right away, but the disposable aluminum pans are for the freezer – I don’t own enough Pyrex to put them all in the freezer at the same time. Plus the aluminum ones make great frozen tasty gifts for those of your friends who are in a similar situation to myself. HINT, HINT.

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Layer on some noodles, flat in the bottom, then a generous helping of tomato sauce. You’re aiming for about 1/6th of your sauce for each pan.

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More noodles, and then divide your cheese evenly between your three pans.

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More noodles. I ran out of noodles at this point because I only had two boxes, so I had to run out and get more. And it was cold. Hooray for expectant mother parking spots.

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Finally add in the rest of your sauce and smother it lovingly in cheese.

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The ready-made version can be cooked in about 45-60 minutes at 350°F.

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I’m putting in this same photo again so you can see how saucy and liquidy the sauce is, despite its thickness – that extra liquid means the noodles will cook through properly without drying out the dish.

The others need to be wrapped well and frozen. I recommend thawing them before cooking, and they’ll probably take about twice as long to cook through because they won’t already be nice and warm. Enjoy!

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Turkey Lasagna

Turkey Lasagna

We’ve made quite a few lasagna dishes here at Ali Does It.  Some of them have been pretty fancy, while others were more simple.  Sometimes it’s the simplest things that are the best, as you know.  But sometimes a teensy tweak of those simplest things makes them even better.  This particular lasagna dish is pretty classic, as things go, but I used ground turkey instead of beef for a bit of a lighter meal, and then added eggplant to the mix because I remembered the richness of it in the lasagna I made with béchamel.

This recipe makes enough for two small (7″ x 10″) dishes, and freezes really well.

Dice up an onion or two and sauté the pieces with a bit of olive oil and some minced garlic in a large saucepan until tender and translucent, a few minutes.

Turkey Lasagna

Chuck in a package of ground turkey, and stir it around until it’s all broken up and the pieces are no longer pink.

Turkey Lasagna

Chop up a medium-sized eggplant, two red peppers, and a handful of mushrooms and add those to the mix.

Turkey Lasagna

Add in two cans tomato sauce and simmer that for a few minutes.  If you’re planning to cook this right away, then keep it warm, but if you’re planning to freeze the lasagna then feel free to let it cool.

Turkey Lasagna

In a bowl, mix together two tubs ricotta cheese with two cups chopped spinach (fresh or frozen, your choice).

Turkey Lasagna

Now you can put it all together.  Start with your oven-ready lasagna noodles.  Stick them raw into your dish to line the bottom. Scoop on a generous amount of your tomato/turkey sauce and smooth it down.

Turkey Lasagna

Add another layer of noodles, then a heap (half, if you’re making two lasagnas) of ricotta mixture.  Smooth that down.

Turkey Lasagna

More noodles, and you’re probably reaching the top of your container right about now.  Scoop on a final layer of tomato/turkey sauce and then sprinkle the top with a generous layer of grated mozzarella cheese.

Turkey Lasagna

Let the dish cool completely before freezing, or pop it in the oven right away.

You can bake this, uncovered, from frozen at 400°F for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and the cheese is starting to brown.

Here are some of the other Ali Does It lasagna dishes for your review:

Beef Lasagna with Eggplant and Béchamel

Egg Won Ton Lasagna

Roasted Vegetable and Tofu Lasagna

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Egg Wonton Lasagna

I pulled this from the Get Cracking website and it just seemed so weird that I had to try it.  Plus I have a million wonton wrappers in my freezer that I bought in anticipation of making more gyoza (which of course I haven’t done).

Egg Wonton Lasagna

First we’re going to roast a few vegetables.  Put your oven on the broil setting.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and plop on your veggies.  I have here 2 red peppers and 3 Italian zucchini (or at least that’s what the sign at Costco called them).

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Roast them until the peppers are all charred and black.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Let them cool for a bit, then peel the skins off the red peppers.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Then we’re going to boil ourselves some eggs.  In a medium saucepan, cover 6 eggs with water and bring it to a boil.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

When it’s boiling, remove the pot from the heat, cover it with a lid, and leave that to stand for 20 minutes.  This is a different way to produce hard-boiled eggs than I’m used to, but I figure that the Egg Farmers of Canada know what they’re talking about.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Drain the eggs, run cold water over them to cool them off, then peel and slice them.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

I liked how the cold water looked so much I took two more pictures of it.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Egg Wonton Lasagna

While the eggs are doing their thing, finely chop 1 small onion and add it to another saucepan with a drop of olive oil and 2 cloves minced garlic (or 2 teaspoons minced garlic from a jar).  Sauté until everything is soft and squidgy.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Chuck in a package of baby spinach and stir that around until it’s all wilted.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Pour in a jar/can of pasta sauce and bring that puppy to a boil, then remove it from the heat.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Get all your ingredients ready to go.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

While you’re at it, chop up those roasted vegetables of your’n.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Find yourself an 8″ baking dish (or thereabouts) and ladle about a 1/2 cup of the sauce into the dish.  Line the bottom with some of your wonton wrappers, making sure to overlap them a little bit.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Spread that with some more of the sauce you have left, then some of your eggs.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Plop on a some of your chopped vegetables, then some grated mozzarella cheese (I’m not going to limit you on your cheese — we all have our preferences/weaknesses).

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Do another layer of wontons, sauce, eggs, vegetables, and cheese.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

When you are out of vegetables and eggs you should still have some sauce, cheese, and wontons left.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Any remaining wonton wrappers you’ve got, spread them over the top, then the rest of your sauce, and then some more cheese.  Bake in your 350°F oven for 30 minutes, until you can see the sauce at the centre of the dish bubbling up through the top.  Let it stand for a few minutes before you cut it, just so the rowdiness can calm down.  Serves SIX.

