Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lasagna For A Crowd!

I don't make lasagna all that often but it is one of my families favorites, well everyone but Johnny's, he is not a big fan of ricotta cheese :). So when I do make it, it is usually for a family gathering or special occasion, and I make a lot! I use my largest glass casserole dish... you know the one that is bigger than your every day 9 x 13, I think it is like an 11 x 15 or something like that!  It makes about 16 very big squares of lasagna, and will feed a lot of hungry campers! Or if I am having a really big crowd I will make 2 - 9 x 13 inch lasagnas which makes about 24 squares and there is plenty for everyone with some left overs too!

We celebrated my daughter Jessica's birthday recently, and this is usually what she want's me to make for her birthday dinner along with her favorite chocolate peanut butter cake.  One of the reasons I don't make it often is I feel like it is kind of time consuming and usually a very messy, but the pay off is usually big for the effort :). I don't usually use a recipe to make lasagna because it is one of those things I have been doing so long it is just automatic.  But today for the sake of the blog, and future generations of Shaw's, I decided to write down my recipe for Lasagna.  Most recipes are pretty much the same and I cut some corners with using jar sauce but I tweak it with my own seasoning!  So if you are looking to feed a crowd... look no further, this is the recipe for you!

Lasagna For A Crowd
2 lb. ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 to 8 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2 15 oz containers ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, or 2 Tbs. dried
2 eggs beaten
2 jars of spaghetti sauce (your choice)
1 can tomato sauce
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. hot pepper seeds (optional)
1 Tbs. sugar.
1 package lasagna noodles 

Directions:  Heat oven to 350 degrees, and spray large 12" x 16" extra large glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or 2 9" x 13" pans.  Brown meat and chopped onions in large pan on stove top on med/hi heat, until meat is cooked and onions are soft, stir in garlic and brown slightly toward the end.  Drain meat and return to pan. Stir in 2 jars of spaghetti sauce and 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can of Tomato sauce 2 tsp. Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste, hot pepper seeds, and 1 Tbs. sugar.  Simmer slowly on stove top.  Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions in a large pan on another burner while sauce is simmering, and drain when done. Meanwhile in medium bowl mix ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, eggs, and parsley until blended, set aside. When everything is ready to assemble, spread some meat sauce on bottom of prepared dish,  top with a layer of the cooked lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, a layer of mozzarella cheese, and sauce.  Repeat layers 2 more times.  Top with remaining noodles, meat sauce and mozzarella and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and parsley.  Cover with foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray and bake 1 hour or until heated through, removing foil after about 45 minutes. Let stand about 15 minutes before cutting to serve.  If you make it in the 1 large pan it will serve about 16 or 2 9 x 13's you will get about 24 pieces.

Cooks Notes - This can easily be halved and made in a 9 x 13 inch dish that would serve 12.  I usually place my lasagna pan on top of a cookie sheet in oven to prevent it from dripping in bottom of oven and burning!

Brown meat and onions and cook until meat is brown and onions are tender

Add minced garlic to meat and onions and stir to combing

Pour in jars of spaghetti sauce

Add tomato sauce

Diced tomatoes

Add parsley

Italian herb seasonings or seasoning of choice

I like to add a little red pepper for heat

Add sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes

Let sauce simmer on stove top for about an hour.

In medium bowl mix ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese, and parsley 

While sauce is cooking, cook and drain noodles.  When ready to assemble spray baking dish with non stick cooking spray, and put sauce in bottom, 
then layer with noodles

Spread 1/3 of ricotta mixture over noodles, a layer of mozzarella and more sauce.  Continue to layer like this 2 more times

Top with a layer of Mozzarella cheese, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley.  Cover with foil, and bake in 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly for about 45 minutes to an hour removing foil for last 15 minutes of baking time. 
 Let sit for about 15 minutes before cutting into squares.

When cooking for a family party, I almost always assemble these a day ahead and put them in the fridge overnight.  It is so much easier on the day of the party to just pull them out about an hour or so before the party to take the chill off, then bake in the oven as directed!  If they are really cold, they may take a smidge longer in the oven so plan accordingly.  To keep it simple just serve with a nice Greek salad and some yummy warm garlic bread sticks! 

Cucina Italiana!

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