I’m Keeping the Table: Two Meat Lasagna

dinner party table setting lasagna 365 brand

Dinner Table Set and Ready. And yes, that’s my recycling in the background.

When I first moved to NYC, people had dinner parties. Sure, we were young and couldn’t really cook so the food fare was far from fabulous. Sometimes it was even sorta gross. But, we had dinner parties anyway. It was a big deal…acting all grown up and stuff.

I love a good dinner party…but, no one seems to have them any more. Much more a rarity than the norm. Maybe it’s because our apartments are small and a lot of us just don’t have the space for a sit down dinner.

It’s true…space is at a premium in NYC and sometimes difficult decisions must be made when choosing how best to maximize the limited space. I mean, when I moved from my house to this apartment…I gave away, yes gave away, about 2/3 of my kitchen stuff…When confronted with the choice between giving up some of my shoes or storing a second Le Creuset 6 qt pot…You know what won out.

Everyone told me my dining room table would be too big for this apartment. It’s true. The table is enormous. Even without the extensions that live in a lovely climate controlled storage space in CT, I can easily seat 8.

blizzard 2013 on tv

Nemo!

So, because I cook AND I have a proper dining table in the ‘dining area’ of my apartment, I host dinner parties. And, there’s no better excuse for a dinner party than a good old fashioned snowstorm.

Last night the posse rallied chez moi to ride out Nemo – the Blizzard of 2013. For storms, I tend to make comfort food. Good, crowd pleasing, stick to your ribs, comfort food. And, last night was no exception.

Lasagna (Serves 8)

Small apartment tip: If at all possible, have a dining area in your tiny space.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Barilla brand no-cook lasagna sheets – you only need 1 box, but get two as you’re bound to break at least one of the sheets. Trust me.
  • 1 – 1.25lbs of ground beef – I used 93/7 because it was on sale at Whole Foods
  • 2 sweet Italian pork sausages…OK, they didn’t have any yesterday, so I bought some awesome Pork Broccoli Rabe sausages
  • Whole Foods 365 brand ricotta cheese

    365 Brand

    1 1/2 Cups of whole milk ricotta cheese…normally I am a Poly-O loyalist…but, WF has its own brand and I was trying to avoid a 2 grocery store day.

  • 1/2 Cup of grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 24oz jars of Sauce…I use a combination of 2 parts marinara sauce + 1 part vodka sauce. Note the 365 Organic Marinara sauce is a 25oz jar…that was AOK. And, you don’t really need all three jars…but you need more than 1 jar of the marinara. And extra sauce for leftovers is good.
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded or grated good mozzarella cheese
  • McCormick’s or similar Italian Seasoning
  • Olive Oil

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees

1. In a large saute pan (mine is a 3 qt non-stick All-Clad one) heat about 2 TBSP of olive oil over medium heat

2. Remove the sausage from casing and break into pieces and drop into the heated olive oil

browning sausage lasagna recipe dinner

Brown don’t burn the sausage

3. Cook the sausage completely….Then remove from the saute pan and set aside

4. Add the ground beef to the pan and brown

browning beef for lasagna 365 brand

Use a wooden spoon to break up the beef

5. Drain the excess oil from the pan and then re-add the browned sausage to the browned beef

beef and sausage lasagna recipe

Because 2 meats are better than 1

6. Sprinkle about 1 TBSP of Italian Seasoning over the meat/sausage. If you don’t have Italian spice (horrors!) just use a combination of dried oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage, basil. Whatever feels Italian-y.

7. Pour in 1 complete jar of marinara sauce and about 1/2 C of the vodka sauce over the meat

365 sauce lasagna beef pork recipe

Dump in and Stir to Combine

8. Stir to combine and then simmer on low for 5 minutes

9. In a small sauce pan, heat 2 cups of marinara sauce over low heat

10. In a bowl, combine the ricotta cheese with the parmesan

2 meat lasagna recipe 365 brand

365 brand ricotta and freshly grated parm

11. Layer up the Lasagna:

  • Coat the bottom of the lasagna pan with a layer of the marinara sauce heating in the small sauce pan 
  • barilla no cook lasagna sheets

    No Fuss

    Using a small spatula, spread the ricotta cheese-parm mixture on one side of 4 Barilla no cook lasagna sheets…Some cooks will tell you to soak the no cook sheets in warm water before using them, but you really don’t need to. So, don’t.

  • Place the cheesed lasagna sheets cheese side up onto the sauce layer
  • 365 brand ricotta lasagna beef

    365 Ricotta Schmear on Lasagna Sheets

  • Sprinkle about 1/4 Cup of mozzarella over the ricotta/parm lasagna sheets
  • Cover the cheese with 1/3 of the meaty sausage-y sauce
  • beef and sausage lasagna laying

    Cover with 1/3 of the Meaty Goodness

  • Repeat 2 more times
  • Cover the final meat layer with a layer of the no cook lasagna sheets
  • Using the remaining non-meat sauce, cover the entire lasagna – be generous. It’s the sauce that will heat and steam to cook the no-cook lasagna sheets.
  • Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese and about 2 TBSP of grated parm over the  lasagna

11. Cover the lasagna with tin foil and put into the oven for :45mins

12. Remove the tin foil and bake an additional :05 – :10 mins

13. Remove from the oven and let stand for :15mins. This is important….It will make the lasagna easier to cut into free standing servings

beef and pork sausage lasagna recipe

Let stand for :15mins before serving

Eat.

