Monday, May 5, 2014

Simple Meat Lasagna

Use no-boil lasagna noodles to get this comforting pasta dish layered with meat and cheese out of the oven and onto your dinner table in no time!

Simple Meat Lasagna | Taste As You Go
Simple Meat Lasagna

For many people, a freshly baked tray of lasagna has the power to evoke warm memories of their childhood years. That's not the case for me. When it came to comforting pasta dishes, my mother preferred to make baked ziti and stuffed shells, and I'm sorry to say that both were somewhat forgettable, made with ingredients that were the least expensive and without any real attention to seasoning or balance of flavors.

Grass-Fed Ground Beef | Taste As You Go
Grass-Fed Ground Beef

Although I considered making lasagna to be as labor-intensive as stuffed shells, my mother didn't see it that way, and lasagna only appeared on our dinner table on rare occasions. Maybe that's why it's taken me so long to share a lasagna recipe here on Taste As You Go.

Sure, I love eating lasagna, but it didn't occur to me to post a recipe for it until a reader emailed me asking me for recipe recommendations.

Chopped Carrots and Onions | Taste As You Go
Chopped Carrots and Onions

Chopped Carrots | Taste As You Go
Chopped Carrots

Naturally, I turned to one of my favorite food blogs for inspiration. Elise's recipe calls for bell peppers and sugar to sweeten the tomato sauce. I'm not normally a fan of bell peppers in my sauce, so I opted to use chopped carrots instead.

Chopped Carrots and Onions | Taste As You Go
Chopped Carrots and Onions

Saute the carrots and onions in some olive oil until the vegetables begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes.

Chopped Carrot and Onions with Minced Garlic | Taste As You Go
Chopped Carrot and Onions with Minced Garlic

Add some minced garlic to the vegetables and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. You'll want to add the garlic at the end rather than at the beginning to prevent it from burning.

Grass-Fed Ground Beef with Carrots, Onions, and Garlic | Taste As You Go
Grass-Fed Ground Beef with Carrots, Onions, and Garlic

Add the sauteed vegetables to your browned ground beef and stir to combine.

Canned Tomato Sauce, Canned Tomato Paste, and Canned Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes | Taste As You Go
Canned Tomato Sauce, Canned Tomato Paste, and Canned Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes

Tomato Meat Sauce | Taste As You Go
Tomato Meat Sauce

Now, you could use jarred marinara sauce at this point, but, if you have the time to allow the sauce to simmer, it really is worth it to use canned tomatoes. Cook the sauce gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure not to scorch the bottom.

Layering Lasagna | Taste As You Go
Layering Lasagna

Now it's time to assemble the lasagna. Start by spooning one cup of your meat sauce into the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch baking dish and spread to cover.

No-Boil Lasagna Noodles | Taste As You Go
No-Boil Lasagna Noodles

Next, add a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles. At first, I was skeptical about using the no-boil noodles, but this lasagna turned out fabulously without the extra step of boiling the noodles prior to assembling the lasagna. If you can find them in your local grocery store, then I highly recommend using them.

Layering Lasagna | Taste As You Go
Layering Lasagna

Next comes more meat sauce...

Layering Lasagna | Taste As You Go
Layering Lasagna

Layering Lasagna | Taste As You Go
Layering Lasagna

Layering Lasagna | Taste As You Go
Layering Lasagna

... followed by lots and lots of cheese. Try not to skimp here. The variety of cheeses will really help add richness to the final dish.

Simple Meat Lasagna | Taste As You Go
Simple Meat Lasagna

Continue layering in this manner until the baking dish is full, making sure you end with a layer of cheese on top.

Simple Meat Lasagna | Taste As You Go
Simple Meat Lasagna

Doesn't that look delicious? Makes your mouth water a little bit, doesn't it?

Serve this lasagna with a simple garden salad and, if desired, some crusty Italian bread, and you'll have a comfort food dinner that your family is sure to love (and sure to remember for years to come).

Simple Meat Lasagna
Yield: 8 servings | Printable Recipe

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound ground beef (grass-fed, if possible)
  • 3/4 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 3/4 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • Pinch garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 8-ounce box no-boil lasagna noodles
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 pound (4 ounces) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook until lightly browned. 
  3. Layer a few paper towel in a large bowl. With slotted spoon, remove the browned beef from the skillet, draining off the excess beef fat. Put the browned beef on top of the paper towels to help blot away the excess fat. After you've removed all the browned beef from the skillet, drain off and dispose of excess fat.
  4. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel. Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the yellow onion and carrots and cook for 2-3 minutes until vegetables begin to soften.
  5. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add the browned ground beef back to the skillet.
  6. Lower heat to low. Continue to cook vegetables for additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  7. Transfer the beef and vegetable mixture to a medium pot. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes. Stir to combine.
  8. Add the dried oregano, chopped parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and red wine vinegar. Stir to combine. 
  9. Add salt to taste, and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and being careful not to scorch the bottom.
  10. Spread a cup of meat sauce into the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Top with a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles.
  11. Ladle a third of the remaining sauce over the noodles. Apply a layer of a third of the mozzarella on top of lasagna sauce. Add half of the ricotta cheese, by placing cheese dollops every 2 inches. Sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese in thin even layer on top of ricotta cheese.
  12. Apply second layer of noodles, top it with half of the remaining sauce.  Add half of the remaining Mozzarella, the remaining ricotta cheese, and another thin sprinkling of Parmesan.
  13. Finish with another layer of noodles. Spread the remaining sauce over the top layer of noodles and sprinkle with the remaining Mozzarella cheese.
  14. Tent the baking dish with aluminum foil and bake the lasagna for 45 minutes. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving.
Recipe by Michelle Rittler | Taste As You Go // Adapted from Simply Recipes

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