No, I don’t have cancer. But a good friend of mine, Susan, does and she recently had a party to celebrate the end of her chemo regimen! She asked everyone to bring a dish or drink. I have found that unless people are told to specifically bring something, they usually bring chips and dip or cookies. Not to knock either of those choices, but it annoys me when I go to a party and there’s only chips and cookies. So I try to bring a protein dish of some sort, whether it’s homemade or not. (I mean, have you ever had one of those rotisserie chickens from Ralph’s or Vons? mmmmm…..But I digress…). So I decided to make lasagna. Packed with protein, enough to feed at least 10 people, and easily stored for later if need be, it’s the perfect party dish.
Lasagna is a relatively easy dish to make, so don’t let lots of ingredients scare you away. If you use ready-made pasta sauce or you make your own and if you want any other fixings in the layers can add time and more prep work. I’ve personally never been a fan of ready-made pasta sauce, probably because we never had it growing up, so I’m all about making my own. (And even that can be done completely from scratch or you can use a short cut.) For this lasagna I looked at a couple different recipes just to make sure I had the portion sizes down.
I had a show that I was stage managing (The Santaland Diaries by David Sedaris at The Blank Theatre) that afternoon, so I raced to Ralph’s to get all the necessary ingredients. I spent an extra 20 minutes though looking for the perfect birthday card for my mother so I got home a little later than I had hoped. Oh well, I’d be fashionably late!
Susan was one of my first friends here in Los Angeles. She’s an amazing director, writer, artist and friend. I feel so lucky to know her and I was more than happy to make a yummy lasagna for her party. Rock on Susan!
MEAT AND MUSHROOM LASAGNA (serves approximately 12)
- 1 lb Ground Beef
- 3 Roma Tomatoes
- 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- 3-4 Garlic Cloves
- 1/2 onion
- 1 6 oz can tomato sauce (you can also use tomato paste)
- 5-6 small mushrooms
- 6-8 lasagna noodles
- 2 cups Ricotta
- 1/2 cup Shredded Parmesan (plus extra if you want to top with it)
- 3/4 cup Shredded Mozzarella (plus extra if you want to top with it)
- Fresh Basil (about 5-7 leaves)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 2 tsp Dried Oregano
- 2 tsp Dried Basil
Turn your oven to 350. Chop your onion and garlic and add to a large pot on medium heat. Chop your tomatoes and add. Let cook for about 5 minutes then add your tomato sauce/paste and a can of diced tomatoes. (If you want all home-made then get a few more tomatoes and cook a few extra minutes before adding the can of sauce/paste. I had a can in the cupboard so I wanted to use them.) Add salt, pepper, dried oregano, dried basil and simmer on low for about 20 minutes and stirring occasionally (30 if using all fresh tomatoes). Start a big pot of water to boil for your lasagna noodles. I ended up using 7 noodles, 4 for the bottom layer and 3 for the top layer. (It’s your choice and depends on the size of your pan, but you need at least six for a normal pan, roughly 13 x 9 x 2.) While waiting for the water to boil grab a medium bowl to make your cheese mixture. Combine the ricotta, Parmesan and mozzarella, stirring well. Finely chop your fresh basil and add to mixture. Set aside.
On to the meat. In a medium saucepan, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil on medium-high heat. Once it gets hot, start adding small chunks of your ground beef to the pan. Stir around and push to edges to add more meat. Season with salt and pepper. Add cooked meat to your pot of sauce cooking, mixing well. Your water should now be boiling so add your lasagna noodles. Be gentle so they don’t break. As they soften push further into water until fully submerged. Cook for about 7 minutes. While waiting, slice your mushrooms thinly. Pull out your lasagna pan and spray with cooking spray to avoid sticking.
Once your sauce is done scoop a small layer on the bottom of your pan. Cover with your first layer of pasta noodles. Then make a layer of your cheese mixture. It should be about 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick and cover all the noodles. Cover with another layer of the meat sauce. Before you cover with the noodles again take your mushrooms and make a thin layer. (You should leave enough for a top layer.) Make a layer of noodles, cheese and meat sauce. Top with the remaining mushrooms and sprinkle with any remaining Parmesan or mozzarella. Place in the oven for 45 minutes. Serve and enjoy!