We have very few holiday food traditions. I usually make a batch or two of cookies (this year the recipes came from the local newspaper.) Our presents get opened on Christmas Eve so Curt picks up some deli salads, cooks some shrimp, gets cheese from our local fromagerie, opens jars of artichoke hearts and cornichons, gets out the wine, some good bread and we are set for the night. This meal varies from year to year.
However, Christmas Day dinner remains constant; we have lasagne. Now there is not one Italian gene in this family but somehow this has become a tradition. We think my mother made it one year when her brother and sister-in-law came for Christmas because they always talk about her recipe which they continue to make for their Christmas dinner. But when I quiz my mother she cannot remember making lasagne or having a special recipe. Nevertheless that is when it got started. My son has always loved lasagne and, though it is a distant memory now, he says the best lasagne he ever ate was at an Italian restaurant we went to when we were in Edinburgh, Scotland fifteen years ago. I can’t even remember the name of the restaurant and it is probably long gone anyway.
Somewhere along the line I took up the mantle and started making lasagne for Christmas. My recipe is pretty basic, it comes from the back of the box and it has only evolved from a box of boil noodles to no-boil noodles. I don’t know how you can go wrong but my sister says she never makes a decent lasagne. Her solution is to buy a pan of Stouffer’s Lasagne from the freezer section of her local grocery and add some extra cheese. This year, because I fell two days before Christmas and did a number on my foot, my husband made the lasagne. The funny thing was, though it was very good, we all agreed it was different from what I make. Same recipe. Different taste? All we can figure out is that he used a deeper pan and that made it moister?
So here is my box recipe courtesy of Barilla.
Jeanne’s Easy Lasagne
(you can use any brand of noodles or sauce)
1 box no-boil lasagna (16 sheets)
1 15oz container of ricotta
4 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 C grated parmesan cheese
1 lb. ground beef
2 26oz jars of marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray baking pan ( 13 x 9 x 3) w/ non-stick cooking spray.
Brown and crumble the ground beef. Season to taste. I use oregano, basil, salt, pepper. Drain off any excess grease.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Stir in ricotta, 2 C. mozzarella and the parmesan.
Assembly: When layering lasagna, slightly overlap sheets. The noodles will expand to the edges during cooking. Spread fillings as close to edges as possible. Layer in the following order:
1. Spread one cup of sauce on bottom of pan.
2. Layer 4 uncooked sheets, 1/3 ricotta mix, half of browned meat, 1 C. mozzarella, 1 C. of sauce.
3. Layer 4 uncooked sheets, 1/3 ricotta mix, and 1 1/2 C. sauce.
4. Layer 4 uncooked sheets, the remaining ricotta, the remaining meat, and 1 C. sauce.
5. The last 4 sheets, the remaining sauce and remaining cup of mozzarella.
Bake, covered with foil until bubbly, 50 – 60 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking till cheese is melted ( about 5 minutes.) Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. Approx. 12 servings. Freezes well and is great reheated.
Serve with a tossed green salad and a full-bodied red wine.