Lasagna is the perfect meal to make ahead of time. You can pop it in the refrigerator overnight and then just throw it in the oven when the company comes over and sit down and talk with them instead of slaving over the stove. This time, I wanted to make a lasagna recipe that was filling with both meat and spinach that could take care of an entire meal. We whipped up a quick salad to go with it and added a loaf of warm bread and the meal was ready.
I mixed 3 lasagna, Ina Garten's, my mom's, and Monkey See, Monkey Do's recipes and came up with this one that is slightly easier than my all-time favorite and has spinach to boot. I used a lasagna roaster pan which is bigger and makes it so the lasagna doesn't go over into the oven. But this works in a 9x13 pan too. (This photo is before the lasagna was cooked, forgot to take an after shot)
1/2 lb lasagna noodles
2 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 67 oz Jar Prego Traditional Sauce
2 whole carrots
1 celery stalk, cut into 2 large chunks to fit pan
1/2 C chopped fresh basil, reserve 2 T for garnish
1/2 lb ground beef
1 lb bulk sweet Italian sausage (if you can't get bulk you can remove the casings yourself)
10oz frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (you can do this in the microwave)
15oz lowfat ricotta
16oz lowfat cottage cheese
1/2 - 3/4 c shredded Parmesan cheese
120z shredded mozzarella cheese
8oz fresh mozzarella thinly sliced
1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Add 2 cloves minced garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the sauce. Add the carrots, basil and celery and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and simmer until you need the sauce for the next step (probably I did this for an hour, I'm not sure).
2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix shredded Parmesan, ricotta and cottage cheese.
3. Defrost the spinach. Once defrosted, press with the back of a spoon in a colander to release excess liquid. Add spinach to cheese mixture. Refrigerate until ready to use.
4. Fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Place noodles (I needed about 10) into the hot water and let soak for 20 minutes. Make sure the water covers all the noodles. This skips the cooking step!
5. In a large skillet, heat 1 T olive oil. Add 2 cloves minced garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add Italian sausage and beef and cook until brown. Drain fat, return meat to skillet.
6. Remove carrots & celery from sauce mix with tongs. Pour half the sauce into the browned meat mixture.
7. Set up a station for lasagna layering! Make a thin layer of sauce (the part without the meat) on the bottom of the pan. Top with noodles (they go across the 9 inch way of the pan), you may need to trim them to fit. Spread half the ricotta mixture on the noodles. Spread half the meat sauce over the ricotta mixture. Lay all the slices of the fresh mozzarella on top of the meat sauce.
8. Layer Two: All remaining Pasta noodles, rest of the ricotta mixture, Meat sauce (if it doesn't seem saucy enough, add some of the non-meat sauce here), All the shredded mozzarella cheese, 2 T basil for garnish. At this point you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the lasagna to cook the next day or later in the evening.
9. Try to remember to remove the refrigerated lasagna from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking so it isn't so cold--if you forget, no worries, just bake at least 60 minutes with the foil on.
10. Preheat the oven to 350. Cover pan with foil. If you used a 9x13 pan, put foil on the oven rack to protect from spills. Bake 50 minutes (60 minutes if you refrigerated all day) with the foil on. Then, remove foil and bake 15 minutes more until sauce is bubbly, cheese is melted and the lasagna is warm all the way through.
11. Let sit 10-15 minutes to help solidify the lasagna and make it easier to cut and serve.
Serve with bread and salad.