My table is too big for the apartment. I know that, I do. But, as long as people will still come to dinner, I’m keeping it. I might even go out and get two more chairs.

Because Smaller Things are Cuter: Petite Lasagna

Little things are cuter! Petite Lasagna

Small things are somehow cuter. Babies are cuter humans. Puppies are cuter dogs. Doll houses, cuter houses, cake pops, you get it….all cuter simply because they are smaller.

If that is true, than why are we so intimidated and fearful of cooking for fewer people. Or, God forbid, cooking for…gulp…one.

There’s a song about a breakup that I first heard in the ’80s when forced to listen to a quasi-muzak station at work and its lyrics have always stayed with me. Though originally written by Burt Bacharach, the kids today may know it because it was also featured on Glee in 2010.

Burt Bacharach Week on Glee

That aside, the lyrics are ridonk:

One less bell to answer / One less egg to fry / One less man to pick up after / I should be happy / But all I do is cry.

Seriously. Those are the lyrics. The singer lost her man and it is so so sad. And, the saddest part is – sigh, wipe tear – that now, every morning she only has to fry ONE egg. One – the loneliest number – the most feared amount of eggs to ever have to fry. Breaks me up every time I hear it.

But then, I think, first of all, what man eats only one egg for breakfast? And, secondly, who cares?!?!? You’ll find someone else to fry an egg for. Until then, enjoy the peace, quiet and fewer plates to clean.

I’m relatively certain that the saddest part of the single egg fryer’s life isn’t having a plethora of unfried eggs in the fridge. I’m actually completely sure of it.

Cooking for fewer people just isn’t sad. Embrace it. Last night I wanted lasagna. I had most of the ingredients already but I didn’t have six people coming to dinner.

Here’s what I did:

Petite Lasagna with Spinach and Chicken (serves 2 – even if 2 is you and your leftovers)

Preheat Oven to 450 degrees

1. Make the spinach mixture:

  • Cheesy Spinach Mixture pre-Chicken

    Heat a saute pan over med heat with 2 tbsp of butter + 2tbsp olive oil

  • Saute 2 cloves of garlic diced and 1/2 shallot diced until fragrant – about 2 mins
  • Add in one 10oz package of defrosted and squeezed dry chopped spinach – stir
  • Add in 2 tbsp of cream or milk – last night I only had 2% and it was fine
  • Add in 1/2 cup of Ricotta Cheese – stir to combine
  • Turn off heat and add 2 tbsp of grated parmesan cheese
  • Add salt and pepper to taste – remember that the parmesan cheese is salty
  • Stir in 2 breasts of cooked chicken meat diced or shredded – I used a rotisserie chicken – face it, you’ll never make chicken as good at home.
  • NOTE: I also didn’t stir the chicken in, because I thought there would be some left over and I didn’t want it all spinach-ified

2. Make a Bechamel Sauce

  • Bechamel Sauce Perfectly Coats Back of Spoon

    In a sauce pan over medium heat melt 2.5 tbsp of butter

     

  • Using a whisk, stir in 3 tbsp of flour – cook for about 2 mins
  • Whisk in a combination of 1 cup whole milk (again, I only had 2% and it was fine) + 1 cup of chicken stock
  • BTB (bring to a boil) RTS (reduce to a simmer) and continue to stir until the béchamel sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Remove from heat and add 1/4 tsp of Salt and about the same of Pepper. You can add a pinch of nutmeg here as well

3.

Sweet Potatoes, because that’s what I had

Cut 1/2 of a peeled sweet potato into fry size pieces, lightly cover with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast for :20 mins – tossing a couple of times during the roasting.

I only had sweet potatoes but roasted squash or zucchini or egg plant or whatever you have and like would be just fine.

TURN OVEN DOWN TO 350 degrees

4. Shred 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. I didn’t feel like getting the cheese grater dirty, so I just cut the cheese…into small cubes

Get out a 9x5x3 loaf pan (see Banana Bread Recipe)

5. Use no-cook noodles. I had some fresh ones in the freezer that I defrosted in the fridge earlier in the day. Place 4 noodles (or enough to create 4 layers of noodles in a 9x5x3 loaf pan) in warm water just for 1 minute to soften

4. Layer the lasagna

Mise En Place for Lasagna

  • Put enough of the béchamel sauce to thinly cover the bottom of the pan
  • Put one layer of lasagna sheet(s) on top
  • Spread on a layer of the spinach, cheese and chicken mixture

Petite Lasagna Layer 1

  • Add a few of the roasted sweet potato fries – or whatever veggies you have and have roasted. There are no rules here. I like the sweet potatoes because they’re pretty.

