My husband’s family is Italian, so of course we signed up to do Italian on our dinner night at the reunion. You can do frozen store-bought lasagna or jarred sauce, of course, but homemade is totally worth the extra time. As all of you with handwritten recipes from the Old Country know, it’s really all about letting the sauce simmer and pick up the flavors of the meat. So ideally, you’ll make up the sauce on a day you’re home to stir it all day and then stick in the fridge to assemble the next day, but you can also get the supplies together after breakfast, simmer all day, and then assemble your lasagna mid-afternoon. Yes, it’s a time-consuming meal, but it’s not that much harder to do two or three at a time, and my husband (who does all the Italian cooking in our home) always does two–one for dinner and one for the freezer. I also prefer company meals where I get to do the fussiest part of the prep plenty of time before people start arriving. Since this bakes for an hour, we can assemble and then wash up the dishes, pull together a big tossed salad, and stick the garlic bread in to bake for the last 15 minutes. By the time company arrives, all I have to do is set the table.
Lasagna, garlic bread, green salad
105 oz can crushed tomatoes (available at stores like GFS, Costco, Smart & Final, or use four of the smaller cans to add up to about 105 oz)
46 oz tomato juice
1 lb ground sirloin
1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage (my in-laws use ground pork)
1 head garlic
Salt and pepper
1 tsp sugar
pinch of baking soda
three boxes no-boil (“oven ready”) lasagna noodles (it tastes better with fresh, homemade pasta, but if you make your own pasta like my husband does, you probably don’t need me to tell you how to make lasagna)
4 lbs part-skim ricotta cheese
5 lbs shredded mozzarella cheese
Sauce: Lightly coat bottom of your largest (8 qt?) pan with olive oil. Lightly brown crushed garlic. Brown sirloin and sausage. Season with spices. Add crushed tomatoes and juice. Depending on the thickness of the crushed tomatoes and how long you plan to simmer, you may need more or less juice. The longer you simmer the sauce, the more juice you’ll use. Season to taste, and add sugar and baking soda. Simmer at least three hours, but ideally all day, stirring occasionally.
When sauce is done, lightly coat the bottoms of three 9×13 pans with a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of water in each. Layer noodles, ricotta cheese (use the spoon to dollop and your fingers to spread it out over the noodles), shredded mozzarella, and sauce. Depending on the depth of your pan, you’ll be able to fit 3 or 4 layers. Finish with a layer of noodles, sauce, and mozzarella. You will use up all of the cheese and sauce.
Spray aluminum foil with nonstick spray and lightly cover the pans, cutting a couple slits to allow steam out. Bake at 350 for at least 45 minutes to an hour (longer if your oven is full of three pans of lasagna plus garlic bread) Watch carefully for excess liquid and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Serves 30 normal people with average appetites or about 50 Southern Californians. =)