Egg Wonton Lasagna

Tofu Feature Month: Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Tofu Lasagna

Today we are going to use tofu to replace ricotta cheese in a healthy and hearty lasagna.  This recipe makes for 2 dishes of pasta, so you can freeze one and then thaw it for cooking at a later date.

Start with your roasting vegetables.  Preheat your oven to 450°F.

Slice up 2 Italian eggplants (or one small regular one), 1 zucchini, and 2 red peppers.

Tofu Lasagna

Make the pieces relatively small so you don’t have to cut them up too much when you eat them.

Tofu Lasagna

Plop those in a roasting pan and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Toss thoroughly and roast for about 20-30 minutes, stirring about halfway through, until everything is tender and fragrant.  Reduce the heat of the oven to 350°F if you are planning on cooking your lasagna right away.

Tofu Lasagna

Next, chop up about half a large yellow onion, and about a dozen mushrooms.  Sauté those suckers in a large saucepan with a wee bit of olive oil until they are tender as well.

Tofu Lasagna

Add the roasted vegetables and stir them around.

Tofu Lasagna

Pour in 2 jars tomato-based pasta sauce and mix that around to warm everything up.  I only used one jar of sauce in this recipe and didn’t have quite enough sauce to cover everything, so I definitely recommend two jars.  Add in a bit of fresh basil, too,  if you’ve got it.

Tofu Lasagna

Thaw 1 500g package of frozen spinach.

Tofu Lasagna

Add to that 2 packages soft tofu (or firm silken tofu) and squish it around.

Tofu Lasagna

I puréed about half of it in a blender for a creamier texture.

Tofu Lasagna

Season with salt and pepper. Shoulda used a bigger bowl …

Tofu Lasagna

Now, line the bottom of your oblong casserole dishes with noodles.  I use the no-cook lasagna because it’s less of a pain in the butt, and with the size of my dishes, each casserole will take 9 noodles.  Spread on a generous layer of the roasted vegetables in tomato sauce (I had to be sparing, because I only used the one jar of sauce).

Tofu Lasagna

Add another layer of noodles, then a heaping of the tofu/spinach mixture. Use half the stuff for each casserole.

Tofu Lasagna

More noodles.  The rest of your tomato sauce.  Try to cover all the noodles so they don’t dry out while baking.  Obviously, that’s not what happened here.  But what can you do?  I learned from my mistakes.

Tofu Lasagna

For a little extra flavour, feel free to top the lasagna with a handful of crumbled feta cheese.

Tofu Lasagna

Bake at 350°F for about 30-40 minutes, or until the top of the lasagna is all nice and bubbly.  Some lasagna advocates recommend covering the casserole and then uncovering it in the last ten minutes to crispen it up, but I’ve found that’s only helpful if you are working from a frozen casserole.  If you plan to freeze this lasagna and eat it later, I suggest you let it thaw completely before cooking.

Tofu Lasagna

Now you can eat it.  Comfort food that won’t kill you.  Genius. Though it probably would have been a better choice NOT to eat it with garlic bread.

Tofu Lasagna

Eggplant and Beef Lasagna with Bechamel Sauce

What’s better than a nice fall lasagna?

And this one has eggplant in it.  Who doesn’t like eggplant?

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food.  It uses no-boil lasagna noodles, which makes everything so much easier.

First you need to make up a basic béchamel sauce.  Don’t freak out — it’s not that hard.

Béchamel Sauce

Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan.

Dice a small onion and chuck it in.

Add a clove of garlic, or a spoonful of garlic-in-a-jar.

Cook that stuff until the onion is soft, about 4 minutes. 

Add in 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, and then cook, stirring, until the mixture is pale golden and has a nutty aroma, about another 4 minutes. 

Add in 2 1/4 cups whole milk (or suitable substitute) and whisk constantly the whole time.  Add in another 2 1/4 cups milk and whisk until smooth.  Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a boil and thickens, about 10 minutes.

Use it immediately or press plastic wrap to the surface (to prevent it forming a skin) and let it cool.  You can keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days like that.

Lasagna

Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Put your oven racks in the middle and upper third of the oven.

Slice up 1 1/2 pounds eggplant into 1/4″ rounds and divide between two baking sheets.

Toss with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper and bake until tender, stirring and rotating halfway through, about 20 minutes.  Allow to cool, but leave the oven on.

In a large skillet, heat some oil over medium-high.  Add in 1 pound lean ground beef and stir until cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Add some allspice and dried oregano and season with salt and pepper.  You can also add some fresh chopped mint if you like.  Remove from heat and transfer the meat to a bowl.

Pulse 1 1/4 cups (3 1/4 oz) romano or parmesan cheese in your food processor, or use the pre-grated variety.  I prefer using whole cheese because it tends to be less dry.

In a baking dish (size dependent on your noodles, mine were slightly smaller than a 9×13″ pan), spread one cup sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Top with no-boil lasagna noodles to cover (I used three).  Make sure to leave some space between the noodles, as they will expand as they cook.

Layer with half the meat, then another cup of sauce and 1/4 cup of cheese.

Add more noodles, then half the eggplant, a cup of sauce, and 1/4 cup of cheese.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients, reserving the last 1/4 cup of cheese.

Cover lasagna loosely with foil and bake on the top rack until the sauce is bubbling, about 35 minutes.  If you’re worried about spillage from a bubbling lasagna, place a baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven to catch drips.

Remove from oven and heat your broiler.  Take off the foil, sprinkle on the last bit of cheese and broil the lasagna until the cheese is browned and bubbling, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Allow your lasagna to cool for about 20 minutes before cutting and serving.

Makes great leftovers.