Add the Sweet Potatoes – Pretty Colors!

  • Sprinkle on some of the mozzarella cheese and pour about 1/4 cup of the béchamel sauce over it
  • Layer on another layer of the lasagna sheet(s)

REPEAT – creating a complete second layer of spinach, chicken, sweet potatoes and cheese…and a little béchamel sauce

5. On top of the second layer, add the final layer of lasagna sheet(s), cover with about 1/3 cup of béchamel sauce, a sprinkle of mozzarella and some grated parmesan

Oven Ready Petite Lasagna

6. Cover with tin foil and bake for :35 minutes

7. Remove the tin foil and bake another :10 minutes

8. Remove from the oven – it will be bubbling – and let stand uncovered for :10 mins before serving

Lasagna out of the oven ready to cool…

If dinner is for you and someone else, great. If it’s just you dining with your leftovers….Go ahead and pour yourself a glass of wine. Sit in front of the TV. Eat and enjoy. See, was that so sad?

NO! No it was not. This lasagna is petite, smaller than most, and thus, cuter and better.

By the way, this morning for breakfast, I had one, absolutely deliciously fried egg.

One Happily Fried Egg

Billy Doesn’t Like Cheese: Customized Mexican Lasagna

Mexican Lasagna

Mexican Lasagna with a ‘no-cheese’ zone

My friend, Billy, is, in his own words, ‘freaked out’ by cheese. He’s not allergic, it just ‘freaks’ him out. I find this particularly odd because of my intense love for cheese. All cheese. Even stinky cheese, soft cheese, hard cheese, moldy cheese. I love cheese. I even have a place in my heart for Kraft American Cheese Slices – that would be atop a greasy beach burger. You know, the ones made on the flat top griddle at the beachside or poolside snack stand by the guy you had a crush on in high school?

So, when this past weekend we decided to make Mexican Lasagna and Billy told me we could make the lasagna, but that he didn’t eat cheese, I was a bit taken aback. Uhm, first of all, he dissed my bff, cheese. Secondly, lasagna is like layers of meat and cheese.

And, what about the rest of us cheese-eating people who would be at the dinner? Why should we suffer and sacrifice just because one extremely fit, hot, gay guy says ‘no’ to cheese?

Luckily, I’ve come face to face with a picky eater or two in the past. One of my friends is an occasional vegetarian. Another eats no corn – you don’t want to know. My mother avoids all garlic. So, we formulated a plan that would satisfy everyone and made:

Customized Mexican Lasagna serves 6 (with a cheese-free Billy-Zone)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees

1. In a large skillet or saute pan, heat 2 TBSP of Olive Oil and saute one whole yellow onion, diced.

2. Once the onion is fragrant and slightly translucent, add 1 – 1 1/2lbs each of Ground Dark Meat Turkey and Ground Breast Meat Turkey (Billy doesn’t eat red meat either) and brown the meat. Once browned add salt and pepper to taste and 2 TBSP of chopped, fresh parsley and stir in.

Turkey Browning with Onions – Onions should be more translucent

3. While the turkey is browning, heat 1 small can of Enchilada Sauce in a small skillet over medium heat. You can make your own, but the nice people at Old El Paso will do it for you:

Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce

Heating Enchilada Sauce for Mexican Lasagna

Enchilada Sauce heating

4. Once the enchilada sauce is gently simmering but not boiling, add a tortilla one at a time and let soak in the warm sauce for about 1 minute. (We used corn tortillas…Billy doesn’t eat flour)

Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce Softening and Flavoring the Tortillas

5. Layer the bottom of a lasagna pan with the soaked tortillas. You will need 6 per layer for a total of 18 needed. This will depend upon the size of the tortillas and the size of your lasagna pan.

Messy Base Layer of Soaked Tortillas

6. Add a layer of 1/2 of the cooked ground turkey, onion, parsley

The Ground Turkey Layer

7. On top of the turkey, add 1/2 – 3/4 cup of  a combo of shredded Cheddar and Jack Cheese. BUT, Keep an area free of cheese for Billy – see Cheese-Free Zone on the Left of the Pan.

Mexican Lasagna with Cheese-Free Billy-Zone

8. Repeat …On top of the second layer of turkey and cheese, add a final layer of Enchilada Sauce Soaked Tortillas and top with the remaining shredded cheese

9. Cover with tin foil and bake for :30 mins. Remove tin foil and bake for an additional :10 mins.

10. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for :10 mins before serving

Mexican Lasagna with Cheese-Free Billy-Zone. On the table.

We served the Mexican Lasagna with sides of homemade spicy queso and homemade guacamole. Everyone seemed happy – especially, Billy, who ate his entire cheese-free zone.

I don’t really understand how people can live without cheese, but I cherish the differences like these that make life, and cooking more interesting. No cheese? No meat? No garlic? No corn…No problem.