Time for my favorite "you're sick/you had a baby/I'm cleanin' out the fridge/I need a crowd-pleaser" meal: Lazy Girl Lasagna. This is my favorite lazy meal that packs a punch. I will never understand why, but whenever you make a big Italian dish, people think you've been slaving in the kitchen all day. And the strange thing about that is that if you know anything about Italian cooking, it's that it's all about keeping it simple. So, first things first: This is simple. Second: You have to swallow your pride and use a jar of your favorite pasta sauce, unless you make sauce by the bucketful and keep some frozen sauce on hand. Third: Do not think that you must use this or that pasta. Use whatever's in your pantry and this will still be delish. HONEST. Finally, why do I call this Lazy Girl Lasagna? Because after years of wrestling half-cooked and over-cooked lasagna noodles into a layer and trying to keep it tidy, I realized that that was far too structured for me. Also, I hate that no matter how you do it, you never REALLY slice all the way through that bottom layer of lasagna noodle in the pan, so when you go to pull your serving out, you bring the entire bottom layer along with you. This version is much more scoopable and therefore, family-friendly. With that, I give you
LAZY GIRL LASAGNA
1 lb pasta of your choice (ziti, penne, gemelli, shells, just not spaghetti)*
1 jar of your favorite sauce
1 16-oz tub of Ricotta cheese (any amount of fat will do)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped Italian flatleaf parsley
a dash each: salt, pepper and nutmeg (YES. Trust me on this one.)
Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook to al dente.
While pasta is cooking, mix together the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, 1/3 cup of the parmesan cheese, the chopped parsley, and the seasonings. Mix 'em well and taste to adjust seasonings. Then mix in the egg.
When pasta is cooked, drain it well and toss it with about half of the jar of sauce.
Drizzle a little bit of sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish. Pour half of the pasta into the bottom of the casserole, then add a little more sauce. Cover with the cheese mixture and sprinkle 1/2 cup of the remaining mozzarella over it. Drizzle a little more sauce over that, then dump the rest of the pasta on top. Drizzle more sauce to cover, then finish up with the rest of the mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Sprinkle a little bit of your chopped parsley if you have some left.
Bake uncovered at 375 F for 30 to 45 minutes or until bubbling and lightly browned on top.
Allow to rest for about ten minutes before serving, then devour.
Do NOT overdo it on the nutmeg. When I say a DASH, I mean a dash. When you adjust the seasonings, only adjust the salt and pepper.
If you want to add meat: Saute 1/2 lb ground beef or turkey (great way to use up leftover meat) with some onion, garlic, salt pepper and Italian seasoning. Put this over the first layer of pasta.
If you want to add veggies, there are various methods: I have just layered fresh spinach under and over the layer of cheese and baked it right in there. I also like to saute spinach in the method desribed above for ground beef, then add that over your first layer of pasta. A final and very yummy way to add veg: Finely chop onion, mushrooms, red or yellow bell peppers and squash and saute with a bit of garlic and seasonings. Add this under and over the layer of cheese mixture. This is a great way to use up some veg, and also sneak it in where the kids won't see.
So, for those of you who already know that lasagna and pasta dishes are easy, this is no great post. But for others, this is the ho-hum reveal. I think the biggest secret to making a yummy pan of lasagna is to pour your love into it and know you're bringing someone a big dish of comfort food, likely when they need it the most.
Don't forget to serve it with some extra sauce for those who like their pasta extra-saucy!
*A final note: Last week, I planned to make a pan of my lazy girl lasagna and forgot to check the pantry. I had a 1/2 lb of penne, 1/4 lb of gemelli, and a 1/4 pound of some weird frilly pasta I can't remember the name of. I checked cooking times, staggered them appropriately so as to cook them all in one pot, and used the melange of pasta for the dish. It was deeeelish, very pretty and a lot of fun. Wish I'd thought to take a picture of it!