There are three important things to remember when making lasagna with meat sauce to make sure that it can be sliced easily and served without the layers falling apart and looking like an incomprehensible mess on the plate. How do you do that?
First, a thick meat sauce.
Second, enough cheese to bind the layers.
Third, the baked lasagna must be allowed to rest before cutting and serving.
Other than that, anything goes, really. Parmesan cheese is traditional but my girls aren’t crazy about the way Parmesan cheese smells so I use either sharp cheddar, mozzarella or Monterey Jack, or a combination of two or more.
Lasagna has got to be Speedy’s most favoritest pasta dish in the whole world. Not the girls though (Alex is the spaghetti girl while Sam is the macaroni girl) but, sometimes, Speedy’s preference has to take precedence. So, we had lasagna over the weekend.
This recipe is for a large rectangular glass tray of lasagna.
- 8 lasagna noodles (4 to 6 noodles if using extra wide)
- 2 tbsps. of butter for greasing
- For the meat sauce:
- 200 g. of belly bacon (smoked or regular but not honeycured), finely sliced
- 200 to 250 g. of very lean ground beef (or you can finely mince the beef at home so you can control the amount of fat better)
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 2 c. of canned chopped tomatoes, with the juices, or 2 c. of homemade tomato sauce
- a few sprigs of fresh oregano (leaves only)
- about 70 g. of spicy chorizo (I use Bilbao or Iberico), sliced then chopped into very small pieces
- a bit of sugar
- For the white sauce:
- a cup of cream cheese (a 250 g. block is just about right), plain or chive and onion flavored, at room temeprature
- a cup of cream
- a 250 g. block of sharp cheddar cheese (or a combination of your preferred cheeses), grated
- Cook the bacon until it starts to render fat.
- Add the minced (or ground) beef. Cook, stirring, until the beef changes color. If your meat is lean enough, it’ll soak up whatever fat the bacon has rendered.
- Add the chopped onion. Stir. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the onion bits soften, about five to seven minutes.
- Add the oregano and chorizo to the bacon and beef. Stir well.
- Add the chopped tomatoes with the juices (or your homemade tomato sauce). Season with salt, pepper and a bit of sugar to offset the sour notes of the tomatoes. Stir. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, to reduce the sauce. Reduction is the key to a rich and flavorful sauce.
- After about 20 minutes, the sauce should have reduced considerably and the mixture should be thick but not dry. This is the consistency you want to make sure that your baked lasagna turns out moist but not soupy. Adjust the seasonings by adding more salt, pepper, sugar or all of them. This is your last chance to get the right balance so taste and taste again. You can't adjust the seasonings anymore during assembly.
- While the meat sauce reduces, cook the lasagna noodles in boiling water. When done, drain, then douse with very cold water.
- Butter the bottom and sides of the baking dish.
- Meanwhile, prepare the white sauce. You can start preheating the oven at this point too. At 375F.
- Beat the cream cheese in a bowl. Add the cream. Mix until smooth.
- Add half of the grated sharp cheddar cheese (or whatever combination of cheeses you’re using). Mix gently to combine. The texture of the white sauce should be pourable but not runny.
- Arrange half of the lasagna noodles so that they fill the bottom of the buttered pan. Overlapping them a bit is okay.
- Spread half of the meat sauce over the noodles.
- Top the meat sauce with half of the white sauce.
- Repeat with the remaining noodles, meat sauce and white sauce.
- Scatter the remaining grated cheddar cheese over the white sauce. Assembly is complete at this point.
- Bake the lasagna, uncovered, in a preheated 375F oven for 30 minutes or until the cheese on top is melted and the sauce along the sides are bubbly.
- Allow the lasagna with meat sauce to rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.