Growing up, my family's lasagna was always a jar of spaghetti sauce (usually Prego) mixed with ground beef and some mushrooms, layered with noodles, cottage cheese, and mozzarella cheese. Nothing fancy, but it did the trick. Then, I went to Italy and discovered that lasagna can have a white sauce, too. I was in heaven. It was like a whole new world opened for me.
My husband, on the other hand, prefers his lasagna to be white-sauce-less. This has become an incredibly minor point of contention.
I watched Rachael Ray make this one day and decided I had to try it. You should too. It's pretty quick to put together despite the miles-long ingredient list and was really rich and comforting. I made quite a few changes to the original recipe, but and I think I would keep every single one of them.
Recipe from Rachael Ray, adapted
Serves about 8
Prep Time - about 20 minutes
Cook Time - about 30 minutes
1 lb lasagna noodles (not the no-boil kind)
salt & pepper
1 TBSP olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 small carrot, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
pinch of cinnamon
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
1 jar marinara sauce
a few fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
4 TBSP butter
4 TBSP flour
2 cups 2% milk
1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 to 1 1/2 cups cottage cheese (or ricotta)
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
Break the lasagna noodles up into irregular-sized pieces. Cook to just shy of al dente. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the meat and brown. Once the meat is almost browned, add the onion, carrot, garlic, and bay leaves. Season with salt & pepper, to taste. Once the meat is browned, drain the meat, if necessary. Return the meat to the pan and add the cinnamon and tomato paste. Cook for about 1 minute before adding the stock. Continue cooking for about another minute before adding the marinara sauce. Reduce heat and add the basil.
While the sauce simmers, melt butter over medium heat in a medium pot. Whisk in the flour. Cook for about a minute and then whisk in the milk and nutmeg. Season with salt & pepper, to taste. Cook for a few minutes, to thicken, and then stir in half of the cheese. Turn off the heat.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Add about 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese to the cottage cheese and stir together.
Add the pasta to the meat sauce and mix together (stop adding pasta when you have reached your desired level of sauce-y-ness). Put about 1/2 or 1/3 of this mixture into the bottom of a lasagna pan. Add 1/2 or 1/3 of the cottage cheese to the top. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and pour 1/2 or 1/3 of the white sauce over all. Continue layering as such until you are out of all ingredients. Top with the rest of the Parmesan cheese and Mozzarella cheese.
Put in the oven and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn the broiler on and keep it under the broiler for about 2-3 minutes until the cheese starts to bubble.