Meals en Masse: Beef Lasagna

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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.

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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.

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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