Lasagna soakiing, kalamata olives, and fresh herbs from the gardenIt’s a lovely spring afternoon here at Wildlands. I spent the morning doing grocery shopping with friends, picked up my CSA pork order, and after cleaning up the kitchen, I went to work on a batch of lasagna.

Friends of mine have a toddler who is battling cancer. Every time I’ve seen him, he’s a joyful whirlwind; I’m stunned that such a great little dude has been dealt this hand. He had radiation last week and begins chemo next week. Ugh. I send out to the universe my thoughts and prayers for him and his parents and ask you to do the same.

When in doubt how to help, I make lasagna. For me, it is good, solid comfort food. My mom used to make it for Christmas and on special occasions. Over the years, I’ve been tweaking my own recipe—making it by memory and altering ingredients as the mood strikes me.

This recipe makes one 9″ x 12″ pan plus an 8″ x 8″ pan. As such, it makes a great drop-off meal with a smaller pan for me. It freezes very well— cut once cool and place in single-serving containers for easy re-heating.

Browning the pork with garlic, white onion, and rough chopped green onionThe sauce:
1.5 – 2 lbs meat (mix it up— ground pork,  beef, lamb, etc. Today, I went with a selection of  Jason Azevedo sausages, squeezing the pork out of the casings.

1/2 white onion (roughly chopped)
1 bunch of green onions (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
a few pinches of salt and pepper
a few sprigs of thyme, a sprig of rosemary, and a handful of basil leaves (finely chopped)

meat sauce

Place in a dutch oven (or deep pan), brown the meat over medium heat. Strain the fat. Add the veggies  and minced herbs. Allow to simmer a few minutes until wilted.

Then add:
30 oz can of diced tomatoes (juice too!), 3-4 oz. tomato paste, and 1/2 c. of water.

Stir and reduce heat to low for 2 hours. If you like your meat sauce chunky, leave as is. I go back and forth on this; today, I used a hand blender to smooth out the sauce.

The pasta:

9 oz. lasagna noodles – place in a deep cookie sheet or baking dish, fill with warm water and allow to soften— I don’t boil them anymore; by doing it this way, they are able to absorb some of the sauce’s liquid and the end result is a less-watery lasagna.

Cheese on top: shredded mozzarella OR thin sliced mozzarella

Lasagna making - cheese filling

The cheese filling:
32 oz. ricotta (you pick low-fat, full fat, or a bit of both)
3/4 c. parm
1/2 c. chèvre or 1/4 c. feta (optional)

mix the cheese together, then add:

2 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
pinch of cardamom
pinch of salt

then mix in:
1 TBSP cream (if you have it)
1 egg
1 c. chopped kalamata olives (optional, but I think they add great flavor)

Place in fridge until you’re ready to build the dish.

Putting it all together:

Pre-heat oven to 350F

meat lasagna 4.11

In the baking dish, spread 1 c. of sauce then place a layer of pasta. Using a spatula, spread out the ricotta cheese mixture. Pour a cup of sauce, then place another layer of pasta. On and on until you’ve used up the pasta. Spread more sauce and spread mozzarella on top.

Cover with foil for first 30 minutes; remove and allow to brown for an additional 20 minutes. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes before cutting.

I forgot to pick up an aluminum baking dish to leave behind, so I fashioned one using a shallow box and aluminum foil. It isn’t beautiful, but it will do the job, is completely recyclable, AND it will save my friends from returning a dish!