21 March 2012

easy creamy lasagna

this is such a simple recipe...it's almost too simple to taste this good!  sure, there are ways of making a much more gourmet lasagna by slow cooking your sauce and perfecting the spices.  and then you could always make a bechamel sauce to add some gourmet creaminess.  i've done it that way several times, but i always go back to this easy version because, well, it's just so easy.  i can make it for a neighbor at the last minute when they're in need of a meal.  i can grab the ingredients at 4 and have a delicious meal prepared for dinner that same night.  it's just too convenient to really do any other way anymore.  and, in case you haven't noticed, i've been crazy busy.  like a chicken-with-its-head-cut-off busy.  so i need some quick meals in my arsenal to reassure my family that i have not completely forgotten about our meal time in an effort to conquer the mothering world. 

*1 package no cook lasagna noodles
1 jar of good quality marinara - i like newman's own organic marinara
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 15 ounce container of part skim ricotta cheese (or 1 1/2 of the smaller containers)
1 1/2 lbs shredded mozarella cheese (divided)
1 egg
4 T freshly chopped italian flat leaf parsley (divided)
1 T dried oregano
2 tsp. salt
6 slices provolone cheese
2 italian sausages or 1/2 lb italian sausage - cooked (remove sausage from casing if using that type)

preheat oven to 350 degrees
first off, you'll want to prepare your sauce by pouring it out into a larger container.  add 1/4 cup water to thin out a little (the no cook noodles absorb the extra liquid and your lasagna will be dry without the extra water).  i always use my immersion blender and blend it smooth.  add cream and blend together.  in a medium sized mixing bowl, mix together ricotta, egg, 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, oregano, 2 T parsley, and salt.

now you are ready to assemble lasagna.  in a 9x13 size baking dish, add a few tablespoons of sauce to the bottom of the pan to keep the noodles from sticking.  add a layer of noodles (don't worry if they don't quite fit, they will expand during cooking).  smooth over half of the ricotta mixture.  sprinkle half the cooked sausage.  sprinkle 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese.  repeat with noodles, other half of ricotta, other half of sausage, and another 1/3 mozzarella cheese.  this time on top of the cheese you will also place your sliced provolone cheese and then top with your last layer of noodles.  over the last layer of noodles, pour over your sauce, making sure to pour it into the edges.  top with a good sprinkling of mozzarella cheese.

bake in preheated oven for approximately 20-30 minutes, or until edges are bubbly and cheese is nicely melted and slightly browned.  after cooking, let set for 10-15 minutes and then sprinkle with remaining fresh parsley.

* you can do a few different tricks for your noodles.  first, you can buy the no-boil lasagna noodles and use them straight out of the box.  you can also experiment with adding a little extra water to your sauce and use regular boil type noodles but don't boil them first.  just place them straight into the dish and assemble as usual.  the extra water you added (beyond the 1/4 cup called for in this recipe...maybe a total of 1/3-1/2) will cook your noodles while it bakes in the oven.  i've done this several times successfully.  you'll need to add about 10-15 extra minutes to your baking time.
you can also just boil your noodles and use them just like usual.


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